When it comes to productivity, students often hear about making to-do lists. However, in many cases, it is not what you do but how you do it. It is essential to have a structured approach to a to-do list to ensure productivity and efficiency. In this guide, you’ll learn how to use them to the maximum.
Create Prioritization System
Start with working on your own system of priorities. This will help focus on what is important and not overcrowd a schedule with all tasks possible. Prioritization is the basis of effective time management.
The classic structure looks like this:
- Important and urgent;
- Important but not urgent;
- Not important but urgent;
- Not important nor urgent.
But you can work on your method that feels right. Also, decide on how you mark tasks with these priorities, so you always know where to start your day. For example, if you think, “I pay someone to write my paper by Friday,” put the application task in the Monday list. So you will not forget to apply to this professional academic writing platform and let them know you require assistance.
Surely, experienced authors can nail writing, editing, and proofreading even on the shortest notice. But it is better to start early when it comes to important things. And it will also take a lot of pressure off your shoulders after. The task went to professionals, who will take care of it by the deadline. Now you can focus on other priorities while your college paper is polished to excellence.
Opting for professional assistance also gives more time to manage other tasks.
Choose Paper or Digital
You can either go for a traditional notebook or use one of many scheduling and planning apps. There is no right or wrong. Every student chooses what works for them.
The benefits of paper to-do lists:
- Available offline;
- You can design them as you wish;
- You can stick them somewhere you see them;
- More personalized;
- A dopamine boost from crossing a completed task.
But they can be bulky or not so easy to carry around if you are always on the move. Digital planners have other benefits:
- They are always available on your smartphone;
- Easy to edit and organize workflows;
- Often have great features like calendar and email synchronization;
- Have reminders and notifications.
Some of the excellent apps of this sort are Todoist, Any. Do, Wunderlist, and Asana. At the same time, some find writing more effective and pleasant. The secret is to choose one system and stick with it.
Make a List of Tasks
Start by creating a list of all things you need to do in a specific period, for example, a week. This will help sort tasks for different days and deadlines.
The plan has to include all the tasks, not only a writing assignment for college or an important lecture. Incorporate homework, exam preparation, extracurriculars, chores, hobbies, and social events. All of those things take time, so you must plan accordingly to avoid missing deadlines.
Separate big projects into smaller ones. For example, you need to start on exam preparation. To make it an actionable thing, divide it into several steps like reading lecture notes, training with flashcards, taking test quizzes, reading notebooks, etc. This way, every task will be manageable and easy to do in one sitting.
After you are done with the list for the week, put the deadlines and due dates. If a task doesn’t have a due date, you can put it on any less busy day. This is useful for planning priorities and separate days as well.
Reserve Time for Breaks
It is easy to go a bit overboard with productivity. Do not try to use all 24 hours in a day to be efficient and successful. It is essential to rest and relax sometimes. If you do not do it, you risk getting stressed, which may lead to academic burnout, sleep disorders, anxiety, or depression.
Also, taking breaks during study sessions is crucial for maintaining brain health and high cognitive performance. So do not create a schedule with 25 tasks for a day – it is unrealistic. And you will only end up disappointed in yourself and time management as a whole.
Draft Daily To-Do Lists
As you have a plan for the whole week, you can draft daily schedules. Remember that there might be changes along the way, so make them a bit flexible. For example, a meeting might get rescheduled. Or you can complete something faster than expected.
As a college student, you are probably busy during the day with classes. Yet, you have morning and evening sections free. Try to be detailed with what exactly you need to do and how much time it will take approximately.
For instance, “work on PowerPoint presentation” is not a very good formulation. It is vague, and there is no clear objective or deadline. Instead, try to write something like “prepare 11 slides of PowerPoint presentation, 2 pm-4 pm.”
This is a simple trick, but it can do wonders for your ability to focus and stay efficient.
Always put the most urgent and important tasks on the top of the list. Mark them with stars or another color if you are using a paper notebook. If you are using an app, you can usually set priorities there.
The fundamental rule of productivity is to start with the hardest one. For example, you need to do Geometry homework, wash dishes, and read a scientific article. If the homework is the hardest, begin with it.
This way, you approach it with a fresh mind and more energy. And after you are done, and it is crossed out, you will feel accomplished and satisfied. Other tasks will seem much easier after.
Tick off the tasks that you managed to do this day. It is not the end of the world if you don’t finish something. Add it to the tomorrow list.
Review and Adjust
There are several ways one can use to-do lists. Some use several ones for different spheres of life – education, work, social life, and chores, for example. Others create one huge list for a week and do not separate it according to specific days.
Try different methods and see what is the most effective for you. Base your review on how easy and comfortable it was. Also, acknowledge how much you manage to accomplish with each method.
Make sure you are putting actionable tasks instead of goals. Use verbs first and details later – this trick helps focus on execution. Another good idea is to batch similar activities together. For instance, if you need to go get groceries, you can plan the pharmacy visit or shop on the same day. So you only make one trip instead of three different ones.
Do One Thing
Multitasking never works. And it can be harmful to cognitive performance as well. What seems to be multitasking is just your brain quickly switching from one thing to another. This way, you’ll get tired faster and be less productive.
Do one thing from the list at a time. This keeps the focus sharp.
To-do lists are perfect for navigating college. They help keep up with all the responsibilities and deadlines. With the right approach, you can balance your life and studies comfortably.
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