Written by Callum McAvan, Student Communications and Marketing Assistant at the Careers Service.
When I started university I distinctly remember, amongst the flurry of nights out, new friends and arguably too many kebabs, one thing stood out as a challenge. That challenge was simply – how do I make the most of my time?
That challenge isn’t exclusive to the first year of your studies. In fact, whether it’s your final year of your degree, the post-graduation job search, or anything else in and amongst, it’s in your best interest to be as productive as possible. After all, the more meaningful progress you can achieve now, the more time to relax later!
With that being said here are a few helpful tips to up your productivity:
Plan your day
When it comes to productivity tools, there are few better than a to-do list. Writing out a simple list of the tasks ahead of you at the start of the day can do wonders to focus your mind. However, ensure that your list is comprised of realistic goals, as it’s the satisfaction gleaned from crossing off the tasks that will spur you on further. Nobody wants to finish a day feeling like they haven’t achieved their goals because they set themselves up for a fall. Start with a few goals for the day; you can always add more.
Save the best till last
With your goals for the day on paper, it’s easier than ever to prioritise, and prioritise you should. As tempting as it is to rest in your comfort zone and complete a couple of the easier tasks first, it’s seldom the best course of action. Instead, biting the bullet by going for that task you may otherwise procrastinate on for the rest of the day can boost your productivity tenfold. Firstly, you get that nasty task out of the way first. Great! Secondly, whichever tasks follow will seem like a breeze in comparison.
Be clever about your commute
Commuting is the bane of my life, but it’s also something you can make work for you. I am not saying that you need to be typing up a covering letter on the Magic Bus between Fallowfield and Uni, but being proactive during travel can really help you out later. One thing done on your train ride is one less thing you need to do when you get home.
Silence is bliss
Now, I know that you likely want to listen to your latest Spotify finds as much as possible – I do. You’ve probably convinced yourself that “music helps me work better” but the scientific evidence points to the contrary. Well, that’s assuming you’re listening to music with lyrics (a fair assumption, I might add) which has been shown time and again to be a distracting force when completing tasks. Granted, there is a case to be made for music without lyrics helping with focus, so go for that instead, if you’re still feeling musically inclined. My recommendations would be anything by Claude Debussy or Nobuo Uematsu.
Don’t phone it in
Picture this – you sit down to finish some work you really need to do but then a thought like “Do fish get thirsty?” pops into your head, and you simply must know! You couldn’t possibly move on with your day without an answer. This happens to me all the time; anything is more fun than the task at hand. If it sounds vaguely familiar to you, it may be an idea to keep your phone off and, importantly, in another room. Otherwise, it can be easy to feel the urge to turn it on, just to check Twitter for a moment. Of course, that moment lasts at least ten minutes and any progress made is stunted. Out of sight, out of mind.
Multi-tasking is often portrayed as something we should all strive towards. When it comes down to it, often splitting your attention between two or more jobs just doesn’t cut it. If you’re dividing your attention several different ways then none of your work will be up to your top standard. Focus on one matter at a time.