Trying to find enough hours in the day to keep up with your coursework, going to lectures, job applications, playing sport and having a social life sometimes feels impossible. To help you out, here are seven ways you can take control over your time, boost your productivity and make the most of your day, every day.
To quote the great Lao Tzu “Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.’" So how can you find more of this precious commodity?
1. Create a routine
After finally escaping years of the 9 - 3.30pm school day, it’s tempting to enjoy your freedom and have a little lie in– who doesn’t love their bed?! But structuring your day from 9 to 5 means working in normal daytime hours and the earlier your start, the earlier you can finish, leaving you to enjoy the evenings and relax.
2. Preparation is key
Some lucky people out there are morning people, some are most definitely not. Preparing the night before means one less thing to worry about in the morning. Making lunch or packing your bag, whatever it is that you normally do, have it done so that you’re ready to go and won’t forget anything.
3. Make a Productivity Wall
Different to a to-do-list a productivity wall is more visual and interactive, being able to see your tasks will help you stay focused and working hard as well as an opportunity to get creative!
You’ll need 3 pieces of different coloured paper and a lot of post-it notes. Each coloured paper signifies a different priority – ‘To Do’, ‘Important’ and ‘Urgent’, write the things you need doing on the post-its and move them around accordingly, best of all you get the satisfaction of chucking the post-it in the bin when you’ve done it.
4. Time management
Find something that works for you; old school paper and pen, a diary, or an app, Any.do is great and completely free. Make a daily to-do-list, with hourly slots. Breaking up your day into tasks will help you concentrate better as you know it’s for a set amount of time. It's also crucial to allow time for brief periods of relaxations - there is only so long you can concentrate before you start getting inefficient and tired.
After completing a task, finishing a draft or whatever it may be, reward yourself
Try and build a rough weekly schedule, working backwards from deadlines so that nothing sneaks up on you and you’ve given yourself enough time to prepare, draft and re-check.
After completing a task, finishing a draft or whatever it may be, reward yourself. Positive associations with your to do lists and new structured days will encourage you to stick with it.
5. Distractions and focus
Smart phones are proven to have lessened our attention span but there are lots of way to counteract their lure. Delete those apps that you are constantly looking at but aren’t really seeing anything.
Removing Facebook for example will ease the temptation to mindlessly scroll, helping your concentration - plus image heavy apps drain your data so you’re saving on your usage too! Putting your phone away, or turning it off helps you stop thinking about checking it.
Download programmes for your computer like Leechblock or Citrus, they’re completely free to use, and they block sites on a timer, which you yourself set. Find out what your time-stealing sites are and block them for an hour, followed by a glorious binge on Pinterest or Twitter.
If you’re really struggling take a quick walk. Down the street, around the library, no hiking necessary, just enough activity to clear your mind and come back afresh.
This goes hand-in-hand with time management but take some steps to make sure you don't forget things - you'll panic about them later and they will ruin your careful plans.
Having one notebook per module, or for careers, means you’re not going to lose things and you’re building good habits that employers love. Clear your desk, or your room, anytime you have finished in that area. Cleaning a space back to neutral also gives a sense of accomplishment and completion.
7. Healthy body, healthy mind
You may think you hear this all the time, but thats bacause it's true - drink plenty of water. If you’re thirsty it means your body is already dehydrated, so get sipping.
Foods such as fish, avocados, blueberries and nuts are all proven to improve energy levels and concentration, time to step away from those microwave meals and get inventive in the kitchen.
Proven to improve energy levels as well as helping you sleep better at night, if you aren’t already it’s time to jump on the exercise bandwagon. The optimum time to exercise is in the mornings. Going for a run, join a sports team, or even just walking to Uni instead of getting the bus will help wake you up and give you energy for the rest of the day. Playing sports could even better your career prospects - read here.
Unwind properly - looking at screens keeps your brain stimulated, to try to impose a no screen rule an hour before bed.
Each person is different, get to know your body and how many hours you need to feel rested, and stick to that so that you wake up feeling bright and ready to make the most out of the new day.