Having been a student for a number of years, and an avid fan of procrastination throughout many of those years, I have tried a huge number of ideas to help me to 'get things done' (on of which was to read a book called 'Getting Things Done'! These days students arguably face more distractions than ever before; mobile phones, the internet, TV, social networking, a huge range of societies and sports to try and of course the ever present temptation to party.
When I was at school, I was always pushed in one direction or another. When I came to University all of that pressure was removed. Suddenly you are an 'independent learner' and the onus is on you to seek out information and direct your own learning. Personally I found this very hard, over the years however I have managed to find a few things that work for me and have helped me to get to where I am today - however I am still learning!
(In no particular order)
- Timetabling: In my opinion there are two ways to try to timetable yourself. The first is the obvious method of writing yourself a timetable and trying to stick to it. The second might be called 'reverse' timetabling and is my preferred method. Timetable the things you HAVE to do, e.g. seminars, doctors appointments. Leave the rest blank and fill it in when you actually do your work. This avoids the feeling that you have failed to meet a target and creates a positive 'log' of what you have actually done that you can look back on.
- Timing: If like me you find it hard to concentrate on one thing for a long length of time, you may find it helpful to break your work periods down into short and manageable units. A brilliant technique is the 'Pomodoro' or Tomato technique. (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/) Basically the idea is that you time yourself doing a set amount of work e.g. 25 minutes. You then take a 5 minute break. Repeat this 4 times and take a longer break. Once you have done this you have done almost 2 hours of work without having to say to yourself 'I will do 2 hours of work' and risking the possibility of getting overly bored and/or distracted and simply abandoning the whole task. This technique when practiced regularly over time can greatly aid your concentration.
- Set yourself achievable goals - break your projects down. Tying in with the above point on timing, set yourself small goals. For example do not aim to read 100 pages, aim for 20. Then aim for another 20, and another. Breaking larger projects down into small units is an excellent way of lowering a sense of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work you need to do. It doesn't mean you get less done overall!
- Productivity books and websites. 'Self help' books are often laughed at, but many contain some excellent practical ideas - take what works for you and discard the rest. 'Getting Things Done' is good for the super-busy, 'The Now Habit' is worth a look and 'What Smart Students Know' is also excellent. A brilliant website is http://www.lifehack.org/ which is an excellent resource for managing various aspects of life.
- Goal setting websites. There are now a number of goal setting websites which you can use to digitally track your goals and your progress towards them. Some good (and free) websites include: Joes Goals, Disciplanner , and Rootein
I hope this is useful, happy studying!