There are days when it all comes together for you, but this might not happen to be one of them.
Many factors of productivity are beyond your control. Sometimes your train is late, or your morning alarm goes off, or some important work pops in. In such circumstances, there’s only so much you can do.
But what about the rest of the time? Amid the many variables at study (and everywhere else), what little things can you do to optimize each day? There are some constants worth keeping in mind—and perhaps a few habits to address. With diligence, the tactics we’ve gathered here might make you more productive at, well, just about everything.
Care for yourself, and be equipped for the task at hand.
Here’s one recurring challenge you should prepare to keep dealing with: you are an alive person. (If not, stop reading and seek assistance.) In other words, you’re going to need food, rest, and an occasional change of scenery—and maybe also fresh socks. Failing to address these concerns can undermine your sanity, to say nothing of your productivity.
1 Avoid going hungry.
It’s hard to stay on task when you’re hangry, so plan accordingly. If you have a bag, keep a few snacks in it or a pouch of trail mix will have future-you thanking current-you for being so thoughtful.
2 Get enough sleep and on time.
One solution may be to quit binge-watching TV before bed and actually go to sleep. Another is a legal, affordable, performance-enhancing drug known as caffeine, Quit it. At least be careful not to overdo it, lest you get jittery after that third cup.
3 Keep a backup of the essentials handy.
People make mistakes, like casually losing important documents. You can’t always prevent such fiascos, but with preparation, you can limit the fallout for your productivity. While you can’t realistically pack a duplicate of everything, it’s worth making copies of key documents and backing up crucial files.
Manage your time.
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” the saying goes. Being productive means budgeting your time and staying focused. Start by writing down what you need to get done, and in what order. Set priorities and give yourself deadlines. Set a timer if you have to—anything to keep small tasks from sprawling endlessly.
4 Say no occasionally.
This isn’t always an option, but when you’re already spread thin and someone brings you a tempting offer, sometimes you have to be realistic about priorities. (That’s true in social contexts, as well: don’t let fear of missing out keep you from taking a needed night in to recharge.)
5 Log off sometimes. The mute button is a friend.
Part of budgeting your day is not allowing diversions like social media to continually siphon off small increments of your attention. Seriously, those cat GIFs, meme, and party pictures can all wait. If your roommate from college and twenty other people are all in a thread debating who will bring salads and dessert to next weekend’s cookout, it’s a fine time to turn off notifications and actually, you know, work.
One final note to improve your productivity: don’t beat yourself up in the event things don’t go as expected. It happens. Finding ways to learn from such experiences, adapt, and move on will make you a lot more productive in the long run.