If there’s something busy students desire and cannot have enough of, it will be carving out more time. There are a million things to do but only so little time. So let’s cut to the chase and focus on the tips to get you more time.
Busy students: (1) set your goals
Busy students frequently end up doing what feels like a lot.
However, if they are not important, you will end up spending the time and effort but still not make any progress.
The key is down to something I have written about in the past. The most important exercise for busy students is goal setting.
Once the goal is set, then all that don’t matter in getting you to achieving your goal should be cleared out of your schedule.
That brings you clarity and will likely create a huge swath of time.
Busy students: (2) developing keystone habits
Keystone habits are good routines busy students can develop so that it can in turn increase producitivity.
That then reduces the amount of time wasting thereby creating more time for doing important things that count towards achieving goals.
One of the most important keystone habits is developing great sleep hygiene (read more about the sleep hacking article I written).
Sleep is most important for the learning process, if you don’t sleep well you don’t learn.
However, many students will choose to sacrifice sleep time thinking they can cram more content in preparation for the exams.
Let, me ask you this. Will you be ok in wasting all that effort AND TIME?
Of course not, since so much effort and time is put in. So why then do you want to jeopardize the effort and not give your brain the chance to consolidate it to get ready for your exams?
Busy students: (3) fail to plan is planning to fail
Many busy students end up fire fighting most of the time. Rushing from one deadline to another rather than getting ready for the final exams.
In order to get ready for the final exams, one will need to consolidate the theoretical knowledge.
Because this is the hardest to do and requires the most time, it will require the most will power to decide to want to start.
Will power is like money in a wallet.
If you keeping spending, eventually the wallet empties. No matter how much your head tells you, you need to work on the materials, you just can’t get to it.
That’s because there is no more will power left.
What I tell my students to do is to plan the 3 critical tasks the night before.
When the actual day arrives, you will just ease into it.
This saves you the will power to actually spend on the doing rather than the planning to do.
Eventually, the little time you have will be used well.
(4) Busy but happy student
The 3 critical tasks also means that it is easy to remember.
The hard limit also ensures the task must be really important to make it into the list.
And finally it is relatively easier to complete the tasks knowing there is only 3.
That in turn builds a feel-good factor making you want to do productive work everyday.
This builds a positive association with the act making you want to do it and therefore spend less will power in the process.
Therefore what little time you have, you actually look forward to it!
Busy student: (5) Automate your routine
This is an extension of the planning point above. You will often find the most successful people talking about their routines.
Routines are great because this reduces the need to decide whether to do or not.
Remember these activities take up precious will power.
By the time you actually decide to do it, the will power is all but gone.
What I do instead is to input my daily routines into an app. And let the app remind me what I need to do next.
The app has been of tremendous help for my students especially some of them who forgets to attend my classes!
I use ToDoist.
It saves me a heck load of time and more importantly will power.
Let me show you part of my morning routine that automatically reminds me what to do next.
Busy student: (6) Plan mindless entertainment
I know this is easier to say than do.
I lose countless hours on YouTube videos and I know some of my students do so on NetFlix.
Because it is so enjoyable, your brain begins to reward you for procrastinating.
And so you look forward to doing it over and over. On the other hand, work priorities decrease.
In fact the behavior is no different than someone who is an addict.
So how do you fight procrastination?
Let me tell you a secret, you don’t!
Daniel Pink, a best-selling author observes that a person have daily times of peak performance and troughs.
Identify you trough periods and use that time to binge all you want.
Fighting against what you enjoy doing will further deplete your will power.
As you approach the end of the trough period, take a quick hot/cold shower to topup the will power and then jump into completing your 3 critical tasks.
Now think about it, you are not going to be productive anyway during that period. Might as well save it for relax and recouperate so that you can come back stronger.
Isn’t that time well spent?
Busy students: (7) take breaks!
The period when you are doing your best work must be milked for all its worth.
I tell my students to implement the Pomodoro technique (I talk about it in great detail) and it is a resounding success and they are still using it as exams approaches.
Interestingly, the most important part of the technique is actually the break!
This period allows your brain to go a particular way of thinking thereby helping you to solve difficult problems.
Here, deploying the time efficiently increases productivity preventing you from wasting time.
Busy students: (8) batch the to-dos
The idea is simple.
If you have momentum, don’t stop. Instead ride on it and sail through intense periods of productivity.
Automobiles behave in the same way. It takes tremendous energy to go from stop to start.
However, once the vehicle is moving, it takes very little effort to keep it in motion. This is also known as coasting and unsurprisingly, consumes very little fuel.
You will begin to realize you finish what you set out to do in no time at all.
(9) Turn off notifications or the phone!
Busy students have busy phones 😝. And the phones are extremely distracting.
Don’t believe me? Watch this hilarious video to see what happens when teenagers have to put their phones down with the notifications on.
Whilst it is outrageously funny, it is also sobering to see how it disrupts our attention.
If you keep looking over, you can’t concentrate (I talk about handphones in classrooms here).
And when doing so, you don’t use your time well.
Don’t forget, during exams if you can’t concentrate in long periods of time without touching your phone, you are setting yourself up for failure.
(10) Stop being a perfectionist
I know many students fault themselves if they can’t follow the recommendations above to the tee.
Know that whilst there are some good days. There are also some bad ones.
It can be as simple as suffering from sickness.
The key idea is that once the bad day ends, you forgive yourself and resolve to do better the next time.
Being at ease reduces stress levels (which is already high).
And having a positive outlook correlates with mental performance.
I have an article talking about how to reduce anxiety.
If you can minimize the down time then you create more time to do productive work.
I hope you enjoy these pointers.
At the same time I’d like to point out that you should ease yourself into some of these pointers.
If you try to implement all of them at once, it will be too daunting.
But when you get there, you will experience the synergistic effect and jump way ahead.
Let me leave you with this quote by Abraham Lincoln to ponder over before you start making plans to give yourself more time: Give me 6hrs to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.
Finally, let me know if this has been useful.
Strategies for being a better student sitemap:
Developing grit = success
Morning routine for A students
How to take good notes in class
Sleeping your way to optimal learning
Study productivity and diffuse learning
Foods that boost learning or exam prep
Positive thinking can help improve grades
10 tips for busy students to get more time
Handphone use in classrooms: how it works against learning
The exam diet
Boost A level performance
Goal setting for exam success
Solution to exam-taking anxiety
Spaced repetitions and exam success
How to remember everything for exams
Find motivation during exam preparation
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