Staying Productive

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By John, Computer Science
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

This has been repeated again and again: university is nothing like college or high school. There are less assigned contact hours at university and especially now with the lock-down and social distancing measures – physically being in a classroom is becoming less and less likely.

Being productive can become much harder, as you must now create your own study time instead of being assigned hours to work. I’ve thought about my own experiences and thought it might be good to share a few tips that I’ve learned during my 2 years at the University of Birmingham.

Probably the most important tip to start off with is learn how to study. Learn which way you work best and apply that to your revision and personal studies. Another often imparted nugget of advice is to have a healthy work-life balance.

This is especially true in isolation, but I think it’s better to take it one step further – physically separate your work life and your leisure life. Study in the living room and relax elsewhere, for example. Work in the library at uni, and only work there. This way you’re in the right mindset to get on with your work instead of being tempted by Netflix or your games console.

By making working in a specific place the norm, you develop an association with that place and work, so every time you come back there, you work. CGP Grey’s video on this was amazing for me – Spaceship You.

Related to the last tip – develop good habits. I’m not a particularly motivated worker intrinsically but forcing yourself to have discipline during your work makes work much easier to do. For example, getting productivity apps such as Forest, may help you get away from your phone and less likely to get distracted. This uses the Pomodoro technique – where you work for a pre-determined amount of time, get a break, then continue working. This allows for maximum focus, and, therefore higher productivity.

Finally, my biggest suggestion: take a break. Nobody can work for four hours straight, not really. Take a walk, eat food, watch an episode of Friends, or whatever you’d like to do. Having a break is very important for you to reset and relax. After working, you should reset your brain to stop yourself from losing focus. Resting also allows you to process new information that you’ve learned, so you’ll be a much more efficient learner too.

By following these tips, hopefully you’ll become a better learner.