the college student’s guide to a productive day

Unlike a full-time, 9-5 job, a college student’s schedule is generally broken up with a few classes per day — meaning, there’s no obligation to stay in a certain place and work for eight hours. Unless students set up their courses to run back-to-back, many undergrads find themselves with at least an hour to kill before their next class. While the extra time between responsibilities seems great, it can also be a curse on productivity.

When you have a full schedule and an overloaded to-do list, take advantage of the breaks between class to get things done. There are plenty of ways to stay focused and productive during the week — here are some of my go-to strategies to keep myself on track every day.

ALWAYS USE A PLANNER.

Prioritize your responsibilities so you can run your day like a boss. Using a planner will help you visualize your schedule and organize important dates. I tend to make impulsive decisions from time to time, so a planner is necessary for me to stay focused. When my schedule gets crazy hectic, I need something that gives me structure. Otherwise, I easily steer off track, forgetting my responsibilities and having no clue where to start.

Even if you’re a master at memorizing due dates and daily tasks, a planner will keep you organized so that you’re not in a scramble on the day you do end up forgetting about some assignment.

I like to use this free daily planner printable on particularly busy days.

DON’T GO HOME.

Meaning, don’t tell yourself you’re “going to stop home for a second” between class, even if you live on campus. Personally, stopping back at my apartment slows down my entire day. This is probably because I either 1) get distracted by food/roommates/anything, or 2) I take a 10-minute power nap that ends up being a three-hour full sleep cycle.

Just remember, a productive body tends to stay productive! (It’s just a little twist on Newton’s Law of Motion.) If your breaks last too long, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals. Stay on campus, spend your breaks at your favorite study spot, and don’t allow yourself to go home until you’ve done everything on your to-do list.

So, when you leave for class in the morning, make sure you’ve packed some food, a water bottle, and everything else you’ll need for the day.

COFFEE, AND MORE COFFEE.

Coffee is the nectar of life and the fuel necessary for a productive day! Really, I would fall asleep at least three times a day without my regular dose of caffeine. I start each day with a cup of coffee, and typically buy another one around 2 or 3 to keep me going.

I’m a journalism major, and this study says that people in the journalism/media industry consume more caffeine than any other profession. Also, I’ve been a Starbucks gold member for 3+ years.

That being said, I am a coffee connoisseur. If you’re not, you should be careful with coffee and other caffeinated drinks. Drinking caffeine too late could compromise your sleep.

TREAT YOURSELF.

Craving Sour Patch Kids, but also studying for an exam tomorrow morning? Treat yourself to a few candies each time you complete a chapter or section.

If you’re driven by something other than food, the good news is this concept works with almost anything. I like to treat myself to new clothes if I accomplish something big.

Find something you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to reward yourself every now and then.

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