Staying Focused and Productive in School
Staying focused is a key element to success, especially in school. Nothing new to you, probably. With the added stresses of working throughout school and/or taking care of a family, staying focused and productive is a lot easier said than done. When you’re not focused, you’re not productive. When you’re not productive, you’re literally wasting your time, energy, and money.
Most people think of how productive they are by the number of items they check off their to-do list. This is all well and good, but it often leads to procrastination and a false sense of prioritization. So let’s talk about some tips to help you think about focus and productivity a bit differently.
If time is money, you need to treat your work week like your banking account. Budget your calendar like you’d budget your paycheck. First, determine how many hours you have available for school and/or work in a given week. There’s your budget. Then, take all your to-dos and list out how much time you think you’ll need to accomplish each item. From there you should have a pretty solid sense of what needs to be prioritized – what is the nose-to-the-grindstone type work and what is the housekeeping work like meetings, emails, team/project updates, random tasks, etc.? At this point you can allocate your day or week any way you want. You could make Mondays your grindstone day, Tuesdays your housekeeping day, and so on. Or, you could break up individual days into percentages, for example 30% of the day dedicated to grindstone work, 30% to family, home and health duties, 20% to housekeeping work, and 20% to job searching. Whatever feels most comfortable – and most productive – to you.
Loads of time management tools exist, so do some research to find which you like best. Google Calendars has always been reliable and, most attractively, free.
No one likes when hard work goes to waste, which is why you should incorporate energy levels into your time budget. Your goal should be to get the highest return on investment for each hour and each task. To do this you need to know your peaks. When are you most productive during the day? When are your energy levels the highest? When do you have the most uninterrupted quiet time? For a lot of people this is either mornings or nights. Once you know your peak efficiency time-frame, you can allocate the most important tasks, or grindstone time, to that time of day. Budgeting your time with consideration for energy investment will do wonders for your focus and productivity each week.
Other Focus/Prod Tips You Probably Already Knew
- Exercise is important. It scientifically makes you more productive, more focused, and even smarter.
- Sleep is also important. Be sure to leave plenty of room for sleep in your time budget.
- Put away your phone when you’re working. The less distractions, the better.
- Stay off of social media. If need be, download an app that blocks social media or time-wasting sites for a set period of time while you work.
- Keep your long-term goals in mind. Be constantly aware of what you’re working toward.
- Have a routine, especially in the mornings. Science tells us that our brains are able to focus on more important things if we aren’t stressing about day-to-day activities.
- Do your very best to stress less.
- Talk to a counselor or career coach if you think you’re struggling. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.