To be productive in college you need to surround yourself with an environment that fosters productivity and avoids distractions. Surround yourself with responsible classmates, create a routine that supports your physical and mental health and most importantly care about what you study.
10. Love your field of study
Steve Jobs said in his commencement speech:
“Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. And don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.”
9. Choose the right friends
Find the smartest, hard working and curious people in your class and go sit with them. Finding the right people will make group projects easier as well. You will know who they are by looking at who asks questions and what kind of questions they ask. Sometimes even dumb questions are a good indicator of someone who truly wants to understand. Someone who is hard working. And that is better than someone who is smarter but does not ask or inquire deeper. Additionally, find people who have strengths that you do not have, but who you can help with your own strengths. This way you can help each other be perfect.
8. Sit in the front of the classroom
If you sit in the front of the classroom it will be much easier to stay focused. You will hear the teacher better. You will notice less distractions and by having the teacher so close to you, you are less likely to waste time.
7. Do not take your mobile device into the classroom
This is simple. You can’t waste time on your phone or your laptop if you don’t have it with you. You can’t be distracted if you have nothing to be distracted by. One study shows that having mobile devices harms long-term retention of lectures.
6. Take classes students recommend
Do not take bad courses. Review the feedback that students leave for classes or ask around seniors. It’s hard to stay focused and productive in a class if the teacher is not very captivating or good at her job. Good teachers will stand out. Every student knows who the great and not so great teachers are.
5. Use the right study methods
Refer to our article on how to study effectively. Studies show that practice testing and spaced repetition are the most high utility study methods available. Rereading or highlighting does not work. You need to practice what you study. You need to understand deeply. Use flashcards or Anki.
4. Don’t cram. Study a bit every day.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed and burned out if you cram on the last days before an exam. Not only does this hurt your long-term retention it also is not a productive use of your time. Anki is great because it allows for spaced repetition. Which is one of two best study methods available right now. A little bit of studying every day beats cramming on the last days. It’s much less stress and you will get better grades.
3. Eat healthy or else
Keep your glucose levels stable. Not too high and not too low. And I quote from a study from the University of Arizona:
“Results indicated that individuals who experience extreme glucose levels (e.g. hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia) perform worse on spelling accuracy tasks. Additionally, when an individual is hyperglycemic his or her reading
and writing fluency skills decrease.“
Basically eat normal food and avoid sweets.
2. Take naps if you need them
A short nap or break is better than being tired and forcing yourself to learn. A 2015 study found that a nap enhanced memory.If you need a nap take it in the first half of the day not later. Additionally in general it should be too long. 10 minutes to 90 minutes. Test it for yourself. How do you feel if you nap too long?
1. Schedule your schoolwork
Take time to schedule your semester. I find that google sheets is an excellent way to keep an overview of your responsibilities, assignments and tests. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out what you should do every day, you can just check your google sheet and be on your way. You can also color code your done or incomplete schoolwork.
In order to be productive in college you need to be thoughtful about how you study, where you study and with who you study. It’s not just good practice for college, it’s just good practice in general for life. And higher education is a decent place to start living your best life.
Glass, A. L., & Kang, M. (2019). Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance. Educational Psychology, 39(3), 395-408.
Knight, M. (2017). The Effects of Glucose Levels on Academic Performance of Children and Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus.
Antonenko, D., Diekelmann, S., Olsen, C., Born, J., & Mölle, M. (2013). Napping to renew learning capacity: enhanced encoding after stimulation of sleep slow oscillations. European Journal of Neuroscience, 37(7), 1142-1151.