Humans and Health

Sounds Like a Plan: Productivity in Exam Season

Spring is in the air and it wouldn’t take David Attenborough to notice a change in the environment at UoN: takeaway coffees are the staple accessory, the hour of the day is becoming irrelevant and you’re venturing into the darkest realms of the library to root out the fifth edition of a hardback the weight of a baby elephant. It may be April, but the Easter break has not got you fooled; around the corner of your train journey home or package holiday, summer assessment is giving a cheeky wink. What’s more, as the old saying goes, time flies when you have a coursework deadline. And when exams get chucked into the mix, it gets rocket boosters.

So, before the minutes whizz away all together – leaving only post-exam meltdown and a third behind – here are three ways you can knock time down a gear and maximise your productivity at uni and at home.

  1. Hack time up

While the urge to attack time with a sword-like-object for its trickery is not uncommon among students, this advice in strictly in the metaphorical sense. Dividing your time into manageable sections is the panacea for all student stereotypes (you know who you are). ‘Perfectionists’ are prevented from dithering on the same paragraph for hours; ‘procrastinators’ are obliged to hunker down in their chosen time slot; ‘multitaskers’, who flit aimlessly between this essay and that research topic, are finally committed to making meaningful progress in one area.

“as much as our budgets may wish the myth were true, students can’t just live on black coffee.”

What is more, as much as our budgets may wish the myth were true, students can’t just live on black coffee. With this rule established, breaking your day down in advance allows time to be given to basic tasks often left uncompleted or until the last-minute. Let’s face it: shoving bread and cheese in a bag at 11pm on a Sunday is hardly going to motivate you through the abyss known as Monday morning. Not only is this sort of organisation kind to your stress levels, but it’s also benevolent to your bank account, with forward-planning quashing the urge to buy ready-meals, takeaways and individually packaged lunches.

  1. Get scientific

When it comes to planning your work and working your plan, a strategy is key. Firstly, channel your inner gym-lad – your body is a machine – and get to know how, where and when you are at peak efficiency for different tasks. Forget your friend’s die-hard conviction to a psychologist’s claim that concentration levels peak at 11am and take a look at your performance history; ask yourself what has and hasn’t worked in the past. Revision at 7am or all-nighters in Hallward? Busy café or starfished on your bed? Headphones in or out? On top of this, don’t be afraid to have a routine re-vamp if the monotony is getting to be too much.

“never underestimate the power of a to-do-list for those you who love a tick-box.”

Secondly, get your plan for the day written (or typed) out. Once again, stationary and app stores have all of our student stereotypes covered: wall planners let you mark out an entire week’s schedule in one go, phone calendars are easy to check back on when you’re out and about – and never underestimate the power of a to-do-list for those you who love a tick-box.

  1. Priorities, priorities, priorities

It is time to brandish that sword again and cut down on time-wasters. For the majority of students, efficiency starts when you stop the scroll. While Facebook may be dying, you can help it on its way using Feedless, an app that blocks news feed for free on Facebook (it is also available for Twitter and Instagram). Perfect for the home-stretch towards deadlines and exams, Feedless emancipates students from thumbing through feed while maintaining access to core features of social media sites that are crucial to our (needlessly neglected) social and sporting lives.

As the heading (priorities, priorities, priorities) suggests, priorities should be made for all elements of day-to-day life: work, social life and everything in-between. Sometimes, abandoning your Tuesday-night hockey club or volunteering project for even more coursework and revision can be tempting for your conscience. However, social activity and time to relax are essential motivators during assessment weeks, which is a marathon, not a sprint; if anything should take top priority, it’s your mental health.

While time can fly, so can you. To ensure success in the exam season, get control of your minutes by spending them wisely. Divide your day up, make your goals personally achievable and give yourself a break!

Rowan Perry

Featured image courtesy of Dru Kelly via Flickr. Image license here.

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