A combination of these three factors allow for a productive work environment, while any two alone may put you at a disadvantage. An abundance of time and energy with no attention span can leave you prone to distraction, while high energy and focus without the necessary time can quickly jumble your tasks and lead to disorganization. Having the time and attention but with little energy results in fatigue, and oftentimes, a lower quality product. So, how can you create a balance? The best way is to build a routine that keeps you operating at your peak within these three areas.
- Cause a potential 40% loss in productivity
- Slow you down
- Increase error
- Create "inattentional blindness"
- Reduce memory
- Dampen your creativity
- Increase stress level
What is time chunking?
Time chunking or the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that can be applied to both your academic and professional career. The premise is simple--work consistently on a single task for 25 minutes. When the time is up, take a 5 minute break. Check your phone, your email, who’s winning the game, go for a quick walk- then repeat! Setting a timer may help. Try the Pomodoro Timer for iphone or ipad and ClearFocus: Pomodoro Timer for Android.
Why it works
- Your attention is devoted to a single task rather than everything you have to do
- Because you are working for only a short period of time, it is easier to keep distractions at bay
- The relatively short, timed period can motivate you through a heavy workload- a glance at the clock lets you know there’s 'only x minutes' until break
- The frequent breaks keep your energy level up
- Identify your ideal study environment
- Share your availability in advance so friends and family know you are studying
- Learn how to say “no” and know what can wait
- Turn off any self-imposed interruptions! (i.e. phone, TV). Put your phone and computer on Do Not Disturb while you are studying.
- What are the most important pieces of this task?
- How can you break these pieces down in a more manageable way?
- What is the best "jumping off" point for this task?
- What are the consequences of failing to meet the deadline?
- What is the root of your anxiety towards the task--Fear? Frustration? Confusion?
- What is a realistic outcome for this task?
- Who can provide valuable feedback and encouragement?
- What are the benefits of completing the task now?
- What distractions can be made into rewards?
- Are you able to work with others on this task?
- What is the most interesting or relevant place to begin on this task?
The best defense against procrastination is, of course, its opposite- effective time management. Incorporating the following strategies into your everyday life can save you time, boost your energy, focus your attention and annihilate procrastination once and for all:
- Invest in a planner- it can work wonders!
- Transfer your class syllabi to your planner; include exam dates, key deadlines, professor contact information and office hours
- Take advantage of organizational tools such as Evernote or OneNote
- Organize notes and study materials as you go
- Take ten minutes at the beginning of each week to review your planner and make a list of priority tasks
- Take action rather than over analyze
- Identify points in the day where your energy is highest, and tackle the most difficult tasks then
- Study more challenging subjects first, you’ll feel fresher
- Decide what order to complete tasks in based on both their urgency and importance, as shown above
- Live in box 2 so you are not always on fire.
- With your syllabi transferred, identify your heaviest weeks and plan accordingly
- Establish solid routines that will save you time later (Ex. Weekly review, re-reading your notes after class, assigning study days to subjects)
- Utilize on-campus resources
- Begin by evaluating the task’s big picture
- Set short and long term goals for yourself in relation to the task
- Break the task into smaller pieces over a timeline
- Take breaks as needed
- Practice time chunking
Imagine, for a moment, that you have everything you need to study- in one complete database. Convenient, right? Start with folders. Skip the two hour mid-semester printing session and begin storing class materials from the get-go in a class folder. Keep all homework, lecture notes and previous exams, as well as your syllabus in this folder. Be sure to bookmark any helpful online videos or learning tools, as well. Next, store all of your "lecture gems" on index cards. People, ideas and key terms should all go onto flashcards that can be easily referenced from your database later. Begin building on the first day of class so by the time midterms and finals roll around, you will have everything you need in an organized fashion. Use this study plan in conjunction with your database for best results. The time you don’t have to spend PREPARING to study can really add up!
Create a Notes Compression or Mind Map
Notes compression is, well, just how it sounds. Rather than reviewing every note you ever took from the semester, spend at least an hour condensing key concepts onto a 2-sided paper. This is your chance to double check yourself and fill in any conceptual holes in the material. As you make your notes compression, establish whether or not you truly know the material. A cursory review of your notes compression, followed by a practice exam, is a great safety net for any pitfalls you might have during the actual exam. Be sure to review your practice exam and make note of any sections you found challenging. Spend the remaining time reviewing these areas. More explanation on this idea is here. Scroll down to "summary version" on this page.
Similarly, mind mapping allows you to break down a concept on paper and explore the connections between its various parts. This can be done on traditional paper or through web applications such as examtime and bubbl.us. Start with a main idea in the center. You can then begin to branch out from this idea using single words and related principles. These ‘main branches’ will have sub-branches that further examine each aspect, as well as connect to other areas. You may even want to liven things up with a bit of color or a useful graphic. Think in terms of key words and symbols, rather than paragraphs. The goal is to visually organize both the content and your ideas to better understand the central theme. Here's more explanation and examples.
Effective time management is a balance of your time, energy and attention. Ditch the multi-tasking and try time chunking instead. Identify the source of your procrastination, then combat it with the various skills provided. Begin building your own database at the start of each semester, and try creating a notes compression or mind map before test day. Finally, take advantage of this 5 day study plan. Go ahead and give a few of these techniques a go!
- The First Year Advising Center (FYAC) Major exploration and career counseling is available exclusively for first-year students. Discuss your degree options and establish a four year plan with your academic advisor here.
- Kresge Library Computers, copiers, printers and other technology tools are available throughout the library. Access materials and online databases or reserve a cabana for group study. Visit the quiet study floor or schedule a research consultation with a librarian. The library is open 24/7 with a valid student ID.
- The Writing Center Meet with a consultant for support with any stage in the writing process. Located inside Kresge Library.
- The Tutoring Center Schedule free tutoring sessions for a variety of subjects. Appointments can be made in-person or online.
- Student Technology Center Borrow equipment, utilize lab space or find technical support.
- Find My Academic Advisor (Sophomore-Senior) Search by major or school/college.