Simple Ways to Schedule Study Time in a Productive Environment

By Kira Carr

Ask any high school or college student what their biggest challenge is, and you will inevitably get a reply that involves ineffective time management. Along with dozens of assignments per subject, a student must also work on long-term projects and study for final exams. It’s not surprising that time management is an issue for students, especially in today’s digital world. With so many apps and games at their fingertips, which are not only easily accessible but also powerfully addictive, making time for homework and studying can be difficult.

To help students create a productive environment so they can do more work in less time, I have created this list of useful tips. As a student, you may find that making some minor changes to your schedule will have a big impact on your grades.

Create a Favorable Studying Environment

Declutter and Tidy Your Desk

According to scientific studies, physical clutter limits your ability to focus.  An uncluttered study area can help your brain process information.  Keeping your desk neat and clutter-free is also important because if the place where you do your homework is not inviting enough, it will discourage you from even visiting that place. If you keep your study area clean and well-maintained, you may even look forward to sitting down to complete that science assignment.

Eliminate Distractions

In addition to having a tidy environment, you should also try to eliminate electronic and noise distractions from your study area:

  • While working on your assignments, make sure that your room is quiet enough. Ask your family members to lower the volume of the TV or other electronic devices.
  • If you are not someone who likes silence, try playing soothing music in the background while you write your assignment. (Editor’s note: instrumental Baroque or classical music is an especially good choice for study music.)
  • Switching off or keeping your phone on silent mode can be helpful too. The smartphone is the number one distraction for many students. Your concentration will be so much better if you aren’t being disturbed by continuous notifications from your apps.
  • Social media is another source of distraction. If you use a computer for studying, it is best to block social media sites like Facebook and Instagram for a period of time. Otherwise, one post will lead to another and soon you’ll wonder where all your time went.

Get Organized

Create a To-Do List

An effective way to complete all your assignments is to make a daily/weekly to-do list. When you get up in the morning, write down all the important activities that you need to finish that day. Create a separate section for homework and assign specific time periods for each activity. Stick this list somewhere on your desk and get going!

Try a Trello Board

In case you are not a fan of regular to-do lists, you can try Trello, which is more fun. It lets you create boards and tasks using color codes so that the activity becomes easier to track. You can also invite your friends to your board and work in collaboration, which is great for group projects.

Time Management

Set Specific Study Times

Many students have difficulty finishing their homework due to poor time management. You can fight this all-too-common problem by making a timetable (click here for an example). Assign specific time periods for your homework and studying and follow this schedule closely for at least three weeks. (Some people say it takes about 21 days for a person to master a habit, although this is debated by experts.)

As a lecturer, I always gives these tips to my students to help them manage their workload. Schools and universities give out a lot of assignments these days, and it is up to you to manage your time accordingly. Your high school and college days are supposed to be filled with enjoyment. Follow these tips to make sure that you make your days both productive and worthwhile.

About the Author – Kira Carr has been a high school teacher for the past 4 years, and also has experience in student counseling and curriculum management. She currently manages student programs at a national university in her hometown in Alabama and works as an editor at Writersdepartment.


Wondering how the most academically successful students handle time management?  Then check out The Secrets of Top Students, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Why Students Should Turn the Internet Off When They Study

By Stefanie Weisman

[Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on the Freedom website and has been re-posted with their permission.]

Okay, I admit it.  I’ve been having a little problem in the self-control department lately.  No matter what I tried to do – write an article, do research, read a book, etc. – I found myself typing the url of some distracting, time-wasting website, with Facebook being the worst offender.  It was a rather bizarre feeling, as if my fingers had acquired a mind of their own.  Before I knew it, I had been sucked into an internet black hole of silly videos and mindless trivia, which used up a good chunk of my time and energy.

My situation is hardly unique.  In my experience as a high school and college study skills expert, I’m constantly reminded of the problems caused by excessive internet usage.  On average, teens spend nine hours a day using media for entertainment – that’s more time than they spend sleeping and far more time than they spend studying.  Many students use social media and other “fun” sites while they’re studying or doing homework.  They may think such media multi-tasking doesn’t hurt their concentration, but study after study has shown this not to be the case.  According to a pioneer in this field, the late Stanford professor Clifford Nass, “people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking.”  In a 2012 study, researchers found that using Facebook and texting in particular were associated with lower GPA.

But as we all know, it can be hard to give up things that are bad for us.  The instant gratification we feel from sending a Tweet or getting a Like on our Facebook post creates a dopamine loop in our brains that makes us hungry for more.  We can all use a little help in the fight against bad habits.  Which is why, when I was given the chance to try Freedom, a program designed to eliminate distractions on the web, I jumped at the opportunity.

After downloading Freedom, the first thing I did was set up a recurring block of Facebook and other sites I have a weakness for, such as YouTube and Netflix, during the work day.  I was struck by how freeing it was to know these sites were off-limits.  My need to check on my friends seemed to evaporate, and my productivity increased.  At times when I needed complete concentration, I chose to block all websites – easily done on Freedom by checking a box.

freedom_full_view_cropped

A view of what the Freedom dashboard looks like on my computer.

I quickly discovered that Freedom has many features that make it superior to, say, disabling the wi-fi on your computer.  While shutting down wi-fi is an all-or-nothing solution, Freedom helps you fine-tune your internet consumption.  You can create multiple Blocklists, allowing you to block as many or as few websites as you want with the click of a button.  Freedom conveniently lets you choose from a list of the most commonly used (or should I say abused) social media sites, and you can manually enter any other sites you find distracting.  You can put these Blocklists into effect at any time or schedule them for recurring Sessions, which is great if you know you want to avoid certain sites at the same time every day, and sync your Sessions across multiple devices.  Perhaps most importantly, Freedom can keep you from giving in to temptation.  The problem with disabling your wi-fi is that you can easily turn it back on again.  With Freedom, you can select Locked Mode, which makes it virtually impossible to access the internet (or specific sites) for up to 8 hours.

This software would clearly be a great tool for students.  Those who use their PCs to take notes could set up a recurring block of all websites during class time, thus avoiding the distractions associated with in-class laptop use.  Similar blocks could be set up when studying for exams or writing papers.  And when students need the internet to do research, they can block social sites that would keep them from their work.

I used Freedom on a Windows PC and an iPhone.  Here are a few tricks I learned on how to use Freedom most effectively on these devices:

  • When I had a Session going in Locked Mode, I realized I was still able to end the Session by selecting “Quit” on the Freedom desktop icon. To fully enable Locked Mode, go to Options on the desktop icon and select “Disable Quit During Sessions.”  Developers will be syncing this to Locked Mode to eliminate confusion.
  • Having multiple Sessions going at the same time may cause unintended consequences. At one point, I had to restart my computer to regain access to the internet after a Session had ended.  To avoid this, select “Sync Freedom” on the desktop icon.
  • You may still be able to access the Facebook app on your mobile device during Sessions that are supposed to block the site. Developers are working on a way to block the app, but in the meantime, use this work-around.

I’m especially looking forward to the time when Freedom has a whitelisting feature, which developers are hard at work on.  This means that users will be able to block all websites except the ones they specify.  I would love to be able to access my email and a few other sites while blocking the rest of the internet.

I’ll leave you with one last thought, which in my view is pretty amazing: I haven’t checked Facebook once while writing this article.


Want more study tips?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Do’s and Don’ts for How to Focus While Studying (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Katherine Laramie.
Katherine is a freelance writer who lives in Orlando, Florida.

Your textbook is open, your notes are out and a highlighter rests in your hand. You have an upcoming exam and the best of intentions to prepare for it. After reading one paragraph, your mind starts to wander and somewhere between understanding “fundamental visual development principles” and “thematic and design ideas using visual media,” you’re on Facebook, and it’s not where you should be. It hasn’t even been 20 minutes, and you’re shutting that book thinking, “I’ll study tomorrow.”

In David Glenn’s essay “Procrastination in College Students is a Marker for Unhealthy Behaviors” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, procrastination is referred to as “anxiety avoidance” and “self-defeating behavior.” The article suggests that procrastinators are less worried about future success or failure, and says they experience high anxiety because of the negative feelings associated with committing to a night of doing schoolwork. If you’re guilty of postponing your studies, “wishful thinking” and “rationalizations,” then the following tips may help you improve your performance for a class or achieve that online art degree.

photo by xb3

Disassociating Anxiety from Studying & Test-Taking

Your future depends on graduating from school. Graduation depends on passing classes. Passing classes depends on high exam scores. Scoring highly on an exam depends on excellent studying skills. Ah, the anxiety sets in. Physiological stress follows. Failed attempts at studying are the end result. By eliminating the anxiety that’s associated with school work, you can eliminate subsequent negative, self-defeating feelings that disrupt your academic focus and obligations.

As you blindly stare at a power point on your laptop or gaze at a textbook, create positive associations with studying. Combat procrastination with the following tips:

  • Free your mind from external stressors, agendas and obligations.
  • Remind yourself that you’re nurturing your brain and acquiring knowledge. Embrace that you’re educating yourself. You actually want to improve your mind with this subject matter.
  • Focus less on the exam. By putting less emphasis on scoring highly, you’re alleviating yourself of pressure — and thus anxiety that pushes you to delay your studies for another day.
  • Replace rationalizations and wishful thinking. To handle the negative feelings associated with studying, you may respond by making excuses. Take accountability for your responsibilities and self-defeating behavior. Replace rationalizations, such as “I’m really tired tonight and not even retaining any information anyway,” with “I’m going to maximize my time this evening. There’s no better time than now to prepare for my upcoming exam. Cramming only stresses me out.”

Refocusing: It’s Never Too Late

Losing focus and succumbing to distractions is natural and to be expected while studying. Don’t be defeated by these moments of weakness, which can manifest into negative thoughts and abandoned studying. Take a small break, breathe and get back in the game.

Re-focus by:

  • Changing your scenery and location. If you’re at home, move to a different room. If you’re at the library, change floors and desks.
  • Drinking water. Hydrate and refresh your mind and body.
  • Playing music. The soothing and calming music of cellist Yo-Yo Ma can provide new sensory that re-energizes your studying.

Editor’s Note: My new book, The Secrets of Top Students, contains lots of advice on how to study for exams and avoid procrastination. Order it now on Amazon!


For more tips on studying and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!