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.


Tips for Reducing Academic Anxiety

By Anne Davies

Study and exam-related stress is a problem for many students, whether or not they’re focused on achieving academic excellence, and it’s something that can affect students of any age. Nobody is immune to academic stress, but there are plenty of things you can do to reduce anxiety that centers on studying and exams.

Meditation can help you do better on exams. (Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta via Flickr.)

Meditation can help you do better on exams. (Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Puerto Vallarta via Flickr.)

Preparation and Organization

There are several key skills that go a long way towards reducing anxiety, just because they form a solid base of preparation and organization that help you stay focused and stay on top of your workload. Having a comprehensive study system is crucial, and it’s also important that whatever system you develop is one that works for you.

For example, having a good note-taking system is essential for college lectures, but the same system won’t necessarily work for everyone. Some people prefer to write notes by hand, others prefer to use a laptop, and some like to take audio recordings of lectures and write up notes at their leisure. It’s just a matter of trying different methods to find out what works best for you. It’s also useful to determine what your learning style is; some people learn best by listening, some by doing, some by reading or writing, and if you’re trying to force yourself into a style that isn’t optimal, studying instantly becomes less effective and more stressful.

One of the most important skills to have is that of time management: being able to organize your time and use it effectively, prioritizing tasks based on how urgent they are, and sticking to whatever schedule you create for yourself. Without good time management, you’re likely to end up completing assignments at the last minute, losing sleep studying the night before exams, putting yourself through a considerable amount of unnecessary stress, and impairing your academic performance. Study and exam anxiety is often related to lack of preparation, so the key way to reduce that anxiety is simply to create a study schedule and stick with it.

And finally, take advantage of the wealth of apps and programs that have been created for time management and study organization. There are some incredibly useful tools available—many of which are free—that can help you improve your study habits and manage your time more effectively.

Of course, for some people, no amount of preparation can help reduce academic anxiety to a manageable level, so it’s also useful to consider other methods of coping with study-related stress.

Relaxation Techniques

The second aspect is learning how to relax and control your anxiety; and while to some this might seem like the easy part, it’s very difficult for many people. It’s especially difficult when study anxiety isn’t rooted in tangible problems like lack of organization, because when anxiety develops for no apparent reason, it’s harder to manage because there are no concrete ways to solve the root cause. Regardless of the cause of the anxiety, however, there are some techniques that can definitely help reduce anxiety and stress, and all of the problems and symptoms they cause. One of these is meditation—a technique that has become widely used all over the world by all kinds of people, is easy to start, and when practiced regularly, is very effective. There’s more than one kind of meditation, however; for example, there’s mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, Taoist Qi gong, and transcendental meditation. While none are specifically aimed at managing stress, the general consensus is that mindfulness meditation, or Vipassana, is the most effective in this regard. Recent studies show that this kind of meditation can improve cognitive function as well as reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, so it’s perfect for students.

Meditation isn’t going to be possible during a test situation, of course, but there are some related techniques that are perfect for reducing anxiety when it hits. Simply spending thirty seconds or a minute engaging in deep breathing—long, slow breaths in and out—can be very calming. Another useful technique is “mindfulness moments,” in which you take a few seconds to engage with your surroundings by taking note of what you can see, hear, smell, and feel. Engaging your senses helps you feel more grounded, and helps you link back to the calming sensations you feel during mindfulness meditation exercises.

For more tips on relaxation and other study skills, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

A College Student’s Guide to Time Management (Guest Post)

Sam Greaves is a writer who specializes in topics related to college life, study hacks and productivity. He writes for Classof1, which is one of the largest providers of online study help for college students.

“I wish I had more time….”

If you haven’t used this line in college, then I’m pretty sure you’re doing well in the time management area.  But for those of you who are struggling to keep things going within the limited time available, this post is for you!

I could write about the plethora of time management techniques that you could use to manage your time. However, let’s start by looking at the basic rules of time management. You can use these rules to optimize the way you’re spending your time, and to create your own time management techniques.


Rule 1: Understand the Objective

The first rule is to understand the purpose or the objective of all the tasks that you do (or need to do). This will help you understand why you should do it. And if there are multiple ways of doing it, this will help you determine the best way to reach the objective.

Rule 2: Prioritize

The problem with tasks is that you almost always have more than one! Especially as a college student, you have to be constantly juggling between lots of things. The best way to make the optimum use of your time is to do tasks based on priority.
You should be able to rank your tasks based on the importance or the urgency of the task. So when you have to do your school work, the tougher assignments or the ones with the closer deadlines should almost always have the higher priority.

Rule 3: Split into Smaller Sub-tasks

It’s best to divide and conquer your work, i.e., split big tasks into smaller sub-tasks. Organizing your work into smaller tasks makes it easier and achievable. Sometimes the massiveness of a task can make it daunting and you may put it off for a more favorable time. Whereas the smaller sub task can make the whole thing seem more approachable.  Dividing the task into smaller units will ensure that you’re constantly progressing in your task!

Rule 4: Take Them One at a Time

Although students like to be proud of their multitasking abilities, studies have shown that multitasking is a weakness, not strength. At any given time, two tasks are the maximum our brain can handle. So it’s detrimental if you try to overload your brain with more than two tasks at a time.
You should always plan to ensure that you’re doing just one task at any given moment. This will make you more effective and efficient in dealing with what you’re doing. Since you’re not distracted with multiple tasks, you will be performing at your highest potential.

Rule 5: Be Relentless

“With self-discipline most anything is possible.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Almost any habit that you want to build requires persistence and self-discipline, and it’s no different with time management. While in college, many times you may have to make the hard choice between doing the task you want to do and the task you should do! So being relentless in following your plan is crucial for the success of your time management efforts.

Rule 6: Track and Control

Last but not the least, you should make a note of all the tasks that you plan to do. This will make it easier for you to constantly be aware of the tasks you have pending at any given time. Tracking your tasks also serves another, more important purpose of being able to monitor your progress. This will help you make changes wherever necessary, and plan in advance for any impending tasks.

Now that you’ve learned about the basic rules of time management, you can get started on making the most of your college life. If you’re not satisfied with just the basics and would like to learn more about time management and productivity, I would highly recommend the following titles:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  2. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Photo Credit: gadl cc

Learn how to study quickly and efficiently.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

4 Ways to Survive School Even If You Don’t Have a Time Machine (Guest Post)

Alexandra Harmening is a recently graduated writer who loves avocados and is currently living 365 Days of Pride and Prejudice.

While trying to squeeze my undergraduate degree into three years, things often seemed more than a little bit hectic. I frequently informed professors that I was working on discovering how to be in two places at once. But that one never really panned out.

Sometimes it is hard to keep your sanity as a student. From homework to internships to some semblance of a social life squeezed in between, the undergrad years brim with busyness. Fortunately, there are four healthy habits that can help students survive school and still succeed, even without a time machine.

The author giving her valedictory speech.

The author giving her graduation speech.

1. Jumpstart Projects

One of the only ways that I made it through school with my grades intact was starting papers and projects as soon as they were assigned. For my senior these this meant breaking ground on research six months early. For end of the semester papers, this typically meant checking out resources from the library during the first or second week of school.

Working ahead is probably the inverse of a common collegiate plague called procrastination. Where procrastinating leaves you sleepless and stressed for the last month of school, completing projects ahead provides time for editing, sleeping every night, meeting to consult your professor, time to print out the paper and freedom from stress during finals week. (In fact, finals week used to be my favorite because by then everything was almost wrapped up—well, except for exams. Sound crazy? I dare you to try it.)

2. Sleep  

“There’ll be time to sleep when we graduate,” friends and I would tease as we typed furiously. Unfortunately, sleep is easily overlooked in the long list of assignments to check off during the day. But most of the time, it is easier to pause in the middle of a project, go to sleep and wake up with a fresh brain and new ideas in the morning.

Complex brain functions such as updating working memory, planning, attention, sense of time, dealing with novel situations and verbal fluency are dramatically affected by sleep-deprivation because the brain is forced to overwork, notes Jim Horne, PhD, who directed a sleep research laboratory at England’s Loughborough University.

“Sleep deprivation is bad for your brain when you are trying to do high-level [thinking] tasks” confirms University of California, San Diego researcher and author Dr. J. Christian Gillin. And sleep deprivation “may have serious consequences both on performance and on the way your brain functions.”

The lesson here: sleep is probably more valuable than we give it credit for being as college students. And in some cases, the key to success on that test tomorrow morning might actually be crashing on your pillow rather than enduring a caffeine induced all-nighter.

3. Know When to Say No

The trickiest thing about college for me was all of the amazing opportunities that sprang up each and every week. I wanted to grab them all in case it was the last time anyone ever asked me to be on the library committee or go on a hike or play in the pit orchestra for the spring musical or work as a part-time tutor or join student government or go out for coffee or—you get the picture. But one of the greatest life lessons that you can start learning while still in school is when and how to say, “No.”

Not to sound like a homework Nazi because it really is important to work towards a balanced life with fun activities and breaks, but there are too many possibilities to answer yes to them all. Unless, of course, you have a time machine.

Identifying your goals for coming to college is a realistic way to begin checking your list of commitments and deciding what are valuable priorities and what can actually be cut. This might be painful, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t ever be involved in amazing and enriching extracurriculars. It just means that you can’t be a member of every single school club or work three and a half jobs while taking 18 units. 


4. After a Hard Day of Writing, It’s Good to Write Some More

When you’ve spent the last seven hours writing, memorizing, reading and then writing some more, it is great to relax with a little more writing. Yes, that does sound crazy, but if you are a writer, then you probably know what I mean.

The idea here is to make time for your passion because sometimes, in the midst of pursuing a degree in the subject you love, it becomes easy to forget why it matters and what there is to like about it.

For me, this manifested itself in scribbling out thoughts for my own blog once a week called My Year with Elizabeth Bennet. It was a great way for me to unwind and process while remembering why I was majoring in English.

Now, an engineering major might feel that sitting down to write is one of the most stressful activities I could suggest. But taking an afternoon to pull apart a VW Bug and then reassemble it on the roof of the dorm building might sound amazing. Finding a creative outlet, one that won’t be graded by your professor at the end, is a positive way to unwind and rest. It’s any kind of practical return to your first love that you can invent.

There is probably no one formula for success that any student at any school can download to automatically work. But remembering the basics or sleep, planning ahead, setting priorities and returning to your interests will hopefully help you to find an efficient balance for your college years. And maybe after graduation, you will have developed the skills to start building that time machine.

Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

How to Succeed in School and Still Have Time for Fun (Guest Post)

By Jessica Socheski

After the pressure of SATs, advanced placement classes and university applications, many students are excited to start a new life in college and experience living in a dorm. But for college freshmen who want to do well in school, maintaining an active social life on campus might seem next to impossible.

How to Succeed in School and Still Have a Little Fun

Maintain your grades and your social life!

Fortunately, there are a few steps to college success that might just allow you to hang out with friends on Friday night instead of holing up in your room with your chemistry text.  For students who care about their grades but are still hoping to enjoy the typical college experience, here’s how to succeed in college academically without giving up on your social life.

Plan Ahead

One of the most common failings of college students is neglecting to set up a plan. In what is often dismissed as harmless procrastination, a surprising number of students tend to do readings at the last minute or wait until the night before to complete an assignment.

But if you want to be free to go out with your friends, it is imperative that you do your work ahead of time! For example, if you have a break after class, pull out the textbook and finish the reading for the next class, right there and then. Being efficient is key to freeing up time to socialize.

Actively review deadlines and make certain you know when your assignments are due. When a project is on the syllabus, break the large tasks down into smaller pieces. Don’t be afraid to start work on your final assignment after the very first class session!

You can also look for ways to streamline and multitask whenever possible. For example, bring your laptop to the laundry room and keep typing that paper between loads.

Be Present in Class

A letter to future college students which appeared in the NY Times blog warns, “when you realize that there’s no detention or punishment for missing classes, when you discover that the professor’s lecture notes are online,” it will become much easier to habitually skip class.

Many students choose to cut classes on a regular basis because they need to study for an exam, want to hang out with friends or simply can’t hear the alarm telling them that their 8 a.m. starts in 15 minutes.

But class time is really some of the most important hours you will spend during college. Professors are experts in their fields, and the time you have to learn from them is valuable. Studying for the test later is much easier if you’re already familiar with the subject from lectures. Finally, you are probably paying thousands of dollars to be in this class – so you might as well get your money’s worth!

Engage in Homework Time

In addition to using the classroom to succeed and planning ahead rather than studying later, find an optimal place to work – and then get cracking! If you are studying at a school with a tempting campus, such as South University Palm Beach, you should probably do your reading at the library instead of a sandy beach. Your studying will be much quicker and more effective without a distracting environment. And when you’re finished, you can hop over to the oceanfront to enjoy a well-deserved break.

With these strategies for effective and more efficient study time, you can get the most out of your college experience both academically and socially!

Image from

For more tips on how to rule in school, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!