Study Tips for Busy Students

Y’know, we get it. School can be a rough, busy time, especially if you’re juggling a job and extracurriculars with a full courseload. Here are some time management tips from a seasoned multitasker that might make things a bit easier:

1. Organization is key

Yeah, there isn’t really a way to get around this. The busier your life gets, the more you need to stay on top of everything to keep your commitments and priorities straight. If organization doesn’t come naturally to you, a few simple things to get yourself started might include: beginning to plan at least a week in advance, establishing a central “command base” for yourself (see step 2), and keeping both carbon and electronic reminders of important events (i.e. write them down and put them in your Calendar app).

2. Use a planner. Or a Filofax. Or a plain old journal. Just something!

I worship at the planner altar, and I have plenty of friends who rely on the Calendar and Reminders apps instead. I like to map things out in the context of the day, week, month, and sometimes even the year, so I like to use a planner with both day and month grids. Having a written record and list of your assignments, events, and meetings will a) make you feel a greater sense of accomplishment when you cross things off and b) let you see things far in advance so you can plan accurately. It’s also harder to forget things when you maintain a constant record of them! Plus, if you fill in your planner/calendar as soon as you can, you won’t necessarily have to worry about writing everything in when you’re super busy and not as great at staying on top of everything.

3. Don’t feel pressured to adhere to an organizational aesthetic™

Look, I love Pinterest as much as the next basic white girl, and I often find myself mesmerized by the pretty lettering/writing, doodles, and decorations that people put in their planners or bullet journals. I am not an artist nor do I have anywhere near enough free time to indulge in stuff like that. Your planner or calendar, at its most basic level, is meant to be functional — and functional for you and you only. Don’t feel like you have to make it pretty, especially if you’re super busy, because that isn’t what matters the most.

4. Want to spice up your planner a little bit, regardless? Read on…

There are some fairly simple ways to spruce up your planner if you want to take it to the next level. Get your butt over to the crafting aisle at your local Walmart, buy yourself a couple rolls of washi tape (they come in solid colors and patterns, and they’re only about $3 apiece), and go nuts. Since washi tape is transparent, I often use it in place of highlighters to designate events that take place over multiple days (e.g. Spring or Winter Break).

Get some multicolored pens and highlighters; use a different color for each class/type of event when listing in your planner.

If stickers are your thing, go for it. Cover that paper.

And if you’re not as girly/immature as I am, I don’t know what to tell you. Get creative. Sprinkle some black pepper on your planner or something.

5. Establish a routine.

This is a key part to getting your crap together, as it turns out. Get yourself used to waking up at a certain time each day (whether it’s for work or class first), eating meals around the same times, using the same chunks of time for homework, etc. etc. A routine should decrease your stress and increase your productivity, and it should feel more natural with time. It’s worth noting that, especially if you’re trying to do this for the first time, it might not work right away, and you’ll have to make some adjustments, so don’t get mad at yourself. You’ll get there! I sure did.

6. Keep a printout (or similar form) of your non-negotiable obligations.

I personally do this in Excel before every semester. I block out where I have to be in certain time blocks of each day (for example, when each of my classes is and when I have to be at work). Since my schedule changes each semester (and sometimes drastically so), I don’t always remember when I’m free. But, being able to pull out my tiny printed schedule makes things much faster and easier than trying to remember everything, and it makes me seem way more competent than I actually am.  

7. When it comes to homework, prioritize. And put away your damn phone.

You’ve probably heard some variation of this before, but concentrate on the homework that challenges you the most/takes the most time first. That way, you can just fly through the easy stuff afterwards. And, of course, this goes way faster if you don’t stop to scroll through Insta or Snapchat every couple minutes; put your phone on silent (or even turn it off) and put it away.

8. Take advantage of your dead time.

Even yours truly has a tough time with this one. If you work a job like mine where you just have to man the desk, and if you’re allowed to work on some homework during the downtime, take advantage of that. Actually try to get some homework done instead of just scrolling through Twitter or looking at cat videos (dodges your side-eye).

9. When you’re in class, only write down what you need to.

This works best for profs or teachers who put the powerpoints they use online in some format. When you’re in class, focus on what the teacher is saying in lecture instead of trying to write down every detail on the slide since you’ll have access to that information later when you actually need to study it. What they’re saying to you, though, is kind of a one-time-thing, and they’ll probably make a great point about something that will end up on the midterm and that you’ll regret not writing down when you first heard it.

10. Don’t forget to make time for yourself.

Maintaining your mental health is crucial; do not let your parents, friends, or even your school administration try to tell you otherwise. Block out some free time for you to just binge on Netflix or Youtube, and whether this needs to happen every day or not is up to you. Sometimes, for me, this can be as simple as taking the time to indulge in a new YouTube video once a day or taking the time to do my nails while watching reality TV every Sunday. Don’t feel guilty about doing this; but, if you do, then maybe try to use your time to do something that’s tangentially productive (for example, painting your nails; painted nails = professionalism at my job).

11. Install Qapital. Right now. (Not sponsored!)

I’m obsessed with this app. It’s a savings app that links to your checking account (don’t worry, it’s FDIC-insured and checks out and all that) and lets you implement “rules” for your spending, allowing you to funnel money from different transactions into a designated “goal” (savings account). This is a great way for saving up for paying off student loans or working towards that first apartment. And you don’t have to stress as much about feeling like you’re not “saving enough” because Qapital shows you that every penny counts.

So there you have it! Some advice from a girl who’s seen and lived it all and who’s constantly trying to find ways to make life a lil easier for herself. Hope I could help you out as well!  

A hippie-stuck-in-the-21st-century with an unhealthy addiction to pomegranates, Emily Ward spends the better part of her time spewing out short stories and soon-to-be-novels instead of doing her homework. She contributes a variety of things to Germ and is always more than willing to talk about the underlying themes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Wonder Boys.  You can reach her at emily@germmagazine.com or on her tumblr.

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