Productivity Tip for Students (From the Other Side of the Fence)

Now that I have started working, I can see that my days as a student could have been a lot more productive :) I completed grad school in fairly good time, but if I had not gotten into the “student lifestyle”, I could have probably completed it even sooner. Or had some time to pursue other passions in parallel. Anyway, here is my productivity tip for all you students, so you can finish up sooner than you thought possible. Structure your day. Set a schedule and stick to it. Set some goals for the day and finish it up first before looking into other things. That’s it. Believe me, just those small changes will make a huge difference.

My typical day at school looked like this (many of you will probably be able to relate to it) –

  • Alarm rings sometime between 7:30 – 9:00 am.

  • Hit the snooze button at least 4-5 times and finally manage to get out of bed an hour later.

  • Dash out of bed, have a quick breakfast and shower, and run to the lab.

  • Check E-mails. Hmmm... mail from advisor. Stare at the mail for a few minutes, desperately trying to make sense out of it.

  • Maybe it’s too early in the day to read this heavy stuff. So, check personal email and news instead.

  • Shoot, did I really spend an hour out there? I better start working!

  • Look at that mail from the professor *again* and see if it makes sense this time around.

  • Hmmm… maybe if I look this up on Google search, I will be able to figure out what the professor means.

  • Hey, not bad, this student from University XYZ already has a publication in the prestigious Journal ABC. I wonder where else he has published papers. Start googling for his bio.

  • Damn, those are some neat pics on his website. I should try and get my paper accepted in that conference in France.

  • Let me look up the conference website for deadlines.

  • Hmmm, the conference is not in Paris. I wonder how much it costs to take the Eurorail from the conference location to Paris.

  • And on and on, until I head back home in the evening

  • Somewhere in the middle I have managed to get in a few hours of work done.

  • In the evening after supper, that cold feeling of “Oh my god, I haven’t got enough done today… at this rate, I will be in school for another eight years” hits me at the pit of the stomach.

  • So I drag myself away from front of the TV where I was having dinner and sit down with the results of my experiments, and some research papers, trying to make some progress until the wee hours of the morning

And, I wasn’t even into blogging, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit or any other social networking vices back then!

The routine worked – eventually I got things done. But the problem was, most of my work was done late in the night and the day was wasted away on unnecessary things. Since the day is meant to be for “work” it wouldn’t feel like I have relaxed, in spite of spending so much time on browsing and doing unnecessary stuff. It wasn’t like I was sitting there and playing games for hours – I still got work done, but not nearly enough. And, more often than not, things spilled over into weekends. So overall, I used to feel like I never had any time to relax and chill. Even though I was never really “busy”, I was never quite “free” either. And over time, the days, nights and weekends blended into a blur of slow-motion activity, with no clear marking of when to work and when to play.

When I completed my degree and started working, I used to find it really difficult to haul my ass into office by 8:30 am. And to stay at my desk for hours on end. The afternoons in particular were sheer torture. But now that I have got used to it, I have started to like it. I try to get as much work done as possible during the day, so I don’t have to stay back at work later than 6:00pm. I come home, fix/eat dinner, and after dinner relax in front of the TV or the laptop until its time to crash. I have suddenly reclaimed a few hours of the day to pursue things I enjoy doing, like maintaining this blog. If I were to calculate the total work done, I would say the amount of work I get done in the day now is similar to the amount of work I used to get done overall earlier. But unlike before where my “free time” was scattered in bits and pieces throughout the day, I get it in a chunk at the end of the day. And that allows me to do other things not related to work so my mind is in a way relaxing. And the next day when I get back to work, I am fresh and ready to tackle what the day brings in.

So, if you are still a student and wonder where all your time goes, I have a simple suggestion. Set up a schedule for when you will go to school and when you will head back, and what you will accomplish in that time. No matter how strong the temptation, do not get distracted during that time. You don’t need to do a 9am to 5pm stretch. Just 2-3 hours in the morning and another 3-4 hours in the evening of uninterrupted work *everyday* should work. I am quite sure, if you stick to the schedule, you will graduate a lot faster. And, you will have more free time on your hands than most of your friends, so you can watch TV, play games or whatever else it is that you kids do these days :)

Note: This post was motivated by, and submitted to “The Ultimate Guide to Productivity” Group Writing Project @ The Instigator Blog. Head on over there to find out how you can submit your productivity tips and for reading some cool tips by other participants. Here are some of the tips from the host blog and other contributors that I liked from the submissions so far –

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1 Comment:

Juan (1mil) said...

Reddit + Right Click is an ADD'ers paradise. Seriously.