Finding yourself daydreaming when you should be studying? Getting frustrated by your lack of efficiency? Here are some tried and true tips to help you churn out homework assignments with maximum focus and productivity.
1. Turn your phone on silent
Why would you want to look at diagrams of the Krebs cycle when you could be looking at your friends’ cute Instagram pics from Santa Monica? Don’t give in; mute your phone so you can’t get distracted. If you still find yourself impulsively checking your home screen for notifications, turn off the notifications for your messaging and social media apps.
2. Use your phone for your benefit
I’ve discovered a small squadron of apps that are effective fighters on the front lines against distraction. One is Focus Keeper, an app that utilizes the Pomodoro Technique for studying. It’s a timer that cycles between long and short blocks of time, so you can study in 20-minute sessions and take five-minute breaks in between. Another good app is Self Control, which allows you to create a list of websites that can be blocked for a set amount of time (up to 24 hours!). Goodbye illicit Netflix binges; hello completed research paper.
3. Find a quiet place to study
If you’re not a library person, there are still plenty of peaceful places on campus that don’t get much foot traffic. Try a bench near the aptly named Little Chapel of Silence or the rooftop of Old Annenberg.
4. . . . Or get a study buddy
Find someone who will keep you accountable, not someone who will distract you with YouTube videos of skateboarding parakeets.
5. Get plenty of sleep
Nothing’s harder than trying to slog through an ancient text like Plato’s Republic if you can’t keep your eyes open. Getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep will keep you alert (and more cheerful) during your studies.
6. Reduce sugar
While you may justify eating that candy bar by saying it boosts your focus, the opposite is actually true: sugar impedes memory and learning skills and even negatively affects your emotional health. If you really need a little mid-study pick-me-up, try a square of dark chocolate.
7. Make a plan the night before
When feeling overwhelmed by the tsunami of work overtaking you, make a detailed plan before you go to bed that outlines each task you need to work on the next day. Be specific; schedule what time and how long you will work on each task. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself, and definitely don’t overload.
8. Take a break
When you find yourself reaching the two-hour mark and you’re still wrestling with that one diabolical chemistry problem, now is not the best time to prove your persistence. The logical thing to do is step away for a few minutes. Take a walk to clear your head, and give your brain the chance to refresh before you return to the problem.
9. Work now, play later
It is important to stay focused on your studies during the time you designate so that you have time for the things you enjoy. Never go through the agony of saying, “Sorry, I can’t go out tonight. I have an essay I have to write,” again.
10. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself
A little healthy pressure can be great to keep you motivated, but too much stress will just be counterproductive. Relax. One homework assignment isn’t going to make or break your academic career.