Productivity Cheat-Sheet

Kiera Greenwood gives us the complete guide to productivity and acing those uni deadlines.

Whether it be your dissertation or just another deadline, we are all feeling the pressure these final few months of the semester. So, how do we make this final term count?

One of the primary lessons that university teaches us is how to get by doing very little, but if you’re in your final year the chances are that a last minute panic just won’t cut it anymore. These last few months of work will prove to be the culmination of three (or more) years spent working towards a degree. As the saying goes, it really is last chance saloon.

Last year Leandra Medine, the founder of ‘Man Repeller’, posted a monocycle podcast entitled ‘productivity’. During the ten minute post she makes numerous suggestions on how to ‘get your sh*t together’. Inspired by this post I took it upon myself to tailor some suggestions to student life in order to get us through these dark and difficult times…

Use Your Mornings

We all enjoy a lie-in. It’s a student’s prerogative to be able to press that snooze button knowing that, yes, we may be late to that 9am (or even sack it off altogether) but the consequences will never be as heavy as when we are working a full time job. We have years of early mornings ahead of us so why not make the most of the late nights and even later mornings that we can indulge in now? Well quite frankly because, in the words of Leandra Medine: it is time to get our sh*t together. Hit the library for 9am to get in that morning revision session and by midday you will already be ahead of your usual self.

Do The ‘Hard Stuff’ First

Using this ethos of making the most of those morning hours, don’t just list-tick menial jobs like renewing library books or writing a ‘weekly plan’. Get your head down and do that task that you really don’t want to do, that way returning to work after lunch won’t be so daunting.

Optimise Your Productivity

Staying focused is the biggest struggle that we all face when we sit down to do some work. This is obviously because stalking someone that you kind of know (but definitely don’t follow) on Instagram is far more pressing an activity than looking over lecture notes. If you’re sharing memes about how much work you’ve got to do then surely that’s your work-related task done for the day? Turns out we are actually fairly screwed in this department. According to a study by Microsoft it has been proven that us millennials have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. So how on earth do we sustain some kind of focus? Breaks are essential. Without allowing ourselves breaks we will just take them anyway and end up feeling guilty as they spiral from ‘just a quick Facebook scroll’ to a good hour of binge watching funny videos. In the 1980s the ‘Pomodoro Technique’, a method to enhance productivity, was founded by Francesco Cirillo. The basic principle being that you work for 25 minutes and then have a 5 minute break. By setting a timer and keeping your breaks strictly regulated in this way, you are more likely to be productive in the 25 minutes that you have ‘on’ than if you attempt to ‘stay focused’ for hours on end.

Make The Most of Your Breaks

Delete your social media apps for a bit. Trust me it works. Instead of snapchatting story-ing yourself ‘doing’ work to make you feel better about how little you have actually done, get up from your desk and go for a walk. If you use the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ you can use your five minutes every half an hour to get some fresh air. Stretching your legs and having some ‘screen-free’ time will make it much easier to get back and concentrate for your next timed 25 minute slot.

Concentrate On One Thing At A Time

A recent article published in the Business Insider UK claims that multi-tasking only makes us less productive. Ticking items off a to-do list may make us feel great due to the dopamine chemicals that it releases into our brain but, by mistaking this feeling for actual productivity we will inevitably endeavour to tick off easier but less important tasks instead of concentrating on a larger and more pressing assignment (like that pesky essay that you just can’t bring yourself to start). Using the Pomodoro Technique you can calculate how many 25 minute slots a task will take by breaking a big task down into little ones. For instance, for an essay you will need to: research, find critics, plan, and of course, write however many words the rubric demands. But, even the writing itself can be broken down into sections. Writing an introduction during a 25 minute Pomodoro slot will begin to seem completely manageable and your days will soon ooze productivity.

Final Thoughts

It turns out that there are multiple ways that we can defy the odds stacked against us as attention deficient millennials. Get some early nights, drink plenty of water, eat well, go for a run if you need to clear your head, switch up where you study and you have totally got this. We can all be productive if we want to be. Ironically it took me days of procrastinating before I actually got around to writing this article but I really am going to try and POMODORO the hell out of my final term, here’s hoping that it works for all of us.

Kiera Greenwood

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