Today I have a bit of a different post for you, which seems to be the theme of February, but it is another non-bookish one. I get a lot of questions from the people I know in real life about how I stay to focused and on top of my school work and still manage to find time to have down time and work on other projects, so I thought I would condense all of my 16 years worth of experience into one post, both for your benefit and for mine, so that I can simply direct people here instead of saying everything all over again.
Before I get into the tips on studying a staying productive though, I do want to say a few things: The first is the usual disclaimer that, just because these things work for me, doesn’t mean they will work for you because everyone is different and that’s okay. The second is that I am an overachiever. I will put my hands up and say that and the amount of work I do is probably unrealistic to the average person. Not because I think you aren’t capable of it because everyone is, it is just that I work a lot and I mean A LOT. I am autistic, which means I tend to do things obsessively and also do things until they are perfect and won’t rest until it is, which is how I get high marks in a lot of my school work. I also don’t like not doing anything, which means even in my ‘down time’ I am still doing what most other people would consider ‘working’. It is just a matter of perspective, so please don’t take everything I say to heart or compare yourself to me in anyway. The final thing is that I work INCREDIBLY quickly. I always have and I suspect I always will, which means that by definition I get more done as I work faster. You should work at your own pace though and be happy with whatever you are able to do. Now that I have gotten that out of the way: let’s get into my studying and productivity tips…
- Your Phone –
Yes I know. I’m sure you’re all about to skip this section because you think I’m going to tell you that standard ‘put your phone out of sight or turn it off’, but I’m not going to say that, so keep reading. I am part of generation Z as I’m sure a fair few of you reading this are and I am just as fond of my phone as you are. Everyone is different and for some of you it may work best for you to turn your phone off or put it away, so maybe give it a try once or twice to see if it makes a difference. I tried it though and it certainly didn’t help. My phone for me is somewhat of a coping mechanism and it makes me anxious when I don’t have it on me and easily accessible. Turning it off therefore wouldn’t work for me and I didn’t like putting it in a draw because I couldn’t see my notifications. Most people find notifications distracting, but I personally don’t and find them reassuring that nothing bad has happened while I’m working. I like to make sure I’m always on the end of my phone in case my friends or family need me. I’m sure most people would just put their phone on loud, but I hate the noise my phone makes, so I always have it on silent. I am a bit strange when it comes to my phone, so this might not apply to you, but I encourage you to explore what works for you. Some people find their phone distracting, but others find it reassuring, so see what works for you. I know there are also some apps that can block notifications for a certain amount of time, so try just blocking notifications from social media for an hour or two.
- Timers –
Some of you may have heard of this tip before because I have heard a fair few people talking about it, but I have definitely found it useful. That tip is to set timers for a certain amount of time (anything from half and hour to an hour and a half is usually good) that you are going to work for without distractions. After the timers is up you can then have 20-30 mins to do something you want and have a break before setting another timer and getting back to work. I’ve found that this works really well for me because it gives me an achievable goal to work towards. For example, if I have to complete an artist page in my sketchbook, I would start by spending and hour and a half on a painting and then have a break. Then I would do the background and basis of the page and have another break, before doing the final painting and finishing it off. It means you are rewarding yourself for each bit of work you do and making the bigger task seem more manageable.
- Snacks and Drinks –
I don’t know about you guys, but if I’m hungry, then NOTHING gets done. I get incredibly hangry very quickly, so having a constant supply of small snacks and a proper lunch break is essential to a productive day. It is also important to drink a lot, which I’m sure you’ve heard from everyone, but it is true. I’m not saying you need to chug ten bottles of water a day, but just make sure you keep a water bottle next to you and you’ll find yourself reaching for it more than you think.
- Make it pretty –
This one sounds a bit superficial, but trust me when I say that if your notes and your workplace look pretty and organised, then the chances are, you are going to feel more motivated to get things done. You don’t have to do anything drastic to achieve this or even spend any money if you don’t want to. All you have to do it clean your work space a bit and keep it tidy. You can also do small things like making sure you are using pens that you like or changing your highlighters from normal ones to pastel ones (this is something I did). I cannot express the excitement I still get when I use my pastel highlighters, so even though they might seem like tiny, superficial changes, they will make a difference.
- Why? –
Ask yourself why are you want to do the thing you are trying to get yourself to do. Of course when it comes to school work or tedious tasks like chores that you are obligated to do, but don’t necessarily have an interest in, this might be hard, but there is a way around it. I personally HATE maths. I am sure a lot of you agree with me on that one, but for me I had such a hard time convincing myself to do the work and to care about my grade because I hated the subject and 90% of what they teach you is entirely useless in your adult life. The way I got around that fact though it that in order to move onto the next stage of my education and get a job, I need to pass my maths GCSE. Since I want to do well in the next stage of my education and be able to move forward as quickly as I can in my career and I need maths to do that, I then had a reason to study for it. What I’m trying to say is that if you are trying to convince yourself to do something, then you need to know why you are convincing yourself to do it in the first place. That could be anything from getting a job to earn money to move out, to studying a subject you have no interest in, so that you can move onto the next stage of your life without a hitch. Decided why it is that you are doing this and then go back to that ‘why’ whenever you feel unmotivated or feel like slacking off.
- Get into the mood –
I’m sure there are some things that you have to do like writing a paper or studying for a subject you hate that you will never people able to ‘get into the mood’ for, but what you can do is get in the mood for studying. You will probably do this differently to how I do this, but to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I will tell you some of the things I do to get myself in the mood to work. The first thing I like to do is get dressed up. When I’m wearing an outfit I love and have done my hair and make-up, I feel 10 times more motivated to get things done. They say you should “dress for the job you want, not the one you have”, which I guess is kind of the same thing. I also follow several people on social media (both Instagram and YouTube), that motivate me to start studying, so i will sometimes sit and watch a video or two whilst I eat my breakfast before I start studying to get my into the right mood.
- Establish a routine that works for YOU –
My routine is my holy grail. I live and swear by my routine and I do not like it when it is interrupted. It has taken years for me to establish a routine that works for me and also works around the other people in my life, so don’t expect to have a perfect routine within the week because it is something that will take a long time to get used to and to see what will work for your situation. I personally find that getting up early and at the same time everyday (including weekends) works the best for me because I like getting my work done and out of the way before most people in my house have even finished breakfast. It makes me feel so accomplished at only 8am in the morning and then I still have the whole day to do what I want. My routine also includes working in different places on different days of the week and for different activities (which I will talk more about in the next tip) and factoring plenty of downtime. Even something small like having a set playlist that you always have on when you’re working or eating the same snack can make a difference to your mood and attitude towards working because your brain will start to connect those songs and that snack to working, which will in turn help you to motivate yourself to get working in the first place. This will take a while to integrate into your routine and this won’t happen overnight, so be patient with yourself and try to build up each habit one at a time.
- Move –
This tip encompasses 2 things: making sure to take a break and stretch or move around a bit throughout the day instead of sitting at a desk all day and also moving locations. If I stay and work at my desk all day then I always feel really stiff and sore at the end of the day, so I try to have a break every hour or so and stretch or go for a quick walk to make sure I’m keeping moving. The other aspect of this tip (moving locations) is one of the best things I ever did. I find if I’m trying to work in one place for hours and hours on end, then i get more bored and distracted as the day goes on until I just give up, so I like to cycle through several locations throughout the day. I also do certain types of work in certain locations, so that I associate those locations with that work mindset. I tend to do more academic work in Starbucks early in the morning, I do art, and photo editing at my desk and write and work on my blog on my bed. I also tend to work at the library or the dining room table sometimes as well if I really need a change of scenery. I find that moving locations both provides me with a new burst of motivation every time and also keeps me moving and gives me a break between study sessions.
- Know Your Limits –
The final tip I have for you all is to know your limits and listen to them. Everyone can manage a different level of work per day whether that is due to mental/physical health, disability, family situation or something else, so be understanding of your situation and don’t push yourself too far. Working hard is great, but not if it gets unhealthy, so learn what your limits and boundary’s are and listen to yourself when you are getting tired or overworked. Downtime is just as important as time spent working, so make sure you make time for it and look after yourself.
Those are all of my tips for studying and getting things done! I hope this post was helpful to you and I wish you luck with everything you are trying to get done and get motivated to do! If you want to keep up to date on everything I’m doing then you can come and follow me on my Instagram (@theoriginalbookdragon) and you can come and chat to me about your projects in the comments or over on my Instagram as well!
Goodbye for now!
Over and Out