6 Proven Tips That Will Help You Become a More Productive College Student

Mike Vardy


One of the things that distinguishes a stellar student from the crowd is excellent time management skills. However, getting to that level is not an easy task for many students. As a university student, you’ll likely have to juggle a lot of things. From keeping up with your lectures to finding time for personal studies and maintaining a social life, the demands on your time are many and varied.

Fortunately, I’ve got 6 proven tips that can help you become more productive and attain balance. I encourage you give any (or all) of them a try to help you become a productive college student.

Track Your Time

If you want to become better at time management, you have to know how you spend it. This will help you identify your time-wasters so that you can eliminate them. Additionally, doing this will give you a reasonably accurate idea of how long it takes you to complete specific tasks.

You can use a time management app to track your time (and tasks that take up your time), although checking the time regularly and tracking that can also do the trick. Write down how much time each of your activities take for 24 hours. Once you know how you are spending your time, you can create a schedule that allows you to achieve your goals.

For instance, consider assigning blocks of time (or apply the elements of Time Theming) for classes, personal studies, and exercise. You could also set apart time for socializing and resting. Anything else can fit into the free time you have. With such an approach, you will focus on the things that matter and still have time for everything else.

Sharpen The Saw

Have you heard the analogy about sharpening the saw? In a nutshell, it argues that you would be better off spending most of your time sharpening your saw so you can cut down a tree in a moment, rather than laboring heavily for hours to cut the tree with a dull blade. This analogy applies perfectly to student life.

Numerous studies show that the brain understands and remembers concepts better if it is well-rested. This means that rest should be a top priority for students. Don’t succumb to the ill-advised pressure of studying for hours on end without taking a break. You will only increase your stress levels and curtail your ability to learn.

Instead, aim to have at least 8 hours of sleep each night. When you are studying alone, take frequent breaks and engage in a different activity.

You may think that getting rest is a waste of time, but the brain actually synthesizes information when you are not consciously studying. This is why regular rest will make you a better learner.

Work with Deadlines

Deadlines are excellent tools that will help you go beyond your comfort zone. Always have personal deadlines that are stricter than the instructors’ because that will ensure that you turn in quality work with time to spare.

Deadlines work particularly well for those pursuing online university study. With online learning, disciplining yourself falls squarely on your shoulders. And the best way to ensure that you remain focused is to create and adhere to deadlines.

Here’s something I remind the people I work with as coaching clients that struggle with this: Stop worrying about due dates and make every day a “do” date. The deadline is the end of the line so you need to make measured progress on tasks with deadlines consistently leading up to that due date.

Break Learning Tasks Up Into Chunks

Have you ever stepped away from a problem you couldn’t solve, made a drink, and then returned to it a few hours later with an answer? If so, you’re not alone. Researchers call this phenomenon “distributed practice.” The idea is that it is easy to come up with solutions to problems if you dip in and out of them frequently.

The reasons for this have to do with the way the brain works. Learning something new is only part of the process. The brain also needs to consolidate. Most of this happens unconsciously, though. There’s not much you can do to accelerate it. Your best strategy is to simply get out of the way and let your brain do what it does.

So how can you hack this weird quirk? The current advice is to spend fifteen minutes learning. Then, take a break (sometimes up to a day), and then go back to it. You’ll find that you make much more efficient use of the day.

Manage Your Learning

Acquiring knowledge isn’t a random process. It requires structure. (I’m a big fan of structure.)

New learning builds on existing concepts, usually in a particular order. That’s why most college textbooks go through topics in the same way. It makes sense to start with the easy stuff and go from there.

However, some companies are taking this concept a stage further, especially when it comes to work-based training. The idea is to structure learning in such a way that you get the most out of the course in the shortest time possible.

Firms are using software more than ever before to hack the learning process. SAP Litmos reviews reveal the extent to which this is taking place. Companies need systems that distribute learning content in a timely and effective manner. Each student must be able to keep pace with the learning to derive maximum value from the next stage in the process.

Test Yourself

Rarely will you learn fast by staring at a book for hours at a time. The real way to gain understanding is to test yourself and create challenges. Nobody learns to ride a bike by reading about it. This notion reminds me of this quote:

“Joining a Facebook group about creative productivity is like buying a chair about jogging.” – Merlin Mann

There’s no getting around it: You will only get good at something by taking the plunge and actually doing it.

No matter the time or season, if you want to learn something faster then give these three tips a try. It’s the way to learn something that isn’t just fast… but will last.


College and university education can be demanding and arduous. However, you can attain balance by working on enhancing your time management abilities. Follow the tips I’ve shared above for starters and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more productive college student and ultimately leading a more fulfilling life.

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I'm Mike Vardy, better known as The Productivityist, and my goal is to offer ideas, insights, and information that will help you craft your time better and become more personally productive.


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