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Work Smarter, Not Harder

Updated: May 5, 2022

Do you get overwhelmed easily? Do you have a hard time balancing your commitments? It may be time to re-evaluate your time-management skills.

Where should you start?

In order to improve your time-management skills, you must get organized. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Write it down. Use a planner and list your tasks.

  • Estimate the time you will need to complete each task. Keep track of how much time you actually needed to complete the task. It will improve your planning skills.

  • Categorize your task lists. You may want to have separate lists for personal and school-related tasks. You can also further categorize your school tasks by subject or assignment type (lab, exam prep, essay, etc.).

  • Rank your list based on importance, taking into account the amount of work involved as well as the deadline for each task. Work on higher priority tasks first.

  • Make a plan and try to stick to it. If you don't know how to start, check out this guide on setting SMART goals.

What makes a good working environment?

It is imperative that you create a distraction-free space to study and get your work done. Here are some things to consider:

  • Set up or find a quiet and well-illuminated working area. It is often useful to study at the same place if possible.

  • Gather all the materials you need before you start working/studying.

  • Put away and/or turn off your phone and non-essential electronics, including TV and laptop.

  • If you need your laptop to complete your task, limit the number of tabs you have open at once. Stay away from distracting sites like Facebook and YouTube.

How to avoid getting overwhelmed?

Even with planners and to-do lists, completing your tasks may seem overwhelming. Here are some things that can help you:

Blonde woman sitting in front of a desk, holding her head with her right hand. On the desk, there is an open laptop, an open agenda, a pair of reading glasses inside an open case, and a notebook found under a pen and mobile phone.

Have a study plan. Even if you don't stick to it 100% of the time, you will likely do better than if you didn't have one at all.

Schedule your work and breaks. A good strategy is to schedule 50 minutes of studying + a 10-minute break.

Take smart breaks. Don't get distracted. Avoid watching TV or using your phone. Try to stretch or go for a walk instead.

Study at the right time. Figure out when you are most alert and focused.

Use 'downtime' effectively. Complete small tasks when you can: in a waiting room, on the bus or in between classes.

Get enough sleep. Working non-stop will lower your productivity. You need time to rest and recharge.

What tools can I use?

Check out the STEMthusiast planners section and download some templates to get started!

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