Call Your Mother: How to be more efficient

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Graphic courtesy Savannah Hawley

We all have bad days sometimes. Maybe you did poorly on a test, got a speeding ticket or slept through your alarm. Maybe nothing bad actually happened, but you just feel like you got nothing done. If you often feel like the day got away from you, here are some tips to seize the moment and be more efficient in every aspect of life. 

At the forefront of most college students’ minds is academic efficiency. While I personally think we as a society need to move away from viewing productivity as the only measurement of a person’s value, efficiently completing necessary tasks gives you more free time and less stress. I like to get most of my homework done during the week so I have my weekends available to relax and spend time with friends. 

To be more academically efficient, you need to have a plan. Every Sunday night I type out everything that needs to get done that week – what classes I have and anything I have scheduled on my calendar. I then type out when I will work on each assignment. Give yourself grace when you plan your week – leave an hour or two each day completely blank and try to put no assignments on Saturday or Sunday. This makes the week seem less overwhelming and also gives you some wiggle room for when unexpected tasks appear. 

Many people say they struggle with following a plan. If you can’t focus, eliminate any distractions. Put your phone on the other side of the room. Go someplace quiet, like the second floor of the Pryor Learning Commons. 

When I am really struggling to work, I have a few tactics to force myself to be productive. Sometimes changing locations will help me focus, or starting with a smaller, easier task before working on something I’m dreading makes the tasks less overwhelming. Procrastinating by completing an easier or more enjoyable assignment is my favorite way to be more efficient. 

If you don’t have a hard time focusing, but you just don’t know where to start, I think embracing technology can help. Hop on the Academic Achievement Center Moodle course and find a tutor. Email your professor if you have a question rather than letting confusion be the roadblock that stops you from starting an assignment. Put on your favorite Spotify playlist to motivate yourself.

I like to use Google Drive to make outlines for most of my assignments. Starting by getting your thoughts down without putting pressure on yourself can get the ball rolling. I write a lot of papers and one of the best study habits I’ve adopted is taking notes on a separate sheet of paper instead of directly in a book or on an article. This way, when I’m getting ready to write a paper I have all of the key quotations in a streamlined list that I can easily read and analyze. 

Using time efficiently is not just an academic concern but also a social concern. Too often people think that productivity and a social life contradict each other, but I think a social life can actually help you become more efficient. Make plans with friends whenever you have a big deadline coming up. This way, you’ll be motivated to get the assignment done earlier so you can still hang out with your friends. I am always the most efficient when I’m busy because I know I have to stay on top of school to make it all work. 

Typically, I think drawing strong boundaries between social time and productive time is important, but if you have a lot of school work on your plate, going to a coffee shop and studying with a friend can be a nice way to increase your efficiency. Go with your most productive friend – this way their focus and work ethic will rub off on you and you won’t be tempted to spend the whole time talking.

The point of our lives is not to solely exist as efficient academic machines. Becoming more efficient in our personal lives can help us be happier and healthier. I don’t own a planner, but instead just use my phone calendar, the Notes app and my Google Drive. I think that streamlining things as much as possible so I don’t have another notebook to keep track of makes me feel less overwhelmed. When I’m feeling tired or run down, taking a short nap or shower is a great way to quickly recharge instead of just scrolling on my phone. Make eating and sleeping top priorities – hungry, tired people are not efficient people. 

Keeping your space clean is also an important part of increasing efficiency. I like to make my bed while I brush my teeth or run my laundry while I’m getting ready in the morning. I typically avoid multitasking, but mindless cleaning tasks are a good way to get everything done quickly. 

Respect your time and make other people respect it too. Say no to anything you don’t want to do – even if it seems like a good opportunity. If your friends frequently bail out on plans or don’t respect your time, try to find people who will. You deserve to have people in your life who want to help you make the most of a day. 

The last way to make your life more efficient is by making your purchases more efficient. I keep a list of things I want to buy on my phone at all times and don’t allow myself to buy anything not on the list. This way, I only buy things I really want or need, which keeps my space less cluttered. 

Make versatile purchases. Buy clothing that you can wear in multiple seasons or with a variety of other pieces. Buy food that works well in a variety of dishes. Efficiency is all about doing more with less. Time is something we will always want more of. Hopefully, with these tips, time can be something you do more with. 

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