Tips for Getting Things Done
- Aim for progress, not perfection. Changing your behavior is hard; if you’ve been a chronic procrastinator for years, it’s unlikely that you will be able to wake up tomorrow and convince yourself that from now on you will do every assignment well in advance. As you work on kicking the procrastination habit, realize that there will be setbacks, and take every assignment or deadline as a new opportunity
- Get a planner! It can be a phone app, a pocket-sized planner, or a wall calendar, but you should absolutely have a place to write down assignments, events, and test dates. The planner that you choose should be the one that you’ll actually use. Have you tried a paper planner before, and it ended up lost in your backpack, but you like fiddling with your phone while you wait for the bus? Maybe a to-do list app for your phone would make more sense for you.
- Make a plan for every week. Every Sunday, sit down and make a list of everything you need to do that week– work schedule, assignments due, readings to do, tests to study for, club meetings. Then decide which tasks you will have time for on each day. Try and leave yourself a little room for error, in case you get off track. Making a weekly plan is probably (other than actually following through with it) the most useful thing you can do for yourself when it comes to getting your schedule under control. Click to download a .pdf of a Weekly Workload Planner.
- Look for golden moments during the day. Maybe you have class at 9 and 11, with a break in between. Instead of killing time at the coffee shop, find an empty classroom or quiet lounge and get a solid 30 or 40 minutes of studying done. You can probably make flashcards for a chapter of Spanish in that amount of time. Short bursts of studying can be very effective. Once you’re in the habit of using those short bursts for something productive, you will probably be surprised how much more control you have over your time and to-do list.
- Make a predictable rule. Have you ever been planning to study on a Friday night, then been persuaded by friends to go out instead? That moment of choice is tough. Make a predictable, realistic rule that makes that decision for you. Here are a few ideas: I only use social media after 9pm. I do not socialize till after dinner. I go to the library for some amount of time every weekday morning. I don’t go back to my dorm/apartment till after 4pm. To work, these rules need to be realistic. Every rule in the list above allows time to do the tempting thing (generally something other than studying), which will hopefully make it easier to resist that temptation during your “rule time”. “Nope, self. It’s 3:30. You will just have to wait till later to see the surely-very-important thing that friend from back home might have just posted on Facebook.” Remember, too, that you will not wake up tomorrow as a very different person than you are today; implementing your new rule may take some practice, as you train yourself into a new