Heather Russino By Heather Russino • December 1, 2023

3 Strategies to Boost Your Productivity and Efficiency as a College Student

Time is fleeting – we could all use more hours in the day, right? Sometimes, regardless of how much we accomplish in a given day it still doesn't seem like there is enough time to do everything we set out to do. As an adult college student, you're balancing multiple responsibilities in addition to your course work; many of you are working full-time jobs, raising a family or have various other commitments. Time feels more than just fleeting, it feels evanescent.

We are all given the same amount of hours and minutes in the day, so how do you make the most of your time? Here are three strategies to help you be as productive and efficient as possible as a college student.

1. Make the most of your Course Calendar.

Don't simply peruse the Calendar and tuck it away until the end of the semester. At the beginning of every course, use the Course Calendar and convert it directly into your personal calendar. In fact, this strategy should be used for every course you are taking.

For example, using a personal calendar (whether it's one of your favorite app organizers, Google Calendar or a good old pen-and-paper planner), begin to import the various due dates of your assignments for a particular course (using the Course Calendar) directly into your personal calendar or planner. If your course begins on a Monday and the first assignment is due on Wednesday, record that specific assignment into your personal calendar or planner and repeat this for every assignment.

Hint: If you are taking more than one course at a time it is helpful to record multiple due dates into one calendar. Therefore, plan ahead so you don't end up wasting time searching for due dates or assignment details in various places; all due dates would be recorded in one calendar or  planner making it easier to remember and hence, more efficient.


2. Generate daily or weekly to-do lists to stay organized.

Depending on how much or how often you are willing to create to-do lists, this can be completed on a daily or weekly basis. Create a list of every task needed to be accomplished in a given assignment or leading up to a quiz, exam, or course project. These lists should also be prioritized; assignments that have quickly approaching deadlines should be attended to first and so forth.

For example, in a given week where you have several discussion forum posts due, a written assignment due the following week, and an upcoming module quiz to study for, your weekly planner may look something like this:

Monday - Begin reading the textbooks chapters; watch video and take notes

Tuesday - Research two sources for upcoming project, read articles, and prepare a Discussion Forum post

Wednesday – Write and post to the Discussion Forum

Thursday - Brainstorm ideas for the Written Assignment due next week; begin to read classmates’ discussion posts

Friday - Study for upcoming module quiz; post responses to the Discussion Forum

Saturday - Research another source for an upcoming project; post a secondary response to the Discussion Forum

Sunday -  Final responses and posts to the Discussion Forum; review notes and continue to study for module quiz


3. Focus and complete each task with minimal distractions.

If you're trying to prepare for an exam but have several social media tabs open or are constantly checking your phone, you are losing time and focus from the task at hand. When you sit down to read, study, or complete an assignment, stay off of social media or do not respond to emails and texts (unless of course they are emergencies) and choose to respond when you are finished with your current task. Stepping away from a project or assignment to respond to a text or answer an email can interrupt your thought process. It may take you several minutes to realize what you were working on, and in doing so, you may not be as efficient or productive. Put the phone away, close all tabs on your computer, and only focus on the priorities outlined on your to-do list. This is guaranteed to improve productivity.

What are some of your go-to strategies to boost productivity and efficiency? Tell us in the comments!

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for accuracy.

Heather Russino

Written by Heather Russino

Heather Russino is an instructional designer in The W. J. Seaton Center for Learning and Technology, an innovative and trailblazing learning environment center that serves self-directed students through the use of current and emerging technology and outcomes-driven curriculum design. A Columbia University graduate and educator for over 20 years, Russino enjoys writing about her areas of expertise in teaching, learning and course design.

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