You’ve read every article on time management strategies and how to be more productive. You’ve dedicated a quiet space for schoolwork, block distracting websites and get organized. You may have even mastered our list of timesaving hacks.
But, as you try to balance life as a student, parent, corporate executive, taxi driver and whatever else you have to do this week, do you still feel like rushing around is just a fact of your day? If you’re supposedly doing everything right, why is your daily workload not getting any easier?
We may not realize that our daily habits can actually cause us more harm than good. While breaking these bad habits is never easy, it’s definitely possible. So if you’re guilty of any of these student habits, now is the time to break the cycle once and for all.
Bad Habit #1: You Waste Time the Wrong Way
Yep, you read that right. Consider what you do when you waste time. Do you watch TV? Surf the Internet? These passive activities can actually cause more harm than good. Not only will you end up wasting more time than planned, but these activities can actually make you feel more tired than you are.
Instead, participate in thought-provoking activities that keep your brain active and relax your mind, like reading, running or playing a game. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, practices this philosophy daily, once saying, “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” Undoubtedly brilliant, successful and savvy, if Warren Buffett spends his valuable free time thinking, reading and learning, we ought to pay attention.
Next time, DVR your favorite TV show instead of immediately hopping in front of the TV. Use your break time for a learning activity and get your family involved. Then everybody wins.
Bad Habit #2: Not Studying the “Right Way”
At this point in your life, you’ve probably realized the kind of learner you are and the methods that fit your learning style. But do you often find yourself doing the opposite because of convenience? If you learn best by writing the material down, do you elect instead to read the textbook? Or are you a visual learner, but repeatedly study with your kids yelling in the background? Not all study methods work for everyone, however convenient they are, so it’s important to try a variety of techniques. Regularly practice what works to really boost your productivity, focus and memory recall.
Bad Habit #3: Relying on Coffee Too Much
Billed as a student’s best friend, you can usually rely on coffee to keep you awake and alert on the late nights you need to finish a project. And it’s true: after five minutes of drinking coffee, you’ll feel more energetic and better able to focus. However, even if you consider coffee necessary to your success (in moderation), it isn’t the best source for creativity. Caffeine studies have shown that it can increase the quality and performance of detail-oriented and analytical tasks, but sacrifices skill and accuracy for speed. In other words, coffee can help you plan out the details of an idea, but it’s not the most effective for tasks that require a lot of thinking and brainstorming. So before you grab another cup of coffee, consider if what you’re working on is more creative or analytical. You might want to grab a bottle of water instead.
Bad Habit #4: Your Priorities are Out of Order
We all want to get more done during the day. But if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, then what gives?
You could simply be choosing to do the wrong things. Meaning, prioritizing the projects that matter most can save you time and make all the difference. Figure out which assignments need to be done immediately, and postpone anything else until it’s done. Ignore, delegate or eliminate any other tasks that could distract you from getting the most important projects done. If that means asking your spouse to take over the dinner responsibilities, or putting off the laundry so you can finish a paper, do it. You can get back to any of it later. Remember, you don’t have to work harder, just smarter.
Bad Habit #5: Your Files are Disorganized
Have you ever started a project at work, forget to bring it home and then have to start all over just to meet the deadline? Or, after typing up an entire research paper, your cat jumps on the keyboard and deletes it all before you have a chance to save it?
If either of these scenarios seems familiar, recreating all that work isn’t just stressful, it’s time consuming. But it is possible to work seamlessly and save your efforts by using cloud-based services like Google Apps and Google Docs (Thomas Edison State University students have immediate access when registered for a course). Create and access your spreadsheets, documents, Powerpoint Presentations, multimedia presentations and more, wherever and whenever. And with the automatic save feature, you can rest easy knowing that your work is safe, regardless of what happens to your computer.
Bad habit #6: You Get Lost in Research
If you’re new to research, it’s very easy to succumb to the Internet and get lost spending hours looking for the perfect academic sources to enhance your research paper. Researching isn’t the complicated part; it’s figuring out when to stop.
While you can’t research or write faster, you can make a better plan. Set aside a block of time to research the books, articles, journals and databases you know will enhance your assignment. Then, decide exactly what your research needs and focus on that. Do you need an authoritative quote? A statistic? What source will help you make your point? If, after that block of time runs out, stop looking and move on. Get started on a different part of your assignment. You can always return to it later.
What "bad" student habits have you caught yourself doing? Share them in the comments below!
Written by Thomas Edison State University