Is your schedule not always working out or are tasks taking much longer than anticipated? If this sounds familiar to you, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has compiled the following tips to hopefully help you improve the way you study. Implement what you deem helpful and do not forget: There is usually more than one way to reach a goal.
I constantly procrastinate my tasks.
There are many reasons for procrastination. Find out what might apply in your case: Do you not enjoy the tasks? Are you lacking the necessary motivation? Have you lost sight of why the tasks are necessary or are you overwhelmed by the sheer number of them? The following tips might be helpful to you:
- We often procrastinate because all tasks on our to-do list are vying for attention at the same time. As a result, we often do not start any of them. Looking at larger projects as a whole might easily cause you to feel overwhelmed. For this reason, it makes sense to break down larger tasks into smaller subtasks that can be accomplished bit by bit. If you would like to know how to do that, take a look at our document on self-management.
- At University and especially during the period of remote learning it can be tempting to procrastinate tasks for as long as possible. Hold yourself accountable. In most cases, as little as having a written agreement with yourself in the form of a schedule helps: Have clearly defined work phases with set beginning and end points during which you will not allow yourself to be distracted and, just as importantly, phases of rest and relaxation. Try not to be too demanding of yourself but set realistic goals and firmly stick to them.
- Make sure you are tackling your tasks in a good work environment: assemble the materials you need, tidy your desk, put your mobile phone in silent mode and prepare a glass of water before getting started.
- Think about how you can motivate yourself. Rewards are very effective. When creating your work schedule, also decide how you want to reward yourself after having completed your tasks 😊. Going for a walk in the park, getting some exercise or hanging out with friends via video conference?
I am not sticking to my schedule.
Sometimes students create unrealistic schedules for themselves that reflect what they ideally would like to accomplish, but in reality, they cannot stick to them.
- To create a realistic schedule, try comparing your planned weekly or daily schedules with how much you were actually able to accomplish. Make a list of what you planned to do and what you actually got done. Based on these results you will be able to create more realistic schedules for yourself in the future.I try to do everything at once and get confused.
You feel like all tasks should be completed at the same time and you are not sure where to start? You are jumping from one task to the next without having completed the previous task and feel increasingly stressed? This might help: Prioritise the tasks on your to-do list, so that you do not waste your time on things that are not relevant to the task at hand.
- If you are looking for different techniques to prioritise tasks, take a look at this document on time management.
- Set yourself goals, even if they are only smaller goals. Larger tasks often seem to be difficult to complete and separating them into smaller packages can help avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Tackle your tasks step by step. Only keep those materials on your desk that you are currently using. Seeing piles and piles of other tasks that need to be completed urgently will only make you feel stressed.
- Are there specific tasks that especially worry you? Even if this is difficult, it is best to start with those. The task that you have to fulfil might appear more manageable if you have more pleasant tasks to look forward to later.
I get easily distracted by interruptions.
Consider what you contribute to those interruptions. What can be done differently? Which interruptions are just part of your life and cannot be prevented, and how can you manage them more effectively? Handle interruptions consciously and try not to think of them as inevitable. You can decide how you deal with them. Here are some tips:
- Make time every day for a period with no interruptions during which you can focus completely on your work and communicate this to the people you live with ahead of time.
- Consciously decide how important the person or the event is that is “interrupting” you.
- A decisive “no” communicates that you do not want to be interrupted right now.
- Unambiguously signal to other people that you do not want to be interrupted right now (e.g. with a closed door, headphones on, sitting on a specific spot, etc.). These signs can often be more effective than words.
- And finally: Take your work seriously. Your degree programme is work, and your home office is now your workplace.