8 Productivity Tips for Non-Term Time
You’re now in the second half of second term. Easter break is just over one month away for most students. Ski Trips to Val Thorens, Spring Break, and other holiday trips are flooding Instagram with advertisements.
It may seem like the term is over, but the final month is very important. Many of you will have essays due either before or immediately after Easter break. The others will have exams in the first few weeks upon arriving back. In most cases there are no lectures or tutorials scheduled for final term, and your instructors could have limited offices hours in summer term.
Due to all of the above, March should be a very busy month for students. Being productive can make your arrival back from Easter less sprawling. Below are our tips on organising your academic life for the rest of the year.
For the essays due before end of Spring Term
These are usually essays of shorter length (less than 2000 words) and can co-exist with an exam in May. Your due date will likely be the final week of March, either ending your evaluations for the module or leaving you only with an exam in May. If you have not started preliminary research by now, we suggest you begin by the first week of March. These should be the focus over the final weeks.
Tip 1 — Use your mornings well
Do your most difficult tasks in the morning. University of Chicago researchers found students to be most productive in the morning. If your lectures are light in the morning, head to the library or another quiet space to put in those hours of essay work.
For the essays due after Easter
These essays are usually submitted within the first week of your summer term, before exams. Unless you plan on going on holiday for all four weeks, you should have adequate time to work on these essays over Easter. That is not to say you shouldn’t plan your essay before Easter while your academic mind is still fresh. By researching, taking notes, and planning in March, you will have greater access to your lecturers during the initial phases of your essay. If you have an important question on argument depth, source reliability, or essay structure, you can visit an instructor while they are still in office. You can then ask a peer for commentary upon return from Easter break (or during). It also means you’ll have less work to do over the break, especially if you are going on holiday.
Tip 2 — Avoid multi-tasking
If you have several essays due before and after Easter break, we suggest completing the earlier ones before beginning to research and plan the later essays. Trying to juggle multiple arguments in the same essay is hard. Trying to do so across different topics and assignments is madness. Plus ticking off boxes feels good.
Tip 3 — Reserve a time to go see your lecturer
If you have any questions about your essay argument or structure, email your lecturer and set up an appointment. If you have a dedicated appointment, then you avoid waiting outside the halls with 25 other students. The final week of term is hectic with students flooding the lecturer’s office with questions, and sitting on the floor outside for an hour is not a productive use of time.
Once you have identified how many essays you have, when they are due, and your exam timetable, you should prioritise your academic time in March.
Priority 1 — Lectures, tutorials, and immediate assignments
Without a question, you should attend your lectures regardless of workload. Your group presentations and projects due first are also a priority.
Priority 2 — Visit your lecturer during office hours for clarifications, if any
If you have any questions about an exam, essay, or general query March is the final month before Summer Term to visit your lecturer. It is also a busy month for lecturers office hours that get filled fast, which is why we make this a second priority if you have any important questions.
Priority 3 — Essays due before end of Spring Term
Your essays due before Easter are next in line of priority. These essays need to be done by the end of March, and once submitted are no longer a concern.
Priority 4 — Essay planning for Summer Term submissions
If you have time, plan your essays for Summer Term. Spending 5 hours per week adds up to 20 hours for the month of March, which is enough time to research and plan a 2000–3000 word essay (according to University of St. Andrews ).
Productivity over Easter
When writing your essay over Easter, try to find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted. This means a clean, quiet room either in your house or a cafe (with earphones to remove outside noise), with your phone turned off and social media disabled. If you’re working at home, tell your parents not to disturb you.
If you go on a uni-planned holiday, don’t work. You will not achieve any productivity, and you won’t enjoy the trip. These generally don’t last more than one week at the beginning of Easter allowing you plenty of time to work afterward. If you go on a friend or family holiday for a week or two, try to limit work to plane rides or early mornings. Set dedicated work times around your holidays. If you are one of the lucky students to go on holiday for the whole of Easter (in which case we envy you), then try to work during the mornings while everyone else is sleeping.
Exam prep — arranging around your essays
If your course has no essays or they are all submitted before Easter break starts, then exams are all you’ll have to worry about over Easter. Exam week 2018 will likely start after the first week of May, so spread out your revision over the break and try to arrive a week before your first exam for more intense revision.
If you have an essay due in that first week of May, such as a dissertation, as well as exams then some extra planning will be required. If this is the case, we recommend you limit time abroad to two weeks or less, if possible.
Even though you might feel like this…
If you have exams and essays to tackle over Easter, it is best to finish your first draft of essays earlier, before you start to revise. Most likely, your essay will be due before Exam Week starts, giving you at least a few days for exam cramming.
Tip 4— Plan your Easter work schedule with apps
Todoist helps organise your tasks, which is great for the different stages of essay writing. Have each stage, such as research, as a task. Then use subtasks for different components of the research stage, such as a topic or point. You can access Todoist from your phone, tablet, and computer. It syncs between all devices.
A particular module can be a task for exam prep, with subtasks arranged in topic or by difficulty. For example, you could revise the most difficult concepts first or the first topic in your module.
Use Google Calendar or equivalent for setting work days and deadlines. Get reminders every day.
Example weekly work schedule
If you have followed our advice and planned your essay, your Easter work schedule could look like the following:
Week 1: Travel, holiday, relax.
Week 2: Write first drafts of essays.
Week 3: Edit first drafts of essays.
Week 4: Begin lite exam revision.
Week 5: Arrive back at campus and alternate between editing essay draft 2 and exam revision.
Between final essay submission and first exam — dedicate time to exam revision.
The above is only one possible schedule. Yours depends on your workload and travel plans. You may be traveling during week 2 or 3, or have later submission deadlines, and plan accordingly.
Tip 5 — Use office hours for exam prep, not only essays
If your exam requires essay style answers try answering one or two questions from previous exams. Send them to your instructor and kindly ask if they could mark them and give you feedback during a 30-minute meeting over office hours. This will give you lots of help in shaping your revision, as you can focus on your weaknesses. For example, if your lecturer says you are not explaining with enough depth when examining your topic, you know to revise more specific facts and concepts related to your answer.
General Tips for Productivity
Tip 6— Do your best to limit social media when working. Deactivating your Facebook or Instagram account seems like overkill, but using a Chrome extension to hide your News Feed during particular hours is not.
News Feed Killer removes your News Feed form Facebook, allowing you still to communicate with friends without getting distracted for hours by the unlimited scrolling capability of the News Feed.
Tip 7— Take frequent breaks when. A study using productivity App DeskTime showed the most productive employees worked on average for 52 minutes, then took 17-minute breaks. Breaks include not checking email, Facebook chat, or other messages related to your work.
Tip 8— Remove outside distractions. Working in a quiet room with a clean desk will boost your productivity and work quality.
We are just over one month away until Easter, and while it is a month break from lectures and tutorials, it is most likely not completely work-free for any student. Planning your time away and being productive this final month will guarantee to make your Easter as enjoyable as possible while avoiding panic when you arrive back.
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