5 Productivity strategies for university students

Monday, March 26, 2018
by Catharina Wicks

I always find that the winter term is particularly hard to get through. It’s cold, dreary, has long days, and it never seems like summer is on its way. Being productive during this time is difficult because you just want to curl up in bed and wait for the warm weather to arrive. However, as the exam season approaches, you have to start planning out the best way to study and even think about what you can do to improve your study habits for next term. 

Here are five productivity strategies to help you study!

1. Eliminate Distractions

student studying with laptop

Distractions can include anything from social media or noise to a messy desk. Here are a few tips to eliminate distractions:

  • Find a quiet study area where you have all of your study materials ready and available and all unnecessary things put away. 
  • If music helps you study, listen to instrumental or classical music instead of songs with lyrics.
  • Turn your phone off during your study periods so you aren’t tempted to keep looking at it.
  • If you are using your computer, consider using an app that blocks certain sites so you don’t get distracted by going on Facebook or YouTube during studying. Some apps include Cold Turkey, StayFocusd, and SelfControl

2. Master Schedule


A master schedule is a fixed schedule that plans out all study, meal, and activity times in a day. It includes your class times; breakfast, lunch, and dinner; preview and review times for looking over class material; and intensive studying times. This resource from the Student Success Office goes into more detail.

Blocking off manageable times during the day to work on each of your classes and following a detailed schedule improves your study habits, making studying easier. With less procrastination, you will have more planned free time away from school. This tip is best for the start of a term, but a similar study schedule can be made for exam season. Here is an example or template for planning a master schedule (File).

3. Retreating Deadlines


One quick way to improve your efficiency with finishing assignments is to implement a retreating deadline. When scheduling in all of your due dates for readings and assignments, make sure to put the date you plan to have it done a day or two ahead. That way you aren’t scrambling to finish an assignment the day of and you have more time to review and edit your assignments. 

4.  The Pomodoro Technique

egg timer

The Pomodoro Technique is a method that helps you to focus on one activity for a set amount of time. One POM or cycle is 25 minutes set on a timer. After focusing on one thing for that time, you give yourself a 5-minute break. After four cycles of 25 minutes working and 5-minute breaks, you give yourself a longer break, around 15 to 20 minutes.

If you find that 25 minutes is too short of an interval, then you can experiment to see what works better. For example, maybe 45 minutes working and a 10-minute break works more effectively for you. There are also apps that you can use on your phone or computer that can help you keep track of your POMs, such as Be Focused, Tomighty, and Marinara Timer.

5. Be Mindful of your Mental and Physical Health

When studying, it’s important to take breaks and study manageable chunks of material so you don’t tire yourself out. Here are some quick tips to improve motivation and productivity: 

  • Eat healthy and stay hydrated.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Figure out when you study or work best during the day.
  • Make time to exercise.
  • Give yourself breaks; it’s okay to take a break from focusing on school every now and then.

Hopefully, these tips and strategies help you to be more productive for the exam season or for next term. I am definitely planning to implement them to be more productive for my next school term!