How to boost your productivity

Posted in: General

December 19, 2018 | by Alexis

Student life is packed with lectures, labs, socializing, and more. It’s easy to fall behind. Once you’ve fallen behind, it’s hard to get back on track, especially as the semester progresses and the work just snowballs. Stay ahead of the game by monitoring your own time usage, and by boosting your productivity. Here are some tips that can help.

Looking back.

  • Dissect a day, to see where your time is going. At the end of a day, write down every single thing that you did, and the approximate time that you did it. Capture as much information as possible. You’ll learn a lot about when you work best, and what is draining your available time.

Planning forward.

  • Take five minutes to plan your day, right when you wake up. As you’re starting your day, consult your schedule or calendar to see what’s coming up. Look a few days in advance as well, so that you never get caught off-guard by a deadline. Take a few minutes to plan. Your lecture times are set in stone, but you can start thinking about when you can tackle assignments, look at your readings, etc. Be flexible, as student life is very changeable, but it will help you to balance your schedule if you have an idea of how you’ll get everything done.
  • Achieve one small goal first thing in the morning. Choose one thing to accomplish before you leave for the day. It can be a question on a problem set, part of a reading, a review of notes. The sense of achievement will buoy you up throughout the day, and you’ll often find yourself getting more done that you’d expected.
  • Don’t multitask. Nothing can zap focus and productivity as much as working on several tasks at once. You won’t accomplish much, you won’t do any of it well, and you’ll spend much more time on anything you do manage to get done. Instead, break your study time into small, manageable chunks, and work on one goal at a time.
  • Use airplane mode while you’re working. Another hidden productivity drainer is your phone. Even just checking the time can send you down a rabbit hole if you just happen to notice a text, or something happening on Facebook. Take away the temptation. While you’re working, make sure that you can’t access the internet or social media.
  • Find your most productive time, guard it, and tell your friends. Figure out when you have the most focus. Some students work most diligently right after breakfast, and some work best in the evening. Find out what works best for you, and make sure that you use that time to study. Tell your friends that you’re off limits for those hours. They’ll understand, and likely get you back on track if they happen to see you procrastinating.
  • Surround yourself with productive people. Multiple studies have shown that we’re directly influenced by our friends’ moods and actions, so keep yourself surrounded by people whose behaviour you’d like to emulate. Find the over-achievers, the strategists, the organizers, and you’ll find that their life-skills will rub off on you.
  • Choose a friend or friends to study with, share your goals, and hold you accountable. Choose classmates who work hard to study with. Tell your friends about your daily, weekly, and long term plans, and try to incorporate them into your goal setting. They’ll ask you for updates and hold you accountable. Just the shame of having to admit that you’ve been procrastinating will keep you moving forward. Additionally, you should find a way to work together where possible because nobody wants to let the study group down.
  • Find a practical use for wasted time. Every day has hidden pockets of useable time. Find them, and find a use for them. You can bring readings with you to the laundromat, or tackle a question from a problem set as you’re waiting for water to boil. You’ll find that these previously unexpected accomplishments will motivate you to work even harder.
  • Be cognizant of time drains. Sometimes we all need to spend an hour listlessly wandering around the internet, just to clear our heads. But be wary if you do this too often. Look out for your personal time drains, and limit them. Do you check your email and messages for an hour every night when you get home? You’d likely get much more work done if you work for an hour first, and then check your messages.
  • Keep a list of accomplishments, and reward yourself for them. There’s nothing that will keep up your productivity level than a list of real accomplishments. Get in the habit of writing down all of your achievements every day. You’ll be proud of everything that you manage to get done. Additionally, the shame of a short list will keep you from procrastinating in the future.

It’s better to work smart than to work hard. It’s also better to study smart. Consult the experts at Prep101.



Biol 241, Biol 311, Chem 351
Instructor since 2010
10 prep sessions
427 students helped
2013–presentPrep Instructor, Mechanics 
2013–presentPrep Instructor, Statics
2012–presentTutor, Statics, Mechanics, Mechanics of Materials
2012–13TA, Engineering Mechanics II
2012–13TA, Mechanics of Solids 
2011-13TA Mechanics of Materials 
2011TA, Engineering Economics
2010TA, Engineering Design & Communication 
2012–presentPh.D. [Mechanical Engineering]
2012M.Sc. [Mechanical Engineering]
2009B.Sc. [Mechanical Engineering]
Student evaluations
( 1=Very Poor, 2=Poor, 3=Adequate, 4=Good, 5=Very Good, 6=Excellent )
PREPARATION(understanding of course material)
Presentation(presents material in a coherent manner)
PREPARATION(understanding of course material)
PREPARATION(understanding of course material)
PREPARATION(understanding of course material)
PREPARATION(understanding of course material)
Student satisfaction
very satisfied 31%
satisfied 68%
not satisfied 1%