Did you know you could likely finish a page or two of your readings—while waiting for your coffee or tea to steep?
That’s because you can read 300 words in just one minute. This means you can get some light reading done in just a few minutes. Really, there's so much untapped time to get your studying in.
Maybe your goals for 2021 include making more time to study. Or, maybe you want to streamline your day a little more. Whatever your goals may be, read on for some strategies to become even more resourceful—and efficient—with your time:
Track and analyze your daily schedule
Sometimes, valuable time can be lost. According to Lean Management principles, this loss, a.k.a. “waste,” should be minimized, if not eliminated.
This time-based waste can include:
- “Gap” time or waiting time
- Unnecessary travel time
- Time spent excessively on a task
Here are 3 steps you can take to start streamlining your schedule:
1. Record what your day looks like
First, determine where “waste” can arise in your schedule by tracking how you spend your time over a week.
Each day, jot down the tasks and activities that you complete. Include details on where, when, and for how long you do them. It doesn’t matter how you capture this information. However, the more “visual” it is, the easier it may be for you to notice patterns and trends. (You might, for example, use a flowchart style inspired by the value-stream maps that businesses use for identifying “waste.")
Be sure to repeat this exercise every day for a week—you should end up with 7 sets of info! Taken together, this data can reveal where your time may be slinking off to—and direct you towards possible solutions, which leads to the next step...
2. Identify opportunities for maximizing your time
Review your record from the past week. Highlight cases where you had to:
- Physically change locations
- Repeat a certain task (such as cooking or doing the laundry)
- Assist a friend unexpectedly—when you really didn’t have the bandwidth to do so
Now, consider how you might be more efficient in completing these tasks next time. Do you notice any errands that can be done concurrently, or any cases where you’re perhaps spending more time on something than necessary? Or maybe you’re seeing a pattern of saying "yes" to requests on your time—when you really should be saying "no"? (More on this below!)
Next, circle activities you could potentially incorporate studying into, whether it’s a reading or a review. For example: microwaving, cleaning, cooking, and commuting. You'll find some ways you can make the most of this “passive time” below.
3. Track your technology use
You deserve tech use for breaks...in moderation. Assess the amount of time you allocate for tech-downtime (e.g. Netflix, TikTok, Reddit, etc.) by:
- Visiting your browser history and the screen time stats for all your devices
- Reflecting on the amount of time you spent on certain online activities
Rework your schedule
A minute found here and there adds up, leaving you more study time than you might expect. So, try these 3 simple strategies to redeem those extra minutes:
1. Finalize—and stick to—your priorities
- Evaluate what activities are important for your learning and for your wellbeing, and try to maximize your time spent on them
- Be okay with saying “no” and communicating your bandwidth (e.g. this might mean having to decline a friend’s request, if you honestly don’t have time for fulfilling it)
2. Change how you use technology
- Set screen time limits on your phone and/or install a productivity app like Stayfocusd on your computer—if you’d like to reduce the time you spend online
- Consistently save/back up your work to prevent redos if technology crashes
- Call (or leave voice messages) rather than text to prevent miscommunication that may take up extra time
- Disable push notifications for “low-priority” apps (like those you use for entertainment)
- Install ad blockers so you can get to your videos fast—whether you’re watching them for school or pleasure
- Adjust the speed of a video on a webpage—to your liking:
- Open the Inspect Element window
- Head to Console in the top row
- Type in the command window, "document.querySelector('video').playbackRate = 2.5"
- Enjoy your 2.5x video!
- Customize this however you like, of course! (I prefer 2.75x)
3. Batch tasks when you can
Be methodical with your time—here's a quick guide:
Plan your route strategically—and try to complete errands along the way. This way, you won’t end up backtracking around town and losing time. (Fun fact: This is the same idea as the cell design that manufacturers may use to increase efficiency.)
Also, choose a speedy mode of transportation, e.g. bus (if you feel comfortable) or car, so you can return home faster. If you’re walking to the grocery store, wheel along a suitcase to bring back more at once.
Try meal prepping once or twice a week! Consider freezing your meals and microwaving them later. And while they’re in the microwave, you could tackle some other task, like loading laundry or tossing out garbage.
Block off one specific chunk of time for chores each week. Go in one direction to avoid sweeping/mopping/dusting areas you’ve already cleaned.
Maximize your “passive” time
Maybe you’re waiting in a line, or heating up a meal. This can be an opportunity to maximize your use of time, too. Prepare some materials and small tasks you can work on while you wait, like:
- Reviewing your flashcards
- Catching up on emails
- Planning the agenda for a club meeting
And that’s not all. While you’re cleaning, see if you can squeeze in some quick exercises, e.g.:
- Lunge while vacuuming
- Do heel raises while dishwashing
- Work those shoulder muscles while wiping down surfaces
This way, the time you’d have spent solely on exercising or cleaning can be opened up for studying.
Pro tip: When engaged in “passive” activities such as cleaning, take advantage of any audio recordings from your lectures—you’d then get to complete chores and reinforce course materials at the same time!
Reconsider your sleep schedule…?
Studying later in the day can feel more draining: You might have had a long day filled with activities, or be thinking about what happened earlier in the day.
So, if it’s getting late and you’re feeling worn out, don’t try to force yourself to stay up to study. Instead, get your rest, wake up early the next day, and pick up where you left off. You’ll be able to tackle your materials with a fresher mind—and might even finish up faster than you could have the night prior!
Waking up early also means that you likely won’t get interrupted—lots of people are still asleep at 5:00 or 6:00 am and won’t hit you up. So, you can complete your assignments and dive into your course content even more efficiently!
Okay, maybe you do have an ideal bedtime, but it feels really challenging to stick to it… That’s okay, we’ve got solutions: Try taking a shower just before bedtime or eat something containing melatonin (like cherries) to help you enter Zzz mode faster. And even if you consider yourself a night owl, give this a try anyway: You juuust might decide that you are more productive in the morning after all.
Now that you’ve got your routine and measures ready, set them in motion. May the extra minutes help you out lots, so you don’t have to feel pressed for time this term!
And, of course, the time you save isn’t limited to just studying: You can use it to recharge and practice self-care, too! Staying healthy will help you study more effectively, after all!