As an MSc student, you have far more “self study” time than Undergrad. The amount of hours of class you have per week is far less (about 10 hours for me though it depends on the program) and of course you’re expected to push out much higher quality work. With all of this free time on your hands, it can be hard not to fall into the deep pits of Netflix and procrastinate. I have definitely fallen into the trap of How I Met Your Mother automatically playing the next episode right after a 22 min. episode ends. You think to yourself, “Oh, another 20 minutes of my time isn’t that much to lose to the world of sit coms” and then find yourself being tired and lazy hours later not having done what you set out to do for the day. This is not just about Netflix, but about any guilty pleasure vice, using involving social media or . If you’ve managed to avoid falling into the black hole of your computer screen, then I’m impressed. However I’m not that kinda gal, I need to keep myself busy in order to be productive. I like to think of myself in terms of the little bit of physics that I remember from high school: an object in motion stays in motion. Though I usually oppose to objectification, in this case I am the object. If I’m on the move, I stay on the move and am much more productive and efficient with my time. It’s much more challenging for me to get stuff done if I’m a stopped object, meaning I’m in my bed watching Netflix, aka a lump of potato.
SO! I thought I would share a few tips on how I become my most productive self. Everyone has their own tricks and whatnot to make them more productive, but figuring out what works for you is a BIG step. So here’s a little elaborated list of what works for me as a reminder for myself of what I can do to stay motivated and is hopefully a source of advice for anyone reading this.
Make a to-do list: I like keeping post-it note with a little list of errands and assignments to do on my computer. Whether I’m on my computer for work or fun, having a reminder of the things I need to do is 1. a good reminder for my forgetful self and 2. makes me feel a little guilty when I know I should be crossing off items on my list but am watching Sherlock instead. Keeping track of what you need to accomplish in a place you have easy access to can help keep you on track. It is important to be realistic with your list but more on the optimistic side, because if your list is too idealistic, you end up constantly disappointing yourself and that can easily cycle back into Netflix binging
Morning mood: On those off days where you don’t have class, it could be nice to use it as an excuse to sleep in, but if you know you work best in the morning (like me) then be prepared for your future self to be mad at you. Getting into a regular wake up/morning routine can help you stay in the productive mode. I find that even though I can get cranky if I wake up early to an alarm on my day off, I’m in a much better mood in the long term with a sense of accomplishment at having actually woken up early and doing what I’d planned. Part of my morning routine is to work out because it sets a positive pace for my day. If I don’t have time to work out, I will do about 10 minutes of yoga to calm my mind and “move some energy around” as my mom would say. Feeling productive in other areas of my life, like doing things to benefit my physical and mental health, encourage me to be productive in my academics, though it can work the other way around too. Obviously, this may not apply if your most lucrative hours are in the midst of night, but it is worth figuring out a routine that works for you, even if that means changing up your routine to learn how to enhance it.
Location location location: It is important to figure out what kind of environment is beneficial for your studying/working habits. As a studying Environmental Psychologist, of course I would want to focus on this, right? But it does have value. For me, I like to change locations once I’ve spent around 2-4 hours max working there because changing my scenery helps change my mindset and allows for a break with the transit time. I like to have a combination of library studying and cafe studying. If you plan to go to the library, get a study buddy so you’re held accountable to actually go to the library instead of thinking you can work in room when you know you can’t (aka me 75% of the time). The library at University of Surrey provides a great variety of seating options for those who like more talkative locations and those who need absolute silence. If working in a room with your friends is more preferable for you, the library offers the option to book a study room for two hours at a time up to one month in advance on the main Surrey library website under “book a group study room”. The University also has a few cafes and study rooms around campus with plenty of seating for work, like the Starbucks on campus, the couchey area in the back of Hillside (the equivalent to the campus cafeteria), and Lakeside which has cheap and delicious soup and warm drinks. There are also cute cafes off campus if you feel you need to get away from students for a few hours, like Harris and Hoole, one of the many Cafe Neros, and my favorite cozy spot k.alm kitchen. It also helps to make study break plans with friends ahead of time to give you a designated time for work and designated time for fun, which can help push you to work harder.
There are plenty of other tips I could give, like always have healthy snack options and give yourself enjoyable projects to work on as reward for being productive, but figuring out your own study system and what motivates you are the most crucial parts. Happy studying for those of you in classes right now!
-A guide from a Master’s student still on holiday and doesn’t know much of what she’s talking about