How to increase structure and motivation for a good productive week
The leap from school to university comes with a variety of structural differences in your life. Some of your days might be packed with classes, while others start only after lunch or leave you with longer vacant time slots. Also, your homework from school has turned into nasty research papers, lengthy presentations, and scary exams. And not to speak of all the time you now have to meet new people, go out at night and live your life!
The routine you had your entire childhood has vanished, leaving you in charge of dealing with your agenda the way you feel is best. The most significant obstacle you’ll have to overcome is learning how to get organized to master all the challenges ahead of you while still living the life of a happy student, without falling into the trap of procrastination.
“Tomorrow: a mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored.”
Yes. Sometimes, studying can be hectic. Especially in the exam season, all ends seem to come together, and it is getting harder and harder for you to be well prepared for every deadline you face. This guide is to help all students who know the struggle or will get to see the battle in their studies. You will find that sometimes, it’s the simplest tricks that make your life easier and your week even more productive.
Make a plan
The key to a structured and productive week is to have a good plan leaving no doubt what to do next. This method should also keep you from procrastinating because you feel the workload ahead of you is just too big. But most important, don’t just sit down and write a to-do-list, or even worse, a detailed timetable with your classes and tasks. Be realistic. Manage your time responsibly. You will get frustrated quickly once you feel you didn’t manage to keep up with your own goals. Structure your plan into tasks, isolate distractors and set aside time slots for little rewards or merely hanging loose and relaxing.
Distractors are what I call little tasks that need to be done, but keep you from actually study-related work: groceries shopping, a trip to the post office, a long-overdue haircut or paying your bills. These tasks need to have a place on your weekly agenda, or you are likely to push them away day by day and missing out on some of your responsibilities. Think about how you can combine them, so you don’t do unnecessary traveling across the city and use this time as efficiently as possible. Turn these distractors into little milestones in your day that you can check off quite early, so you get the proper feeling of “I just finished something.”
Small goals and motivators
When you get up on a Monday morning, the worst motivation you can have is that you’re already looking forward to the weekend. Every day should have at least one item on your list that you are looking forward to. This can be your favorite TV series on Monday, some sport on Tuesday or a night at the cinema on Wednesday. Calling your friends on Sunday and making appointments for the week already will ensure that you have goals during the week you can enjoy and motivate you to get some tasks done before enjoying the night. Try not to rely on the spontaneity of others with those goals. They might be busy studying themselves, and you are likely to get trapped into evenings where you procrastinate home alone because you don’t have further plans for the day.
Kaizen for a productive week
Kaizen is the Japanese word for continual improvement. The origins of Kaizen lie in the automobile industry, but it is also of great use in your private life and can be a lovely way to provide yourself with little rewards during a stressful week. The concept is simple: find something you would like to do and do it for one minute every day. This could be Yoga, playing the guitar or reading a book. After a while, you will develop a habit out of it and have something you really enjoy every day and continuously become better at it. The reason why Kaizen works so well is that the goal of, for example, working out for one minute per day is much easier to grasp as to work out for one hour three times a week. If you genuinely enjoy it, you will start doing it longer on your own.
Do you eat pizza more often than you would like to because you never have the time to cook? Congratulations! You just got yourself a ticket into the classic student eating habits club. Relying on fast food and delivery service is not only unhealthy but also costs a lot of money. Sure, not every weekday leaves enough time for cooking a three-course-menu, but Sunday is the perfect day for cooking large quantities of things that are affordable and easy to scale: Spaghetti Bolognese, Chili con Carne, stew with rice, pasta salad, and so on. First of all, you deserve some fresh food on Sunday after a long week. Also, you can put the remains in lunchboxes and prepare some meals for the week to save you some time and make sure you have some food for long days at university. Take your time on Sunday to consider what you are going to eat during the week, so you don’t end up lost in the groceries store not knowing what to buy on a Wednesday night. And yes, you can also plan pizza for one specifically tiring day as a reward!
It’s not just the right plan that makes your week more productive, but also to start the week with a fresh mind and relaxed body. There are some tricks to make you feel more prepared from the moment on your alarm rings on Monday morning.
Not a morning person?
We live in fast and loud times, and many scientists warn about the constant exposure to stress, screens, and noises. To avoid feeling stressed before even going to bed, consider at least one hour to do something quiet and relaxing. Avoid stressful tasks and too much screen-exposure. You could read a book, write a diary or just lie in bed with your eyes closed and enjoy some music. You will get much calmer when going to sleep and your batteries are more likely to be charged until the morning. If you still feel insomniac on Sunday evening, try changing something about your sleep rhythm. Maybe the twelve hours of sleep on Saturday were not so necessary and are the reason why you’re not tired? If this still doesn’t help, a sport is always a right way of burning energy so you can fall asleep quicker.
Keep up with the news agenda
Something I like to do on a Sunday is to take time for reading extensive newspaper articles or watching documentaries about recent topics in society and politics. It connects you more with the world, and you always have something to talk about during the week, even when it comes to in-depth political discussions with your peers. Education is also about putting what you’ve learned into a more prominent context and being able to connect better with the daily agenda. Also, reading one or two posts or watching the news every day during breakfast will refresh your memory on what you read on Sunday and give a natural structure to your week, as you are keeping up on stories and narratives that are going on in the world and all around you.
Prepare small delights for your mornings
Last but not least, before going to bed, I like to think of a bit of something I will do or have in the morning that will make it easier for me to get up. This can be literally anything: some excellent pancakes you left in the fridge on Sunday, the funny cat video a friend sent you last night that you didn’t open yet or just a nice warm cup of coffee. Think about it before you go to bed and try to remember it as soon you wake up, so you have something that you want to do even more than to just hit the snooze button over and over again.
How do you spend your Sundays? Do you like to sleep through the day and get as much energy as you can, or would you instead get organized and extend the day to the fullest? Let us know in the comments below!