Set Your Own Deadlines
Research by Professor Dan Ariely of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has discovered something most students
know all too well: when a deadline is looming, students are
more likely to study.
Ariely’s research also looked into how deadlines can help
students get better grades. He found that the students
who took part in his study performed worst when all their
assignments were due on the last day of class. With this
late deadline, students left their work until the last minute, then rushed their assignments. On the flip side, students got the best results when assignment deadlines
were evenly spaced over the duration of the course. Not
only did these students get better grades, but they also
invested more time in their assignments. In other words,
evenly spaced deadlines resulted in better time management.
What can you do if all your assignments are due on the last
day of class? Fortunately, Ariely found a middle ground. Students
who created their own evenly spaced deadlines performed almost
as well as those who had evenly spaced deadlines imposed upon
them. Why not set your own evenly spaced deadlines? If you meet
them, reward yourself. The reward could be a meal out, a day off
from studying, or organizing a party for your friends.
Create Your Own Strategies
The strategies we’ve shared in this article aren’t set in stone. You
can try the ones that best fit your needs, and leave the others.
You can even tweak them so they’re a better match for your situation. It’s also worth asking your friends how they manage their
time. You’ll likely be surprised at how many different strategies
are available to help you keep on top of your workload.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to develop a system for managing
your time that fits your lifestyle and personality. Invest your
effort in discovering the right strategies now, and they’ll stay
with you for the rest of your life.
David Masters is a freelance writer based in Swansea, UK.
Tools You Can Use to Study Smarter
Block Distracting Websites
Do you get distracted from your studies by checking e-mail
and social media? Free apps, such as StayFocusd (an add-on for
Chrome browsers), LeechBlock (for Firefox), and SelfControl (for
Mac OS), allow you to limit your use of timewasting websites.
Listen to Music to Improve Your Focus
Research shows that listening to music can help you complete
tasks more quickly because it gives your mood a boost. The
app Focus@Will features music that’s specifically designed to
increase your attention span and focus.
Use a Smartphone Timer for Your Pomodori
The Flat Tomato app for iOS and ClearFocus for Android both
provide Pomodoro timers for smartphones. Want to avoid
the distraction of your phone while you study? The website
www.tomato-timer.com is a free online Pomodoro timer.
Keep a To-Do List
With a to-do list, you’ll always know what to focus on next.
Google Keep for Android and Notes for iOS are ideal for writing
simple task lists. To prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed,
it’s a good idea to limit your to-do list to five items a day. When
they’re done, you can relax!
Studies in Procrastination
Have time to read more? Check out these resources!
D. Ariely and K. Wertenbroch (2002), “Procrastination,
Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by
Precommitment,” Psychological Science, 13: 3, 219–224
H. Kearns and M. Gardiner (2011), “Waiting for the Motivation
Fairy,” Nature, 472, 127
A. Padnani (2012), The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubicle,
New York Times, Aug. 11, 2012
PBS Frontline (2010), Interview with Clifford Nass, PBS
R. E. Silverman (2012), Workplace Distractions: Here’s Why You
Won’t Finish This Article, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 11, 2012