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Start the New Semester with a Productivity Boost

January 10, 2017
By GradProSkills

With the vacation days coming to an end, another busy semester starts for the graduate student community. Assignments, classes, and work-related responsibilities will soon begin to pile up, and juggling them all might become overwhelming. Yet, the stress is not inevitable! Adopting the right productivity strategies early in the year will ensure that you can easily, quickly, and effectively tackle all graduate school challenges coming your way. Below are our 7 tips for a more successful and productive semester!

1. Create your own productivity-friendly heaven

For a long time, scientists have tried to identify which workspaces boost productivity and which do not. A recent article by Business News Daily offers a summary of some interesting findings. For example, if you want to feel refreshed and productive, working in a windowless room during daytime might not be such a great idea. According to research, people working under artificial lights have more problems with sleep and lower daytime vitality than people performing their tasks in a space lit by windows. Other science-backed techniques for improving your productivity include painting your workspace walls non-white and surprisingly – having a place to nap for 20 minutes immediately after finishing your coffee. Isn't that a great reason to ask your supervisor to purchase a comfortable couch for the lab?

2. Stock on the right types of food

Did you know that certain types of food can do wonders for your cognitive powers? Sip on peppermint tea for better memory and alertness, load on Omega-3 rich salmon and walnuts to increase your processing speed, and chew some gum to boost your focus as you work through a difficult assignment. Finally, don't forget to add some leafy greens to your diet, so that your cognitive health remains strong until old age. With the right nutrition moving through your daily tasks will be a breeze.

3. Start work early

In recent years, a lot of successful people have claimed that 4 a. m.  is the most productive time of their day. And it makes perfect sense! Early mornings are quiet and without daytime distractions like incoming emails and social media. Plus, tackling your most urgent tasks early eases stress levels and gives you a feeling of accomplishment. If you need a bunch of early-rising buddies for moral support, join the #21earlydays – a social media conversation where people share their experience of waking up at 4:30 a. m. for 21 days.

4. Follow the "2-Minute Rule"

The 2-Minute Rule – first introduced by management consultant David Allen – is a simple, yet effective time management technique. If you can finish something in two minutes or less – don't schedule it for later. Do it right away! Following the rule not only prevents you from cluttering your to-do list, but it also reduces procrastination and helps you accomplish more during the day. Try it out! Washing the dishes after your meal, calling a friend back, sending an email – these and other small tasks we often procrastinate on will be done in literally 2 minutes and you will be free to work on the important things in your life.

5. Block your time

If  you can't finish something in 2 minutes – schedule it for later, says the 2-Minure Rule. Yet, filling your to-do list with tasks does not always mean that you will have the time to finish them all. So what should you do to increase your chances of success? Many productivity experts recommend pairing to-do lists with time-blocking. It is a simple technique. For each of the tasks in your to-do list, schedule some time in your schedule to accomplish it. Of course, for time blocking to work, it is important that you faithfully stick to the blocked periods – be careful not to fall victim of temptations like checking your email or playing with your phone.

6. Don't let "wasted time" go to waste!

How much time do you waste commuting? Standing in line? Waiting for a meeting or a class? Imagine if you could use all this time for a productive cause! This is exactly what Graduate School Expert Tara Kuther recommends. "Carry pocket work to make use of that time that would otherwise be wasted," she writes. To make your life even easier, come up with a list of tasks that each takes about 10-15min to complete – reading an article, listening to a podcast, writing an email, or calling back a friend. Next time when you feel that you are wasting precious time, you can cross off 1 or 2 items from that list and alleviate your workload.

7. Learn from the experts

Another great way to improve your productivity is to adopt the routines of people who are always at the top of their game. For example, best-selling author Neil Patel never opens his email unless he has time to respond right away. This way he does not waste time on re-reading! Samar Owais from makes sure that she schedules more time for a task in her to-do list than she thinks she would need. For more expert advice check out the rest of this collection of tips. You can also sign up for our workshop GPLL50 - Time Management Techniques for Research Projects to boost your productivity even further.

Are you ready to take your productivity game to the next level?


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