When you head off to college as a bright-eyed freshman, it can be easy to forget the whole reason you're at school is to study, and one of the most important lessons you can learn is to how to ace your college courses. It can be hard to do, what with all the different things going on, but figuring out how to be productive amid the distractions is an invaluable skill.
But you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Countless people have struggled with procrastination and time management, which means there's a pile of tips and tricks and productivity hacks ready for you to test out, and College Hacks by Keith Bradford makes it even easier for you to start. In this book, Bradford, founder of 1000LifeHacks.com, has collected a huge list of tried and true college productivity hacks to help you find that balance between work and play when you're living in a dorm.
Remember that everyone is a little bit different, so what helps you buckle down and focus on a problem set might not be helpful for your roommate, and it might take a bit of experimenting to find out what works best for you. But these college hacks are simple enough to give them all a shot, at least once.
So whether you're just about to head off to college for the first time, or are about to start your senior year and still struggle with balancing all your obligations, here are 23 simple hacks from Bradford's College Hacks to make you more productive than you ever thought could be possible and help you ace your college classes.
Find A Productive Environment
1. “Your location and surroundings are everything when it comes to being productive,” writes Bradford. "Experiment with doing your schoolwork in a few different places like your dorm room, library, and local coffee shop, and see what works best for you.” It’s a little bit different for everyone, but if you need some more specific tips…
2. “Being in a green setting or even glancing at the color green can make you more creative.”
3. And being near plants when you’re studying or working “can help you think more clearly and recall more information. This is due to the fact that our brains benefit from the exposure to nature.”
4. A room with blue walls can be a calming place to do your schoolwork.
5. If you need to stay awake and focused, try surrounding yourself with yellow. “Yellow decreases the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy."
Use Your Time Wisely
6. Remember the 80/20 rule, which states that “20 percent of your day produces 80 percent of your results.” If you minimize “things that don’t matter as much in your school [or work] day, you will maximize your overall activity.”
7. If you’re prone to procrastination, you might want to follow the two-minute rule. “If you see something that needs doing and it can be completed within two minutes, do it immediately.
8. Review your notes from class within one day of taking them. “Retention rates are 60% higher then.”
9. Instead of going in for one monster study session at the library, break it up a bit. Study in chunks of 30 to 50 minutes, followed by a 10 minute break. It’s apparently “the most effective way to retain information.”
10. Bradford recommends a couple of websites and computer programs that will block out distracting websites. KeepMeOut.com and SelfControl are two of them, and they “block sites like Facebook, Twitter, and email for a specified period of time.” It’s great for staying focused in class or during a hardcore study session.
11. Feel free to trick people around you if that means getting focused. “If you need to get stuff done and don’t want anyone to bother you, wear headphones even if you’re not listening to music.”
Get The Right Kind Of Sleep
12. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve your productivity, so Bradford recommends trying the Sleep Cycle app for the iPhone. “This bio-alarm clock measures your sleep cycles and wakes you up at the lightest point in your sleep, which means no more groggy mornings!”
13. Most people go for the 30 minute nap, but a nap of that length “should be avoided due to the fact that it causes sleep inertia, also known as that groggy sleep hangover.” Instead, try a 10-20 minutes long power nap for a “quick pick-me-up” or the NASA nap, a 26 minute nap that “was proved by scientists to improve pilot performance by 34% and alertness by 54%.”
14. If you have a bit more time for a nap, and have a big presentation or meeting coming up, try the Slow-Wave, a 60 minute nap that “Helps promote cognitive memory processing.”
15. “It may sound absurd but looking at pictures of cute baby animals has been proven to increase concentration and productivity by up to 44%.” So rejoice procrastinators! Because now, there’s some scientific justification for watching cat videos.
16. “Play a game on your phone for 3 minutes right after you wake up,” in order to “prepare your mind for the school day and make getting up much easier.”
17. Listening to music is good for you and can help improve your concentration. It can strengthen “your mind’s ability to handle stress,” and help you focus on your work. If you’re looking for some new tunes to study to, Bradford recommends trying "video game or movie soundtracks. They’re designed specifically to provide background sounds that won’t mess with your concentration.”
Pull An All-Nighter… If You Must
18. Hopefully, these productivity tips will help you avoid pulling an all-nighter, but sometimes, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Make sure you’re in an environment that will facilitate an all-nighter, with good lighting. And “Work at a desk and chair not a couch, floor, or bed to make sure you avoid falling asleep at all costs."
19. “Listen to stimulating music in headphones,” advises Bradford. “Classical music without lyrics is said to make you more productive.”
20. Don’t just keep going all night. “Take a 10-15-minute study break every 60-90 minutes. Make sure this includes getting out of your chair to get your blood flowing again.”
21. “Only use coffee and energy drinks as a last resort,” warns Bradford. "If your body is not used to large amounts of caffeine, you may experience a caffeine crash.”
22. Staying healthy and hydrated are crucial if you’re pushing yourself to do well. “When you feel like you need something, but you can’t figure out what it is, it’s water. It’s always water."
23. And perhaps most important is to remember to breathe. “It seems obvious, but a few simple breaths can play a big part in nourishing your body — just ask anyone who does yoga.” So don’t freak out when things get hard. Take a few deep breaths instead.