Productivity is like the holy grail for students. Being a productive student allows us to make progress on our goals, complete our studying in less time with a lot less stress and, ultimately, it helps us achieve much higher grades. But there are a crap-ton of productivity mistakes that could be tripping you up in your efforts. You may not even be aware that you’re making them.
In this blog post I’ve outlined the top ten productivity mistakes I see my clients make in their studying. Have a read and identify which of these you’re making so you can take action to boost your productivity.
10 Productivity Mistakes Holding You Back from Higher University Grades
1. Putting off studying because you don’t feel like it
We all have days where we don’t want to study and that’s ok. Motivation ebbs and flows throughout our studying, especially if we’re working towards a large qualification. But we don’t want to create a habit of only studying when we’re feeling motivated – because inconsistency is a killer of progress AND long-term motivation.
Get in the habit of studying, even when you don’t want to, and you’ll start making progress towards your study goals. Small wins often create momentum and when we start seeing our efforts turn into progress we feel more motivated to continue.
2. Starting your assignment or revision too late due to procrastination
This is probably one of the most common productivity mistakes – but also the most detrimental to our grades. If you start revision too late your recall of the material is likely to be…shite…which will affect your exam grade. If you start your essay too late it’s likely you’ll have strayed away from the question, not gone deep enough, and made errors in formatting, grammar and flow that will ALL affect your final grade.
Procrastination is a bitch, I know. Even though it’s my job to teach students how to be productive, my procrastination monster still rears its ugly head at times. But when this happens I know how to beat it back.
I have an entire system for conquering procrastination that you can learn here. But simply, recognise that you’re procrastinating, understand why (I’ve identified 10 reasons), pick the best anti-procrastination techniques for your reason, then take small, imperfect action.
3. Sacking off studying one day because you didn’t get off to a good start
Before you go to bed you plan out the next day to include lots of studying with an early productive start. You wake up the next morning feeling sleepy so you decide to watch an episode of something on Netflix which accidentally turns into half a series, an hour long Instagram scroll and some Youtube black-holing…we’ve all been there!
When we stray away from our good intentions it’s easy to just ditch them all together. ‘I’ve ruined the day anyway so I might as well just continue.’
A shaky start doesn’t automatically result in a no-progress day. The decision to continue this lapse is yours. So shun this productivity mistake and instead draw a line in the sand and get get back into study mode. Forgive yourself for the rocky start and get studying. Just 30-60 minutes of focused studying a day can see you make massive progress.
4. Ignoring what you need to be your best studying self
If you’re more productive in the mornings, then make sure you’re studying first thing. If you’re more productive in the evenings, arrange your schedule to fit some studying in at night. Yes, it’s not always going to be possible to study only in the times that work for you, but it’s a productive mistake to completely ignore who you are as a learner.
Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl – pay attention to this and flex your schedule to allow for productive studying during these times.
Check out this blog post to discover four other areas you should personalise to be your best studying self.
5. Starting studying with an untidy workspace
An untidy workspace is a simple productivity mistake to fix. I’m not a very tidy person so I spend my life swearing as I search for things that I remember putting…somewhere.
But my desk is a different story. At the end of each study session I spend just a few minutes filing away my notes, putting my stationery back in their pots and removing cups, plates and rubbish. This way I can start my next study session in a clear, calming space.
6. Starting studying without a clear plan of your important tasks to focus on
Who here is guilty of this productivity mistake? You sit down to study without knowing what you want to achieve by the end of the session. Your goal is to just study until you have to stop.
I used to do this without realising it was a mistake. If you start working on tasks without knowing what’s important you’ll end up having a nicely ticked off to-do list but those big, important, often hard tasks are still left on there. So even though you’ve had a ‘good’ study session, you still fall behind or end up in a rush when it comes to assignment or exam time.
Successful students know what to focus on with each session. They mark the important tasks on their to-do list. Or they list the top 1-3 tasks on a sticky note. Get clear on what you want to ACHIEVE (not work on) in your study sessions and your productivity will increase.
7. Studying for hours without taking short breaks
Sometimes it feels like we must chain our butts to our chairs and tap, tap, tap away for hours if we want to get our studying done. But this ISN’T effective. Studies show that working in intervals and taking small breaks helps improve our focus. If you have to study for hours then you must take short breaks to give your brain a break. This way your last study hour will be as effective as the first.
Check out my post on the Pomodoro Technique to discover how you can organise your study sessions to include breaks.
8. Moving onto the next study project without celebrating your achievements
As a busy student it’s normal to hit submit on one essay and then immediately pick up your books to start the next project. It always feels like we don’t have time to stop. But celebrating your achievements is SO important – for your positivity, motivation and productivity.
If you’re constantly looking forward you can’t see how far you’ve come. Who’s ever gone on a hike that feels so so hard, but when you look back and see your starting point way down in the distance you feel super proud?
That’s what we need to do with our studying. At times it’s going to feel like you’re getting nowhere but make a point of stopping and looking back for a second and you’ll realise how far you’ve come – both in actual progress and in your study skills and confidence.
9. Studying while watching TV or a movie
I recently polled my audience over on Instagram and asked them where they normally study. A lot of people said at their desk or kitchen table and others said in the library or in a café. But a worrying number said on their sofa with the TV on.
Trying to study with the TV on is a mammoth productivity mistake because it involves multitasking. Check out my blog post to get a full picture of why multitasking is bad. But, ultimately, our brains cannot do two things at once that use a lot of brain power. Studying and following along with a TV show are two examples. Forcing your brain to do this incurs what performance coach, Todd Herman, calls ‘switching costs’. As you study and watch TV your brain is constantly switching between the two. Every time it switches back to studying your brain has to work a little bit harder to remember your train of thought and get back into the flow.
This means your studying will take longer than if you’d just turned the TV off and given your work your full attention.
So if you ever think you don’t have enough time to get all your studying done, this could be the reason why.
10. Stopping studying (even if just for ‘a second’) to respond to a notification or check social media
Similarly, every time you stop studying to do something else on your phone or computer – you’re incurring switching costs. Your studying will take a lot longer if you try to do it with your phone next to you and non-study Internet tabs open. This is one of the most common productivity mistakes because we’re always switched on and connected.
But successful students understand the importance of intention. When you’re studying, try to just study. Remove distractions before you start. If you know you’re going to look at your phone, remove it so that can’t happen. Turn off the TV, close down your emails/social media/YouTube.
Be intentional with your study time and you’ll achieve your tasks in less time – which will actually give you more time you can spend relaxing, but this time guilt-free.
I hope this blog post has helped you pinpoint which productivity mistakes you’re making. Once you’re aware of a problem and a better way to study it’s your responsibility to do something about it.