In this week’s minisode, we’re talking about time wasting and studying smarter. We all know that we need to be focused, productive students to make progress and achieve our academic goals. But there’s so much that can get in the way of this.

Today, I’m going to walk you through two categories of studying time wasting. One of these you’ll be pretty familiar with but I can guarantee that the second category – although infinitely more important – is something that most students have never been taught how to consider.

This post originated as a podcast episode which you can listen to below or search for episode 128 of the Chloe Made Me Study podcast. Or, if you’re more of a learn-by-reading student, carry on for the rough-and-ready blog version based on the podcast script.

Ways to listen:


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I don’t know about you but I’m prettttttty good at wasting time. Give me a study task that should take 10 minutes and if it’s boring or difficult enough I can put it off for days, weeks or even months if the deadline allows it.

I’ve come to realise there are two main categories of time wasting in our studies. One category we’re all well aware of. The other…not so much.

Let’s start with the first one.

We waste time by studying inefficiently.

  • We sit down to study at a messy desk that needs clearing before we can start
  • We don’t close down distracting tabs and programmes so they interrupt us
  • We keep our phones next to us which distract us and give us an out whenever we get bored or stuck
  • We don’t set boundaries or expectations with those we live with which leads to interruptions and distractions
  • We multitask because our brain’s struggle to focus solely on one thing at a time
  • We don’t study in intervals so we either go too long without a break and lose focusing power…or we take too many breaks that are too long.

I’m saying ‘we’ here because I also struggle with these things at times.

Now, I share lots of advice on this podcast and in my study skills trainings about how to study more efficiently. How to be more intentional with your study time. How to increase your productivity and focus and set boundaries with those you live with.

And if this is an area you struggle with then I’d HIGHLY recommend you commit to improving these areas of study skills.

However, there’s the second category of time wasting in our studies. The one that isn’t often talked about and that can actually have the biggest impact on how much progress you make.

You see… it doesn’t matter how much you optimise your study time if you’re working on the wrong things. You could be THE most productive student ever but this means nothing if you’re completing tasks that don’t actually move the needle and help you achieve the results you want in your assessments.

An example…

You know you need to start your next assignment, but that feels big and overwhelming and hard. So you put it off for a week longer than you should and instead fill your time with other studying. You’re still getting studying done so you feel productive but you’re not doing the thing you should be doing. You’re reading things you don’t need to read and making more notes than you’ll ever need for your assessments. You’re completing activities or responding to forum posts that aren’t graded, or you’re organising or even rewriting your notes.

This ‘busy work’ is not serving you. It may feel nicer because it’s less stressful and vulnerability-inducing than tackling some of your scarier study tasks. But this busy work is using up your precious resources of time, energy and willpower…resources that could be saved for important, strategic study tasks.

And the great thing about focusing on those strategic study tasks? Your studying will take LESS time each week which means you get to relax guilt free.

Now strategic studying isn’t something that’s really taught. There are plenty of tutors and lecturers that, when asked which parts of the material are most important for the next assignment, will reply and say ‘all of it.’

This is a lie. Your study materials are not weighted equally in importance and your study tasks aren’t either.

So this week I want you to study smarter.

I want you to commit to shunning ‘busy work.’ Look ahead at your next assignment or exam. What is the ONE, most important thing you do this week or in the next few days to make progress towards that deadline? Thinking about the result you would LOVE to achieve in that assessment…what strategic study task should be your priority this week?

Work this out then do that first. Bribe yourself if you need to. When I’ve got something scary to do I go get some chocolate from the local shop, come back, stick my headphones in then get on with it.

You’ve got this!

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