By the end of Labor Day Weekend, most of you will be starting school (if you haven’t already). If you’re like me, you start every new academic year with the same pep talk: Alright. This year is going to be your year. This year you’re going to work harder than last year, get better grades, make new friends, and build great relationships with the teachers.
And then once you get into the swing of things in the next school year, nothing’s really changed since from the previous year of constant distractions from group chats and Youtube binges.
By high school, I’d already been through this cycle quite a few times. So in order to break this cycle, I looked through tons of back-to-school advice articles and psychology studies for small changes I could make to my daily routine to help me be more productive. After a good amount of trial and error, I’ve compiled a list of psychologically proven techniques that seemed to help boost academic productivity the most effectively. Here are five practical tips and tricks to help you succeed this school year:
1. Lean In - When in class, make a conscious effort to lean in when someone is speaking. This technique has many benefits. First, it helps your posture, making you feel more awake and alert in your desk. Second, when you make an effort to lean in instead of chilling in the default slouch mode, it forces you to pay attention to the lecture. Lastly, it shows the teacher and/or other students that you are really listening to them. Everyone loves feeling heard, even if it’s just a mundane day in the classroom, and it might make you a quick favorite in the classroom.
2. Sit in the front - Studies show a correlation between high grades and where students choose to sit in the classroom. Unsurprisingly, it’s the students who choose to sit in the front of the classroom, closest to the instructor, who end up with the highest GPAs. This is mostly because students in the back of the classroom may find it more tempting to play Solitaire or shop on Ebay instead of paying attention to the lecture, whereas students at the front of the classroom are under the scrutiny of the instructor. It’s harder for them to surf the web or chat with a classmate when they’re so close to the instructor, thus creating an artificially powerful incentive to pay attention in class.
Perkins, K. K., and Wieman, C. E. (2005). The surprising impact of seat location on student performance. Physics Teacher, 43 (January), 30-33.
3. Set a designated time period for each task - According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time it’s allotted. In other words, if you give yourself five hours to read and annotate a chapter of notes, you’ll take that long to complete it. If you don’t set an end time for your homework, you might find your study sessions riddled with frequent social media breaks and unproductive mind-wandering. However, if, for example, you estimate that the notes should take you an hour to complete, you’ll try your hardest to complete your work in that amount of times, foregoing that five minute Snap chat break in order to finish your work in the allotted time. I recommend starting each night of homework by scheduling when and how long it will take you to finish each assignment. This will help your productivity in the long run.
4. Set goals for your study sessions - When you study without a purpose for the studying, it’s easy to walk away from a study session without retaining anything useful. It’s important to set goals for your studying so that you can process everything you’re learning in terms of how it will be useful for you. An overarching goal such as “understand the main causes and effects of European Exploration” can add structure and meaning to your study session. By adding meaning to your studying, you’re likely to remember what you learn better. You’ll also feel much more productive by achieving your goal instead of studying a ton and still feeling like you haven’t made any progress.
5. Make your bed every morning - Making your bed right after waking up may seem like a small feat, but it’s really monumental in terms of productivity. By making this a routine, you start each morning with a feeling of accomplishment that sets the tone for the day. It also helps to calm nerves and make you feel more organized and put-together. Plus, coming home to a clean and fresh bed is a super-refreshing, added bonus.
These tricks might not work for everyone, but they’re a great start if you’re looking for small, simple changes to your lifestyle to boost your productivity. Try some of these tips and you just might like the changes you see this school year!!
Hi! I'm Sarah, a current high school senior in Pennsylvania and a ChannelCCR student editor. Feel free to share your thoughts or ask any questions by emailing email@example.com. I'd love to hear from you!