It’s easy to wish there were more hours in the day, but much harder to make the most of the ones we’ve got. Finding time to finish everything on the to-do-list is a perpetual struggle. But as much as we’d like to wish for Hermione’s time turner, the only solution for muggles like us comes down to productivity.
Confronting my habit of spending copious amounts of time on insignificant assignments is an issue I’ve grappled with all year. Just about every “life hack” for productivity is somewhere in my web browser history. While not everything I’ve tried has helped me out, through trial and error I’ve narrowed down a few small things that make the biggest difference in my time management.
First, having a physical monthly calendar helps me create a better work schedule. With apps like Google Calendar, it’s easy to see paper calendars and planners as a thing of the past. But small phone screens enable fixating on assignments on a day-to-day basis, instead of getting a holistic image of what lies ahead. For Vic students like myself, this problem is easily solved by picking up one of the free giant whiteboard calendars available in the VUSAC office! For students in other colleges, calendars are just as easily found at the U of T bookstore. For me, this has worked wonders for deciding when to study for tests and begin work on assignments.
Another great U of T hack is taking advantage of your college or faculty’s Writing Centre. Along with dining hall cookies, leaving papers til the last minute is one of university’s biggest temptations. Often, I hear my peers excuse starting a 10-page essay only two days before the deadline under the pretense that they do their “best work under pressure.” While this strategy may work for some, I think “Under Pressure” should be reserved for describing a (great) David Bowie and Queen song, not your academic life. After receiving my syllabi at the beginning of the semester, I like to make appointments at the Writing Centre before my papers are due. This helps create an artificial deadline that ensures I won’t be scrambling to conclude my essay 5 minutes before the Turnitin deadline. But the Writing Centre is much more than a place that revises final drafts. You can visit at all stages of the essay-writing process, such as when you’re trying to structure your essay and aren’t sure where to begin. This is a definite cure for writer’s block.
Last but not least, spacing out study time helps you spend less time studying. When you’re taking a class with few assignments, all in the seemingly-distant future, it’s easy to consider yourself on top of your workload. But for the sake of information retention, it’s best to study not only when tests are imminent, but every day after lectures. Even the simple act of regularly reading over your notes can help ensure that you won’t have to waste time before midterms and finals re-learning what you should already know. While it requires a lot of self-discipline, anything is better than a long night of pre-exam cramming in Robarts.
With these three productivity techniques, I hope you can find something that helps you make the most of your time at U of T, literally! While no life hack will ever beat Hermione’s time turner, the least we can do is give it a shot.