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The Not-So-Secret Secrets of Being a Productive Student

Let’s face it: we’re all here to study, and for some reason that seems to be the most difficult thing in the world. There are so many distractions today and so little motivation to go around. I want to share a few tips with you and discuss what it means to be a productive student. If you feel like you’re wasting too much time and you need to dedicate yourself more to your studies, then keep on reading!

Discipline, Not Motivation

If you’re human (which I hope you are), you might relate to the feeling of failing to keep up with your assignments only to go to bed in the evening and then plan out how you’re going to change tomorrow and become an amazing student. However, you probably either fail to keep your promise the next morning or you lose motivation after a few days. This is because you’re relying on motivation instead of discipline. While it’s good to be motivated, being disciplined is what keeps us on track. How can you build discipline, you ask? Here are a few tips:

  • Never give up. Failure is part of the process.
  • Don’t leave for tomorrow what can be done today.
  • Create a schedule and stick to it as much as possible.
  • Set a clear and realistic goal for yourself — define your purpose.
  • Reward yourself when you accomplish a task or reach a milestone.
  • Learn your strengths and weaknesses and use them.

The 9-5 Method

“The 9-5 Method” is just a fancy way of saying you should treat your studies like a full-time job. Of course, this isn’t possible for every student as some have to work on the side to be able to afford studying in Groningen. However, the essence of the method is responsibility. This means participating in class, not skipping your classes (if you don’t have to), not procrastinating on your assignments, and separating your workload across multiple days instead of cramming the night before an exam. 

Speaking of responsibilities, even though it might sound counterintuitive if you’re struggling with finding time to study, you should take on more responsibilities (within reason). Being busy often provides structure to students’ lives. Join an association, participate in social events, take on a new hobby, try out that sport you’ve been curious about, start going to the gym, or volunteer in the city. Doing this will likely burn any “dead time” you might otherwise waste on doom-scrolling, procrastinating, or lying in bed contemplating life. A busy person is a productive person!

Where, When, Who, and How?

For most, studying in your room just doesn’t work. This is because your room, apartment, or living space in general, is full of distractions. To boost your productivity, try going to a library, the Forum, or anywhere with a calm and quiet atmosphere. Bonus points if other students are studying there. Seeing others be productive will trick your brain into being productive as well. You’ll find that you can focus for longer periods and get more done in less time.

Students aren’t known for being early birds. However, the best time to study is in the morning when your brain is the sharpest. A lot of students tend to study at night and pull all-nighters, especially the night before an exam, but that won’t help you learn anything. Try to learn in bursts in the morning and you’ll notice your productivity rise, especially if you make it a habit. You could also consider going to the library after/before your classes and getting some work done then as well since it’s easier to integrate into your schedule.

Other people can help you with your studying. As people, we like to feel like we’re part of a group. Why not make it a study group? I’m sure other students in some of your courses are going through these same issues. Take the initiative, and ask them if they want to study together in a group. By studying together, you will motivate each other and keep yourselves accountable.

The “how” section is very relative. Here are some techniques you might want to try out:

  • Pomodoro (Working in short bursts of 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks in between)
  • Task Batching (Turn big tasks into smaller ones)
  • Eat the Frog (Do the most difficult task first)
  • The Pareto Principle (Finish the most important task first)
  • The 52/17 Rule (Like Pomodoro, but with longer work time and longer breaks)

There are many more techniques with their pros and cons. The best part is you don’t have to stick to one. You can switch between multiple and you can even combine different principles to suit your needs.

Take Care of Yourself

Productivity, discipline, and success are all great, but your main priority should always be you. Deadlines should not come at your health’s expense and assignments are less important than your wellbeing. Get enough sleep; seven to nine hours are ideal. Feed yourself well. Don’t skip any meals and make sure the food you’re eating is good for you. You’re a student, so don’t forget to have fun. Going out, spending time with friends, and working on your favorite hobbies are all just as important as studying for your next exam or writing your final essay. Thankfully, you’re studying in the best city for it. In Groningen, you can find the perfect balance between work and play!


~ Written by A. Heric