• Race to a Cure Authors

Student Success Question Box #1: Time Management and Productivity

Need some advice on time management or productivity? Race to a Cure’s own social department team will now be opening up the floor to you through our Student Success Box articles. We've put together these answers to help you with anything from studying to community involvement.

Our social department is made up of many high-achieving high school students and knowledgeable university mentors that are more than willing to share their insights. Without further ado, here’s our take on time management and productivity!

(Image is courtesy of Unsplash)

1. What are your best time management tips? 

Katrina: A tip I have is to make the time or space in your schedule to get to the work. You will need to learn how to prioritize (Linda elaborates more on this) and find times within your schedule that you can take advantage of. For example, instead of spending extra time in the morning sleeping in, I can instead come to school 1 hour in advance to get homework done. Lastly, I think knowing your study habits and self will help you the most with what makes you work more efficiently. If you know that you won’t be able to sustain yourself: take a break! Or if you know that you can’t concentrate at the moment, instead of doing more focused tasks (i.e. studying for a test) work on more completion assignments so that you are able to use your time effectively.

Linda: I live for my Apple calendar, but you can really use any calendar that syncs across devices and can remind you beforehand. There, I block out classes, extracurriculars, other professional/personal commitments, and assignment due dates/test dates. Getting the notifications for those and seeing them in advance really helps me out. Also, it allows me to see where my spare time lies so I know when I can begin prepping for things. Something else I find helpful (although other people may find it excessive) is doing things way in advance if I know I will be busy around its due date. And I mean way in advance. For instance, if I know October - December is going to consist of me applying for university, I will do a lot of scholarships right now. At the moment, I am beyond bored but I keep going knowing that me in December will thank me in September. Finally, learn how to prioritize. There are two things you need to know: Some things are just more important than others and you won’t have time for everything. If you have a quiz worth 1% of your mark the next day and a test worth 10% of your mark the day after, DO study for the quiz but don’t spend so much of your time on it! Divide your energy and time based on what’s more important.

Asima: Personally, I use a physical calendar/agenda to keep track of my tasks. This allows you to customize it any way you want, and writing things down also helps you remember them more easily. You can be super creative and use bullet journaling as a way to maintain your schedule, or a notebook works as well. At the start of every month, I like to write down all the deadlines, assignments, meetings, and important dates I already know into my agenda, and I update it whenever I learn of something new. That way, I have a centralized space for all my events. Additionally, just as Linda mentioned, prioritizing tasks is the most ideal way to complete your tasks on time, and not become overwhelmed with everything else you have to do.

Victoria: I find that tracking my tasks, assignments, and important dates in a calendar or journal is extremely helpful. I also like to create a to-do list for myself each night, which allows me to clearly see all the things I have scheduled and the tasks I am aiming to complete for the next day. When working on a specific task such as completing an assignment or studying for a class, a big contributor to managing my time well is eliminating distractions. Try to find a workspace that allows you to do this! Personally, I find that working at my school library allows me to focus and work much more productively than at home. Another tip that I find helpful is to focus on one thing at a time. Although multitasking is a great skill that can serve you well, I find that I work more productively and efficiently when I allot a certain amount of time for a task and give my full attention to this task without distractions.

2. What apps do you recommend for productivity?

Palak: Something that I love using right now is Notion. You can make notes, folders, calendars, to-do lists, and link it to your Google Drive and what not! Another app I used in school is Evernote so I recommend checking those out. Also, if you like using the Pomodoro Technique, you can install “Focus To-Do” on your laptop and it will time it for you! It also has options for background white noise, rain, sounds, etc. It’s great for long nights!

Sample schedule on Notion (Notion)

Katrina: I like to keep things simple while studying so I use Spotify and my timer to become more productive. I find music to be extremely important whenever I am writing anything; I find white noise, alpha waves, or any instrumental music to help me concentrate better. Setting timers on my laptop or phone to force me to do work; I recommend doing the pomodoro method which is a technique where there’s a ratio for the time you are working and taking a break. Here’s a pomodoro technique guide to help you understand which ratio to use.

Linda: Like Katrina, I also do the pomodoro method! There’s a Google extension called “Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant” that sits above your bookmarks and shows you how much time you have left without needing to switch on your phone (I usually do 25:5). On my phone, I like to use Flora and Notion. Flora is a cute app that encourages you to stay off of your phone. You pick a plant and set a timer; if you don’t turn on your phone in that time frame, your plant will successfully bloom into a beautiful garden. You can also use it to study with friends, track your goals, and plant real trees so I highly recommend it. Notion is like a to-do list but better. It has templates along the lines of “classes”, “reading lists”, “job applications” and more where you can write all about the task, add links/other attachments and check it off as you go. It’s easy to use and transfers from device to device.

(Image is courtesy of Med School Insiders)

Cathy: I use a chrome extension called “Focus” that blocks me from accessing distracting websites (like Facebook and Instagram). I think practicing and working to improve self-control is the best method of getting rid of distractions. For me that practice of self-control comes from a very visual aspect, so calendars, to-do lists, goal charts, and etc. For procrastinating there’s research to support the “Pomodoro Technique.” During your break, try to stay away from going on your phone or social media because the basis of the technique is so that you can keep your mind fresh, and that you are not overworking your brain.

3. How do I stop procrastinating?

Katrina: In my experience, I find that the main reason for procrastination is due to finding a task too overwhelming or challenging. I think the best way to stop procrastination would be breaking down your challenges into specific areas (i.e. my French test and Law presentation), creating smaller tasks within them, and then following through. For example, say your French test is compromised of speaking, reading, and writing components; for one study session, you can focus on the reading component by spending 45 minutes reading/annotating an optional reading assignment. If you keep on creating more specific/simpler tasks for each assessment, it will help you feel less overwhelmed and more likely to stay focused. Lastly, to prevent procrastination you need to keep yourself motivated. Remind yourself why you’re taking a class or what skills you want to develop as you’re learning something new.

Linda: I think everyone procrastinates. I get things done, but some of them are admittedly very last minute. What I’ve noticed is, if I’m enjoying something, I will do it right away and I will do it well. For instance, the other day, I wrote 4 email drafts, an article, and a schedule for R2AC instead of writing my essay (yes, I know I was also the one talking about productivity but I’m human too). My advice to start with something you enjoy. Once you get in the motions and start working, everything will fall into place; you will be on a roll! Take breaks to prevent burn out as well :)

Asima: For me, I begin to procrastinate when I become overwhelmed with my tasks and don’t know where to start. I think prioritizing and setting time aside to do work, while also scheduling in short breaks, is a great way to try and limit procrastination. My phone is also one of my main accomplices when it comes to procrastination, so simply putting it in another room and turning off its notifications often helps me stay on tasks without being distracted.

Victoria: I have found that my two main reasons for procrastinating are either because the assignment I have yet to complete feels overwhelming and I don’t know where to begin, or because there is something else that has captured my attention. The culprit for the second reason is usually my cell phone or the television! Thus I find it best to work in a place where I cannot easily return to these captivating devices, such as a library. My advice to overcome feeling overwhelmed by a task is to begin in small steps, and if you’re not sure what the first steps should be, it can never hurt to ask a friend or a teacher for guidance!

Final notes

As students, we all face long hours of study and struggles with procrastination. We hope that our first Student Success Box was able to inspire you and more importantly, remind you that you're not alone! All in all, use whatever method works for you because it will maximize both your productivity and well-being. Good luck!

Article authors: Katrina Artes

Article contributors: Katrina Artes, Linda Duong, Asima Hudani, Victoria Huang, Palak Agarwal, Cathy Jian

Article editors: Sherilyn Wen, Valerie Shirobokov