Study Central: Getting It Done


Melissa Schmitz, Opinion Editor

Hello everyone and welcome to the first issue of the spring semester! I don’t know about you, but at the start of each semester I am always excited to try out new organizational strategies. Here I will share some tips that will help you get more done this semester.

To-Do List 2.015

To-do lists are a no-brainer. If you can make a list you can make a to-do list. Actually accomplishing the items on that list can be a full article in itself, so instead I will give you suggestions on how to construct a well-thoughtout version of the tried and true. Once you have your general list of what needs to be done, triage them into three distinct categories: Must Get Done, If Time Permits, and Eventually. Must Get Done is obviously the category for things that absolutely have to get done that day, no matter what the circumstances. You can’t miss it. It’s due. If Time Permits houses tasks that are important and need to be finished soon, but are not exactly urgent. For example, if it’s Monday and you have a homework set for Quantum Mechanics due on Friday afternoon. It would be a good idea to get some or all of it done early so you don’t have to worry about it, but there’s no huge urgency to finish the task until Thursday [though waiting that long approaches BS territory]. The Eventually category is pretty self-explanatory; if there’s something you want to do that can wait and has no deadline, it goes there. It’s best to file this category into a separate notebook so those tasks don’t distract you from conquering the more important ones.

…But that’s not all! You can triage these tasks even further by providing yourself with a logical order with which to complete them. Let’s be honest here; if you have a huge paper looming over your head at the same time you have a quick one paragraph summary assignment due, you will probably want to do the easy task first to gain momentum. That works for some people. But does it actually work for you? If not, I implore you to move the big tasks to the top of that order. A metaphor for this is, “swallowing the frog”. That is, tackle the hardest thing first because you know that everything from there will only get easier. Yes, it can be very difficult to get started, despite being cognizant of this motivation that will follow. Convince yourself that you will spend only 5 minutes on that task. Finish one problem. Read one paragraph. Once you get started it becomes easier to keep going, so if you can get past that first step you should be set.

Productivity Tracker

This might sound complicated, but it’s actually really easy. And, again, the biggest barrier is actually remembering to do it, to start. All you need is a time table with 15- or 30-minute increments [Click here for a link to the two formats of this time table I’ve created for you]. Once you print those out for the week, start off by blacking out your classes. If you’re in class, you’re in class, and not getting work done. So it doesn’t count. From there select three colored pens, markers, highlighters, pencils, etc. and fill in each respective color every 30 minutes or so to indicate your productivity level. I use green for very productive time, blue for “neutral” time [eating, commuting, necessary breaks, etc.], and red for very unproductive time [if neutral tasks, such as eating dinner with friends, goes on too long it becomes unproductive]. At the end of the week take a look at your time table and evaluate. When were you most productive? Least? Based on that information you might consider changing the time you do you work. For example, I am much more productive when I get work done early in the morning or immediately after class, so I try to schedule revision for those times. You may also consider integrating a reward system into this, such as, “If I eliminate X number of red blocks in two weeks I can buy myself a new shirt from Express.” Or, “I am not allowed to watch Elementary tonight if I create more than Y number of red blocks.”

Regular Reflection

To some of you this may sound incredibly cheesy or weird. But taking the time to reflect on your progress [or lack thereof] can be a valuable tool for discerning what’s working for you and what’ not. Consider asking yourself the following at the end of each month:


  • What did I accomplish? Did I reach my goals?
  • What strategies helped me accomplish my goals?
  • What strategies didn’t work?
  • How do I feel about my progress?
  • How can I improve in the coming month?


Of course you need to have goals and results before taking these reflections, but that is also the subject of another article. The key to this step is that you actually write the answers to these questions, and questions like them, making sure to keep your insights in a place you can find them later so you can compare your progress in the future. You might consider buying yourself a notebook to journal on this topic. I myself have what I call a “Work-Progress Journal” which does include these reflections, but also much more. Stay tuned for that article, as well.

Good luck and happy studying!