Starting college is tough. You’re transitioning from being a kid to a grown adult. You suddenly realize how little free time you have when you start doing chores, cleaning, working, studying and staying up late. Throw in the numerous parties, and get-togethers and your actual studies may spiral out of control fast.
The trick is knowing the best ways to invest your spare time to save time in the future. Here are my top tips for staying productive.
Keep Lecture Slides, Notes, and Memos in One Place
What I noticed in one of my first weeks of tuition was how scattered everything was. Slides on Moodle. Notes in my notebook. Memos scribbled on .txt files on my desktop.
Clearly a mess. But admitting the problem is the first step to solving it. If you find yourself in a similar situation, think about where you’d find it most convenient to access everything all at once.
I chose OneNote as a universal place for all my work and documents. I’m reasonably comfortable with the Microsoft ecosystem and this solution just works for me. Aside from the standard Windows app for OneNote, I can open my Notebooks from the web via Office.com and on mobile devices with the iOS and Android apps.
If you’re not a fan of Office, there are plenty of other alternatives you can try. Another popular option among my coursemates is Evernote, so feel free to use whatever suits you best.
Organize Your Mailboxes
Ever since I started using Google’s Inbox I’ve been reborn. I love it so much that I’ve made my Google Account redirect to Inbox by Gmail.
The concept is simple. Pin important e-mails so you can see them in your inbox until you’re done. Schedule e-mails to pop up at a later time or date when you have time to read them. And then tick the emails you’re finished with by pressing Done. Google also helps you out by automatically categorizing your emails in seven different categories.
Here’s what my inbox looked like before.
And this is what it looks like now.
But you’re not done yet. It’s important that you keep your mailboxes as tidy as possible while you use them.
You may want to think about getting these emails as soon as they arrive. The majority of urgent timetable and event changes at my university are all sent via email. That makes it almost mandatory to use an email app like Outlook or Thunderbird.
Some might argue that this leaves you with a flood of messages all day, but it’s a good reason to unsubscribe from newsletters you no longer read.
Keep a Clean and Updated Calendar
You’re a student now, and you’re going to be busy all day. Lectures, assignments, exams, events, society meets, parties…sleep?
It’s time to stop trying to rely on your memory for everything and to leave that workload to a calendar app.
I use Google Calendar as my all-in-one place for reminders and events, and so far it’s been a lifesaver.
Automate Repetitive Tasks
Taking care of all of all the tasks above might seem fun the first few times you do it, but it will become tedious over time.
Whether you want to save attachments to Dropbox automatically, add OneNote entries to your group project on Asana, or be more active on LinkedIn, the world of automation has you covered for a lot of tedious manual tasks. Although Zapier is a paid service, it features some automation that you might not be able to find on IFTTT.
This is all worth setting up as you’ll find that your automations will quickly pile up and save you a lot of time.
Always Have a Backup Strategy
Throughout your studies (and career) there will be numerous times when things just won’t go right, and your computer could become unstable. You might think that’s alarming, but it’s nothing to worry about if you are prepared and always have a fail-safe backup strategy. If you’re running Windows 10, check out our ultimate Windows 10 backup guide. Or, if you’re still running Windows 7 we have a guide for that, too.
Regarding backing up data, here are some of my tips for staying in control:
- Keep your files nicely organized to avoid having to search for them
- Don’t store important files on easy to misplace media like CDs or DVDs
- Keep lecture slides and notes both locally and in the cloud
- Backup your important projects to multiple devices – Flash Drives, External Hard Drives, and the Cloud.
- Consider a subscription to CrashPlan to simplify your offsite backup process