It can be difficult staying productive at the best of times, especially in the middle of a pandemic – so we asked our community of OU students – and a tutor – to share their top tips for honing productivity. Here’s what they came up with…
1. Find the right time to study
Everyone works differently. Study at different times of day to discover when you are the most productive.
“I love studying in the evenings! After a long day and after eating my dinner, I find it super relaxing to study with a nice full belly and some relaxing music.”
“I try to make studying the first activity of the day, it helps me keep motivated and gives me a routine.”
“Find out where and when you work best. For me working shifts, it was night-time and fitting in sleep in the day! That’s the only way I got through the last few years.”
2. Make a plan to stay organised
Whether you use a mind-map, to-do list or another method, planning your day can help you use your time more efficiently.
“Managing my time effectively and mind mapping key points makes it so much easier when going over material that is relevant to an assignment.”
“Setting aside chunks of my day to dedicate to study and making a to do list of what I need to get done in that time helps me stay productive!”
“I use my Google calendar and post it notes. The calendar to block out and plan my time and the post its for the details of what I want to achieve in the time blocked out.”
“Make a timetable every week. Put in times you have to work, plus other commitments e.g. dates, birthdays etc.”
3. Perfect your work environment
Having a good work environment can help boost your productivity. For some that means putting some relaxing music or just organising the workspace. Find what works for you.
“I listen to classical or relaxation music to get me in the zone when writing assignments, it motivates me, and boosts my productivity!”
“I find having an organised workspace helps me to be more productive, one rough notebook for each module, one set of coloured post it notes for each aspect of note taking and so on.”
“Coffee Shop and Rain Ambience playlist on YouTube, a strong coffee and some fairy lights.”
4. Don’t forget to take breaks
Stepping away for a short break can help refresh your brain and improve your productivity when you continue working. You could grab a snack, go for a quick walk, meditate or simply relax.
“The Pomodoro method. 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break. After three or four work segments take a longer break. Most people can’t focus for more than that anyway, so it schedules a bit of rest before you lose focus completely.”
“Meditation to ground my busy brain.”
“My study routine is 1.5 hour of study followed by 15 minutes break (be it walking, doing a puzzle with a cuppa etc.).”
5. Use apps in your study routine
There are many apps available designed to help you stay productive – and lots are free!
“Asana is the best planner/to do list app. I plan all my weeks and TMAs and it really motivates me.”
“You can download apps that stop you from using your phone 😊.”
“The Hold app on my phone. Times me to do work, also prevents me from procrastinating on my phone, and racks up points so I can compete with friends/fellow students.”
6. Remember that tomorrow is another day
Rehana Awan is both an OU Masters graduate and an OU tutor so has experienced study from both side. She says putting away distractions (like phones) is really helpful, as well as keeping to a study timetable.
“Tell family and friends that you’re studying, share your timetable with them, so they know when you’re studying (or should be) and can help with chores, encouragement etc,” she says.
“Diarise all TMAs so you know when they’re coming up and can focus on them when you need to. Use colour, images, pictures and make your notes exciting and interesting to look at. This makes them fun to do and can help you to recall what’s in them.”
She also says the Pomodoro technique or studying for short bursts rather than hours on end, can be effective methods. But, most importantly, it doesn’t matter if/when things don’t go as you’d originally planned:
“Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan, life gets in the way sometimes and that’s part of being an OU student. Contact your tutor, let them know what’s going on and remember, tomorrow is another day.”
If you would like to learn more about how to revise more efficiently or define ‘how to be an OU student’, hop over to OpenLearn for some free courses: