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Time management

Avoid distractions and procrastination

One of the simple ways we lose time is by getting distracted or by putting off tasks. Follow these tips to ensure that you don’t end up procrastinating.

Work out when you are productive

Nobody can work non-stop. You will work better at different times. Work out when you are most productive and focus your effort at that time.

Take regular breaks. If you are struggling to stay focused, try short bursts of active reading or writing, rewarded with short breaks.

Find a distraction-free study space

Work out where you study best. This might be in the Library, at home, or somewhere else. Get to know the places where you can avoid distractions.

Introduce some real distraction strategies: switch off your phone, go to the Library, use a timer – whatever works for you.

You can adjust the settings on your device to mute notifications for certain amounts of time, making it perfect for short bursts of study. For Apple, try the “Do Not Disturb” mode. For Windows, try “Focus Assist”.

“Hold” is an app that rewards uninterrupted study time with points which you can trade in for free treats such as cinema tickets. You can help the environment by using Forest, they plant virtual trees whilst you study – the longer you stay off your phone, the more trees you grow. The virtual coins you earn are donated to charities planting real trees, meaning you can meet your deadlines and help save the environment at the same time.

Turn off email and social media alerts and fix a time to deal with your emails or messages, rather than having them pop up all day. Deal with urgent messages straight away so you can delete them and add anything else to your to-do list.

Keep your study space organised. Have a system for your files and notes and keep a tidy desk. That way you can get straight down to work rather than having things to "sort out" first.

If you are struggling

If you still feel your time management is out of control, try keeping a time log: it will show you where you spend or waste your time and might help to identify distractions for you.

If you're struggling with procrastination, consider getting a study buddy: someone who you can work alongside (though not necessarily on the same task) and take breaks with.

Cold Turkey is much stricter tool to help you focus. Cold Turkey Blocker is free software which also temporarily blocks notifications, but unlike other software…you cannot switch it off. Once you’ve committed, there’s no going back, making it great for those with low will-power. Another feature of Cold Turkey is the writing mode, which does not let you close the page until you have reached your writing goal.

Procrastination often occurs when we feel daunted or unsure about a task. Use our decision tree (PDF) to find some possible solutions for situations in which you feel stuck.

Learn from your mistakes: did you struggle to meet the deadline for your last essay? If so, plan out your next one better. And reward yourself when things go well!

Skills@Library also runs regular sessions where you can simply write quietly in a focused environment. These Shut up and Write sessions run throughout term-time, so check the Skills@Library workshops for more information.