How to increase your productivity

& stay motivated

by | Last updated 25th Apr, 2017

Staying engaged through a lecture or concentrating on writing an essay will be a steep challenge, and let’s face it, social media is a BIG distraction. However, overcoming this challenge is one of your roles as a student, not having the intention to do the work but rather knowing how to be productive enough to actually do the work.

We all want to take a break and get away from studying every so often, but wasting time while trying to work will lower your productivity. Productivity is the key and keeping up with your work will stop you from stressing out as you get closer to your deadlines. Keeping productive will not just help with your essays but will also help with other aspects of your life.

the 11 steps

1. Use and be SMART

The first step to being productive is to set a clear goal. Set a goal by being SMART.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time (and my parents said I wouldn’t learn anything from GCSE PE, whos laughing now mum!) Don’t just go into an essay or project thinking you can do it in 10 minutes. Set specific goals that are achievable and realistic, that can be done within the given time.

Specific – What is the goal? Is your goal or outcome crystal clear that anyone else who read it could understand what you are doing?

‘I need to write a 3000 word essay on Student PANDA covering topics of their goals and ideals and stating how these affect me.’

Measurable – Is your goal achievable and how long is it till completion? How will you know when you have actually completed the task?

I have 2 days to write 3000 words on Student PANDA, which cover topics A, B, C & D, finishing with a conclusion on how these topics affect me.’

Achievable – Is your goal achievable? Are you writing a 3000 word essay in a day? Or 12,000 in a day? How can you achieve this? Take into account resource and financial factors. << Expand this bit, I don’t understand what you mean by resource and how there could be financial factors… maybe replace that sentence for something else?

I have full access to the Student PANDA blog, and its library of material to reference from. As I have experience with writing essays, I have base knowledge of the structure I need to tackle.’

Realistic – With the available resources, time and knowledge, can you realistically reach your goal? Can you get the best mark possible in the time frame?

I have the Student PANDA website as a resource, however, with little access to some content I can not talk about topic D in detail and my time will be spent better concentrating on topics A, B & C.’

Time – Can you reach your goal within the given time? Is your goal utilising the time efficiently? If you don’t spend enough time on the essay or project, it may not be as good as it could be. If you spend too long on the project you will miss your deadline or fail to finish your project. What’s the deadline?

If your goal does not meet these conditions, make sure you make adjustments so that your goal is not a far-fetched dream that will end in tears. Make it a true goal that can be realistically achieved within the given time.

2. Plan, plan, plan

It goes without saying that planning ahead will be the key to…well anything. If you have everything down prior to beginning, you will be a lot more prepared and your goal will be a lot more achievable.

So, how do you plan? Start with listing everything that you need to do. The project, the time frame, short breaks every 30 mins, lunch breaks, personal duties, socialising, time away from the screen, and so on. The idea is to break down the bigger tasks into smaller chunks. If you know you have 8 hours to work, what can you do within that given time frame?

Getting a diary can really help you keep track of everything. The feeling of ticking off another task really helps you track and achieve your goal.

3. Your working space

As nice as it is to work next to your friends or in the library, is the library the best option if you’re still surrounded by all of your friends? Being surrounding by friends encourages the need for socialising or questions on the topic to arise and break your workflow.

Choosing where you work can really keep you in the zone and keep your productivity going. Find a quiet study room or spot, or even visit a public library where librarians will actually keep the peace. Finding the best space for you will really help you push forward.

4. Do your to do list

We all have a million things that we constantly need to do, answering a text or checking up on some news. Get these tasks out the way so that they won’t tempt to distract you while you are in the groove.

Trust us when we say, when you start to get a little stressed or motivation is slowly depleting, that any little thought may become a big distraction. One second you’re writing about how teleportation works and then the next second you are remembering that time in 1st year that you saw a butterfly. Get everything that may distract you out the way first.

5. Put your phone on flight

This really goes without saying, however, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Or at least put it on don’t disturb. Don’t give in to the temptation of checking what new meme is trending, or the latest group chat gossip. If you are talking to someone by text, just let him or her know you will give them a shout later on, once you have aced your first class essay.

6. Know when to take breaks

Even though you may have limited time, or you just want to power through till you finish, taking breaks will keep your productivity and motivation at a high level. Also, it is healthy to get away from your screen and take a break every so often.  

Don’t just jump from your computer screen, to Instagram on your phone screen. Get up and go for a walk outside with some fresh air, or if you cannot leave your things alone, then take a walk around the close vicinity. Being able to take a step back to allow your mind to breathe will help you to clear your thoughts.

Know the difference between small, quick breaks and long, lunch breaks and don’t abuse them. Make sure you plan ahead so you know when or how often you should take a small break and when your lunch break is. Should you have written 5 paragraphs before lunch or should you have been at the halfway point?

Taking small 10/15 minute breaks to get some air, top up your water bottle or to just get away for a bit is as important as taking a long lunch break. If you decide every hour or every paragraph you are going to take 15 minutes to recharge, then make sure you time yourself. Don’t abuse 15 minutes by opening up Netflix or going and waiting for takeaway with 10 people in the queue.

Mastering your breaks will really keep your productivity high and stress low.

7. Beauty of music, or na?

Music can be the driving force you really need to push that essay all the way, or it could be annoying and distracting background noise. Knowing how you work best is very important.

If you are the type to get distracted by music, then don’t try listening to it as you could procrastinate quite a bit. On the other hand, if you are the type that excels from hearing some beautifully bliss music in the background, then make sure you have a playlist ready so you don’t have to waste time looking for that one perfect song.


Whilst this is not directly related to your productivity, this tip could be the difference between crying and being able to relax. Make constant back-ups and save them in a different location from the original with a date stamp or revision number. E.g. My 3000 word Essay backup as 170425 My 3000 Word Essay – Backup or My 3000 Word Essay – Backup – Rev 1.

This might seem a bit long-winded, but if you ever misplace, or break your computer then you will be thanking us for this advice later. There is nothing worse than losing your hard work for an uncontrollable reason like your computer crashing.

9. Social ghosting

As much as Instagram needs your attention, the new Snapchat filters need to be tried out or a new funny video has just been uploaded on Facebook, resist the temptation and GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. Lock up your phone; Throw away your passwords. Do what you need to do, to stop yourself from endlessly scrolling through pointless social media.

As much as we joke about it, social media is a very distracting and it can really put a stop to your productivity and chain of thought. Make sure you put away your phone so that you can concentrate on really pushing your project to its limits.

10. Eat & drink

It’s easy to get so bogged down with work that you forget that your body needs food and drink to keep going.

Make sure you take water with you so you can stay hydrated, and top it up on your breaks away from the screen. Even though coffee may become your new best friend, don’t overdo it as your body may gain some extra source of energy, but it won’t be feeling that great later on. The same goes for food; don’t eat junk food 24/7 as it may keep your energy levels high for a short period, but it is not healthy in the long run.

11. Don’t forget to laugh

The forgotten tip, don’t forget you’re human and need to laugh. You might have a deadline in the next 24 hours, but getting 10000% serious and closing off the rest of the world will not help your productivity. As we suggest, take get breaks at regular intervals, you should use these times to relax and to lower your stress. It is important that your chain of thought is healthy and clear. Adding stress will create tension and negativity.

Plan ahead to meet your friends at lunch so you can all have some time away from your screens talking about whatever nonsense makes you laugh.

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1. It's all about planning at your pace. Don't try rush or you won't get anywere.

2. Staying cool headed and stress free will add to your productivity.

3. Go for walks when you are getting too stressed or not making any progress.

What ways do you stay productive and motivated? Let us know in the comments below.

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