There are a million and one productivity blogs, channels, and websites out there with a billion and one tips, tricks, and hacks on how to squeeze the most out of your time. With few exceptions, I’ve found most of this advice to be next to useless.
Want some better advice? Get a job.
If you’re already working, this isn’t as applicable, but if you’re in school, you don’t have a job, and you find yourself wasting a lot of time, I would consider getting one.
The best way I’ve found to become more productive in school and in life is to constrain my time. I don’t mean setting artificial boundaries because my brain is not that easily convinced. I’m talking about actually limiting the amount of time I have to study. Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Thus, by limiting this available time, I force myself to become more efficient.
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what tactics you use to become more productive. When your grades, performance, future, etc. are on the line, you’ll figure something out. If you have plenty of time to do your schoolwork, your brain doesn’t have a strong enough incentive to do things more efficiently. However, time constraints stress test your current systems, and your brain will be forced to adapt.
As they say in the animal kingdom, adapt or die. And you’re not going to die from working at Burger King.
The job itself doesn’t really matter. Ideally, you want to work somewhere where you’re learning valuable skills on the job like an internship for example, but it’s not necessary. What’s most important is that it takes time away from your schoolwork which forces you to be more productive in whatever time you do have left.
By getting a job, you inherently have less time to do your schoolwork which forces you to optimize your systems. It forces you to become a better student by being more organized, proactive, and focused. Don’t worry about not having enough time to study. You’ll make time. Let’s be real. you don’t spend all your waking hours studying. You spend more than half of it on your phone, watching Netflix, playing video games, etc. Working is a productive way to cut back on this wasted time.
Productivity hacks are like the common personal finance latte advice. Some gurus tell you to stop spending $5 on Starbucks every day. Put that money in an index fund, and you’ll eventually become a millionaire. While those $5 a day may help, it’s in fact the less efficient way to go about saving money. The real questions you might want to ask are, Do I need a $30,000 car when a $10,000 would serve the same purpose? or Do I need to be spending $2,000 a month on rent when I could split that with a roommate? If you can cut back on those huge expenditures, you’ll save much more money in much less time.
Likewise, you could try and optimize every second of every day with the latest tips from your favorite productivity blog, or you could look at the big picture. The issue is rarely that you don’t have time for something. Everyone has 24 hours in a day. It’s a time allocation issue.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself in a sink or swim position. After some panicky flailing, you’ll figure it out. Fix the big things and the little things will fall into place.