Whether you are in high school, college, or graduate school, time management is critical in order to stay on track. Finding the balance between coursework, a social life, and taking care of yourself is not easy.
We’ve all had that moment where it’s the night before a big test, but we forgot to put in the time to study for it. Or when everything suddenly feels due at the same time. This is where a productivity journal can make all the difference.
Let’s not waste a minute more.
What Should a Productivity Journal Have?
Whether you have a custom notebook or have ordered a preset notebook, they should have a number of tools in place for easy use.
A Task Page is a space in your notebook where you can write down all your tasks and brainstorm. You don’t need to organize your thoughts in this space because other pages will help you do that.
Calendars are an important part of organizing when things need to be done. Having a monthly and weekly calendar is important to have an outlook on what’s due in the future and what you have to get done immediately.
Goals are an important part of productivity. Without goals that are specifically measurable, you may lack the motivation to stay on track. Having pages or space on a page to illustrate your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals is key.
Progress Measurement is the final thing your productivity notebook should have. While a calendar will indicate whether you are getting things done, you should still have a page that allows for reflection. This can be shown in a number of ways, such as free journaling or tallying goals achieved.
The Best Practices For Using a Productivity Journal
Just because we may have a productivity journal doesn’t mean that we will suddenly be productive and manage our time well. There are some practices and ideas that need to be used to take advantage of what the journal offers.
Pick A Planning Day
Staying consistent with your schedule is one of the hardest tasks. That’s why students should choose a specific day of the week when they can write down their tasks and things they want to do. This is not the same as assigning them dates, as we will get to that.
Writing down your to-do list
Setting your goals
Writing ideas down for personal time so you don’t get burned out.
Your planning day should also be your reflection day. For the first time you plan, there will be no reflection, but after the first week, your reflection will be the first thing you do. This allows you to reset your priorities and track how your current methods are working.
Mark Your Priorities
After you have written down your ideas, thoughts, and tasks, it’s important to go back through them and prioritize them. To do this, you will need symbols that signify priority. For instance, three exclamation points can signify the most important. Two can be middle-priority tasks, and one can be low-priority.
Fill In the Important Dates
After you have been able to prioritize your tasks, it’s important to fill in the dates. Before filling in your own priorities, you may want to fill in important due dates assigned by professors. This can help you recognize tasks if they are slightly off track.
Optional Resource Page
Not all journals have them, but if you can dedicate a page out of your productivity journal to a resource page, it is well worth it. A resource page is a blank page where you can write down resources that you may not need now but can use later. These may be specific websites that have good information or tutorials. It could be a contact such as a tutor.
Sometimes the problem is not that you procrastinate but that you spend too much time planning. Having a productivity journal is great, but if it takes too much time out of your day, then it defeats the purpose. Here are time-management practices that help keep students on track regardless of whether they procrastinate or spend too much time in the developmental stage.
The perfect way to stay on track it allot a specific amount of time for a task. Spending 30 minutes to an hour a week planning is not too much time in the big scheme of things if it keeps you on track.
Having motivation is half the battle. That’s why a reward system for accomplishing your goals is a great idea. Bigger tasks can reward bigger prizes. Be sure not to reward yourself too much, as it can lose meaning.
Do Not Disturb
When you set timers, it’s important also to set a “Do Not Disturb” mode on. Distractions on our computers, tablets, and phones can end up making us work longer and not smarter. When we are in a distraction-free environment, we can accomplish the task and set aside focused personal time.
There are other tools that can be helpful for managing time as well. Something like StayFocused, an extension for Chrome, blocks students from accessing certain web pages while needing to study.
Without setting up personal time when you aren’t working, it is easy to burn out. It’s important to schedule this in the calendar. Sometimes we forget to do this if we don’t write it down. Personal time makes managing your tasks easier. You are less likely to need a break from working if you did something for yourself.
Make It Your Own
No matter how you structure your productivity journal for academic success, it's important to make it your own. A journal that doesn’t resonate with you won’t motivate you to use it. If you are into bright colors, then using different highlighters is a good idea. If you are someone who needs black-and-white organization, that works too!
Applying the basic tips and tricks listed above with your own personal approach to managing your time is key to setting yourself up for success.