By Naairah Aftab (Campaigns Officer – FOSIS Scotland)

The biggest obstacle that often knocks us back when attempting to be productive, is procrastinating. When we’re studying, suddenly our bedroom wall becomes more fascinating to look at than solving a calculus equation or attempting to consolidate our notes. As our course work deadlines and exam dates approach throughout the year, our time-management skills must be refined and productivity levels boosted so that our work can reflect our true capability.

You must be wondering, “well, how can I go about actually doing this?” Worry not, as I shall provide 5 practical tips for you… so continue reading!

Tip 1 – Remind yourself of the importance of free time

“There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) health and free time for doing good.” [Bukhari]

On a daily basis, remind yourself that you are answerable for the manner in which you spend your free time. Even though procrastination is natural and affects everyone to some extent, it should not under any circumstance become a habit. Remember that even studying for your exams, as stressful as it may be at times, can become a means of reward for you if you have the correct intentions.

Tip 2 – Focus on completing small goals and work upwards

If it’s too big, break it down

When we first look at our workload as a whole, it can seem pretty overwhelming; in turn we’re subconsciously tempted to procrastinate. This is because all we can envision is the colossal task that lies ahead, and the idea of tackling it all at once seems a lot easier to avoid! For this reason, it is important to break down the tasks on hand into smaller chunks. Naturally, you will be less likely to waste time this way, as you will be aware that if you delay the deadline for the current task, this will consequently have a knock-on effect on the other tasks that need to be completed afterwards.

Give yourself a break

Similarly, studying in short bursts has also proven to be an effective method to increase productivity. It has been psychologically proven that an adult-learner’s focus is diverted elsewhere every 20 minutes. Therefore, regular breaks should be incorporated into your study routine. An example of a well-utilised break would comprise of going outside for fresh air, walking around the library floor for a couple of minutes, or praying Salah (if it’s time, of course). The primary aim of these breaks is to obtain an energy boost and de-clutter your mind, so that you can come back to your study desk refreshed and motivated to embark on another productive study session!

You don’t have to be perfect to win!

Something that can often hold us back from reaching specific targets is constantly seeking perfection. It is important to aim high and produce work of an excellent standard, however, constantly feeling the need to produce aesthetically appealing notes, bursting with colour and consisting of flawlessly drawn diagrams, does indeed waste precious time. Instead, endeavour to focus more on learning the content itself, rather than seeking perfection in the creation of study notes.

Be strict with your time

Allocating a date for when a particular task needs to be completed is compulsory; however, we must also learn to time-box our tasks too. If you set a specific time period and strictly abide by it, you will be more likely to complete the targets set. Remember that if a task requires two hours, then do not allocate three hours for it, as this will only encourage complacency and procrastination.

Prioritise!

Learn to prioritise what is important. This can be accomplished by separating miscellaneous tasks, such as replying to emails or picking up groceries, from academic related goals when forming to-do lists. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming distracted by prioritising a task that is easier or more fun to do, over what is more urgent to complete. Productivity gurus have suggested that completing the most difficult and important tasks early on can show significant improvements in achieving your goals for the day.

Tip 3 – Track your progress regularly

Hold yourself to account

Progress tracking is essential so that we can analyse not only how we are coping, but how much closer we are to our goals after studying. If at the back of our minds we know there is no accountability, at some point our productivity levels will slow down and we will become somewhat complacent.

On a weekly basis (on a fixed day), sit down and review your progress with your goals from the week before. Reflect upon what strategies are going well and where you can improve. If something is clearly holding you back from achieving your best, this would be a good time to be honest with yourself and make the required changes.

Look into the future

Something that personally helps me is to write down my long-terms goals and put these in a place where I will continuously see them, for example, my study desk. The rationale behind doing so is primarily to serve as a source of inspiration and boost productivity for the times when I feel burned out or experience a setback.

We’re in this together!

Having a ‘study buddy’ or even forming a study group is really beneficial; it will push you to stay on top of your work, remain organised, and will provide a sense of accountability. It also creates friendly competition which can serve as a huge motivational trigger.

Tip 4 – Maintain a study environment conducive to productivity

Find your ‘zone’

Finding the ideal study spot(s) and strategies does require some experimentation, and differs from person to person. Through trial and error, you will soon identify what suits yourself best.

A clear desk leads to a clear mind!

An organised study spot will improve your productivity, whereas a messy environment will have the opposite effect. As well as keeping your desk neat and tidy, it is also vital to keep all the files on your computer’s desktop organised too. Deleting unnecessary files and categorising lectures or study notes into labelled folders will eliminate clutter. There’s no easier way to waste precious time than to filter through disorganised clutter to find what you’re looking for. This applies to both your physical and virtual desktops!

Tip 5 – Take care of yourself

“Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah.” [At-Tirmidhi]

When studying for exams, or preparing for any other stressful event in your life, always remember the following:

  • Do not excessively stress. Utilise your time well, work hard, and then put your full trust in Allah (God).
  • Don’t compromise on your health simply because it is exam season. Sleep on time, eat well, and factor in time to exercise as well. After all, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.
  • Make even more Du’a (supplication) than usual and improve the quality of your worship. Spend more time in prayer, recite more Qur’an, and increase your giving of charity etc., especially when you are feeling anxious, as doing so will provide a spiritual boost and add Bakarah to your work.
  • In addition, learn to unwind every now and then. Recognise your achievements and treat yourself for your efforts!

As a bonus tip, I suggest downloading our free list of study Du’as to aid in the learning, memorising and understanding of your course material. I personally use these, and they serve as a beautiful reminder that in the end, our success always lies in the hands of Allah (God).

I wish you all the best with exam preparation and success with results too!

Share your tips

Do you have any productivity tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!