5 min read

Productivity Tips to Tackle Your Task List

My top three strategies for getting things done as a college student!
Productivity Tips to Tackle Your Task List
Photo by Savannah Wakefield / Unsplash

As a college student, my task list is seemingly endless. Every day I receive new homework assignments to complete, textbook chapters to read, and quizzes that must be done by midnight.

That's only the start; What about organizations? What about your health? What about chores, like doing laundry and cleaning dishes? The list goes on forever, and understandably, it can be quite overwhelming!

Even when I have a handle on my task list, I question how balanced my life is. Did I spend time socializing? Did I work on projects for myself? It's daunting and the solution isn't a one-size-fits-all fix.

Now enduring my third week in college, I've established systems to ensure I complete what I need to do daily. For context, I am a business major with fourteen credit hours, I work out five or six times a week, I've applied for seven organizations, and all the while I've been attempting to get a freelance writing business into the air. None of these are small tasks!

Juggling these and prioritizing tasks has tested my limits, but I've managed just fine and so can you. These are my top three productivity tips to help you pare down your task list and accomplish whatever you desire.

1. Having an Organized To-Do List

This may seem intuitive to some, but it may not to others. My first strategy to spur productivity is to create an organized to-do list. Without a to-do list, you will find yourself wandering through the day, void of any purpose.

With a to-do list, we are provided a sense of direction. It's a tangible reference sheet for what to do on any given day.

There are many different ways to create a to-do list; the important thing is that you make one and stick to it. My favorite way to track what I need to do for the day is by using a pocketbook planner in conjunction with the app, Notion.

I use a Moleskin Pocket Planner, which you can find at this link here. I swear by this little planner; it's high quality and easy to take on the go!

My system starts with Notion, which is an online journal for taking notes, keeping track of your tasks, and more. I have a task board that allows me to create a visual representation of what I need to do, what I'm currently doing, and what I've already completed.

My task board on Notion, specifically for my school assignments.

When my to-do portion is lengthy, I can't fathom doing everything in one day. After all, consistency over time is the key to long-term success. This is where the pocket planner comes into play.

I use my pocket planner to consolidate what I need to do on one particular day. If I have ten things I need to do, I'll pick the five most urgent and put those into my planner. I keep my planner on me, so I can reference my list throughout the day and stay on task.

This is important because prioritizing your work is essential to creating structure and a game plan for action, as you'll see in this next tip.

2. Do Your Hardest Work First

Once you have your daily to-do list in place, it's time to rank your tasks in terms of difficulty. Urgency is important as well, but I'm going on the assumption that urgent tasks are already accounted for on your daily to-do list.

When we wake up in the morning, our brains are fresh and the juices are flowing. Hopefully, you're ripe with motivation and ready to tackle the day. If you aren't, that's alright so long as you have the discipline to get moving.

Whatever your hardest task for the day is, take care of it first. By attending to harder work first, you have more energy to expend. It's likely your attention span will be greater, and you won't burn out in the middle of a focused work session.

There's a term for doing your hardest work first, which is to eat the frog! A common saying in the productivity realm, eating the frog refers to doing the hard work first so that you don't have the opportunity to put it off.

Let's take a second to reflect: have you ever had a project that you dreaded having to face? Chances are you put it off until the last minute and dealt with a mountain of stress as a result. By eating the frog, we can avoid this entirely.

Eating the frog also gives us the most results for the least amount of work. If every day we accomplish something big, the results pile up over time. Even if you do nothing after completing your biggest task for the day, it constitutes a large step in the right direction.

3. Time Blocking

With a to-do list ordered and ready to go, all that's left is to structure your day.

According to Parkinson's Law, work expands to fill the time allotted for it. A simple example would be writing a book report. If the book report is due in two weeks, it will take two weeks to write the book report. If it's due tomorrow, it will be done tomorrow.

This law applies to everything in life: work, hobbies, household chores, and more. If we give tasks more time than necessary, we end up wasting time that could be better spent elsewhere. That's why time-blocking is so beneficial.

In layman's terms, time-blocking is setting aside blocks of time for specific tasks. If your interest is piqued, feel free to read more here.

An example of a time-blocked day, albeit a bit vague.

Limiting the amount of time we spend on a project to a specific quantity combats Parkinson's Law. It's essentially a self-imposed deadline.

It's unreasonable to expect to complete a monumental task in thirty minutes. Be reasonable when estimating how long it will take you to accomplish a task; ambition is good, but over-optimism, not so much.

When your day is time-blocked, there's no question about your actions. You don't have to think about what to do, or when to do it. Follow the schedule and you'll find you can complete so much more than previously assumed.

Equipped with new strategies, you can now attack your task list with ferocity, and rest assured you're doing your best. It's a simple formula; the only thing required is the discipline to stick to it.

Establishing a to-do list, knocking out your hardest work first, and time-blocking your day are cheat codes to becoming efficient at what you do. Use these in conjunction with each other and you'll be amazed at the outcome.

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