Tips for College Students: Getting Things Done During Winter Weather!

birds winter theme
Birds thriving in winter Creative Commons from “Winter Cedar Waxwings” by Rachel Kramer. Source:


Ice storms can mean too much time spent inside. During this unexpected time, don’t be a couch potato! Use the time to not only catch up but get ahead! Here are some easy-to-implement tips to get things accomplished so you can do some R and R guilt-free! Drawing on a few productivity tips, some positive reinforcement, and some strategic reading and writing tips, you can forge ahead and stay uber-productive! You will love yourself for the effort. The key here is not to overthink things. Just do it!

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” Bruce Lee

These tips are geared for college students, but anyone can benefit from implementing a few good ideas. The main thing to keep in mind that you are being pro-active. This is a basic idea from Stephen Covey’s work The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Productivity Tips for Students


 Big Ideas about Working Smarter

1.  Workspace. Set up a workspace that appeals to your learning needs. Some people like quiet; others prefer the tv on in the background. Do what works for your productivity. Create sticky note motivators and commands to yourself like “Do it now!”, “Stay focused!”, or other encouraging words. You might also list a few rewards you will “get” when you take a study break.

2. Focus. Don’t get sidetracked! Turn the ringer off your phone and log out of social media!

3. Make a “to-do” list. Consider using a digital to-do  list like Asana. Or, simply list what needs to be done on a Google Doc or an Evernote page. This way you can pull up your list on a  mobile device.

4. Timing. Work for a specified amount of time and then take a break. One technique is the Pomodoro Technique. Work for 25 minutes. Take a five minute break. Work for 25 more minutes. Take another five minute break. Continue the cycle. Use a countdown timer on your mobile device, an old fashioned kitchen timer, or an app or web-based tool that utilizes the “tomato timer” technique. Click here for one to get started.

5. Task analysis. Break down major tasks into much smaller sub-tasks. Then cross them out as you complete them. This will help to feel more accomplished and is motivating!

6. Rewards. Do something for yourself during your brief study breaks. Examples: surfing the internet, healthy snack, listen to music, walk around inside, time with a pet (if applicable!), Facebook (keep it brief!).

7. Approach your reading strategically. Clear your mind of all worries before reading. Set a goal for yourself (e.g., a number of pages). Chunk the text into smaller parts and retell to yourself what you just read. Take notes. Below are a few strategies for making good use of your time when reading material.

If you are short on time, consider exploring the following time-saving study tools:

Use the FREE Google Dication tool to dictate your writing, whether it is initial ideas for an essay, the essay itself, a discussion board post and/or comment. Typically, we speak faster than we write so using dictation software can reduce the time needed to write! Be sure to proof and revise your work as needed.

If you are studying for a test on terminology, use Quizlet to make digital flashcards that you can review using a mobile device or a computer!

More on Reading Strategically: Tips for Reading and Studying the Required Readings

I suggest reading closely and carefully and taking notes while reading each article/chapter from your required reading.

Before reading each article/chapter, first quickly skim the entire set of readings for that session.  Ask yourself, “What do these readings have in common?” I strongly suggest taking notes (handwritten, mobile device), and/or making a visual map (e.g., Popplet, etc.) of the course readings.

Use the study guides to structure your reading.

Before reading

  • Eliminate all distractions in your reading environment. Set aside worries and anxieties to focus on your reading(s).
  • Ask yourself what you already know about the topic. Jot down a few ideas.
  • Set a purpose for yourself for reading each article or book chapter. Consider or write down at least 1-3+ questions that you hope to get answers to by reading the article.

During reading

  • Look up any unknown words online on a literacy glossary of terms (several links will be provided). Keep a list of key terms to know.
  • Consider applications to the “real world”.
  • Pose questions to yourself. What about the reading do you not understand? Ask questions in class. Be ready to discuss key points in the reading in class. I will also ask critical thinking questions about key ideas from the readings in class.
  • Consider taking notes while you read, beyond your marginal annotations. If you are reading digitally, some of the readings can be annotated digitally. Consider taking notes on your phone, if you have a “notes” type of feature, and email them to yourself.
  • Monitor your own understanding as you read.
  • Concept maps: Consider taking visual memos/notes on Popplet or another mind mapping tool via a mobile device or laptop. Another one is

After reading

  • Look back at the guiding questions that you set for yourself as a student and reader. Were you able to answer your questions?
  • If there is a journal due, after reading is a good time to do it while the reading is still fresh in your mind (or at  least get a good draft down, to revise later). Give yourself time to “digest” the readings when you have time to write afterwards.
  • Consider contacting a classmate to discuss your understanding of the reading.

Tips for Online Students [Tips are useful for all students, however!]

3 Suggested (Free!) Learning Apps for Online Students: Evernote, Dragon Dictation, & Flashcardlet 

I suggest three free apps that are good productivity tools for students that can be accessed via a mobile device.

Evernote: Notetaking and archiving app. Download documents to read on your mobile device. Take audio notes and photographs as well for later viewing/listening.

Dragon Dictation: Speech-to-text app. Record your voice and it turns a short voice memo into a text that you can email to yourself or post on social media. Great for notes-to-self and good ideas you can archive and retrieve later.

Flashcardlet [Quizlet]: Create digital flashcards as an alternative to traditional index card style means of studying. Study via your mobile device! Flashcard decks created can also be shared.

Quick Start Guide for Online Student Success by   Media Professor at Queen’s University, Canada

This is a great set of slides that provides great tips that are unique to online learning! It is worth a read!

Good luck to you! Please feel free to leave comments!


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