Today’s guest post is by the awesome Ryan McRae. Ryan is the founder of The ADHD Nerd, a blog dedicated to helping people with ADHD be more productive, focused and happy. He has spoken all over the world, including Afghanistan. He is an Apple fanatic, voracious reader and lover of things pumpkin flavored. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you enter college, you’ll notice one major thing is missing from your life.
The school bell is gone. It doesn’t ring. It doesn’t tell you to go to your next class or when the day is over.
That’s a great blessing—the silence of freedom from a Pavlovian shackle.
When in school, you depend on that bell to tell you when to do things, and you need the teacher to remind you when assignments are going to be due. But once the bell is gone and the teacher is gone—you find yourself in a world that is unstructured.
It becomes really easy to get lost.
So how do you build a productive college life so you not just survive, but you thrive there?
Master your Calendar First
Take every syllabus you’ve been given and write down every due date that’s there. Every. Single. One. There’s no worse feeling than walking into your class, seeing “pencils ready” and you realize you didn’t know there was a test. Get it all down in one location.
Next look at your assignments and if they are a minor (a quiz, a 1-3 page paper, etc.) then you set a reminder 3 days, 5 days and a week before it’s due.
If it is a major assignment (term paper, major test), you need to remind yourself, to work on it every week for four weeks before it is due.
You need to write these reminders in your calendar. If your major paper is due on April 1st, and you don’t see that until you turn the page on your calendar, well, gulp, it’s too late. Who is the fool now?
If you need to make it electronic, that’s fine. Need it on paper? Fine. Need it on your wall? Great. Whatever it takes. Get it on there. And obey that calendar.
[And since you made it this far, I’m giving you my $10 book for free, Conquering the Calendar and Getting More Done.]
Location, Location, Location
As a Resident Director and instructor at a college for ten years, I saw a ton of very intelligent, well-meaning college students make some rookie mistakes. Students would choose to study in the worst places. They found if they studied in their kitchen, they spent their time eating. If they studied on their bed, they fell asleep. If they studied in their living room, they wound up watching TV.
I told my students time and time again, just like grandpa on the porch—do not study where you live.
You have to study in a place where your brain goes, “THIS IS WHERE THE STUDYING HAPPENS.”
Go To the Library
Yep, the scary place with books. That’s how you get your studying done. Find one table. One chair. A nice view of the campus would be a bonus. Make sure there is a place to plug in your computer.
Pronounce that this will be the place you visit every day for the next four years. Have a couple of hours between classes? Head there and rewrite your notes or start that term paper. Make this your sacred location to study and your brain will go into study mode immediately after it recognizes it.
Play Hard. Work Hard. It can never be both.
This is my lament when it comes to college students who fail. They chose to play and work at same time. They watch a rerun of House while studying for their bio test. They consistently check Facebook while they are writing their English paper that’s due in an hour.
If you want to have much more free time, simply work the entire time. Instead of a paper taking four hours to write because a Gilmore Girls marathon was playing, get it done in the library and you finished it in an hour. Congrats—you got three hours back.
Yes, keeping your focus can be difficult and it takes discipline, but trust me when I say that Gilmore Girls will always be around.
When you can get your work done and not have the due date looming, you will enjoy college much more, have time to have more fun and make friends for a lifetime.