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Unmotivated? Here are 7 tips to kick-start a productive semester

Organized Desk Graphic Chalk

Let’s face it, the phrase “unprecedented times” has been exhausted at this point. Things are going to be pretty “unprecedented” for the foreseeable future, so it’s time to master productivity among remote and hybrid learning. 

Studying from your dorm, apartment or house can be successful and highly rewarding by implementing simple rituals into your everyday life. Throw whatever preconceived belief you had about your work ethic out the window. You can be productive, even in these circumstances.

Here are seven easy and achievable tips to get you on track this semester: 

1. Create a designated work environment

This certainly does not mean your desk or counter space needs to be immaculate or overlaid with decor (unless, of course, that is your kind of thing). Instead, what this means is consider avoiding working from your bed or the couch if possible. Delineate work spaces from relaxing spaces to prevent distraction or even dozing off. Forming these boundaries in your space will aid in balancing school with self-care time. Likely, you’ll feel more satisfied at the end of the day after moving from your desk to your couch.

2. Utilize a planner or to-do list

Everyone needs some sort of system to hold themselves accountable, but the biggest takeaway here is to find what works best for your needs. Planning is not one size fits all, so here are a few resources to check out:

  • Google Calendar is prime for documenting deadlines, exam dates and events. (Free)
  • Erin Condren planners are a bit on the pricey side; however, if you despise digital planning, the Erin Condren LifePlanner is perfect for all-in-one weekly planning. ($55)

Even something as simple as the “Notes” or “Reminders” app on an iPhone is ideal for managing tasks on-the-go. Remember, planning or making a to-do list doesn’t have to be fancy as long as it’s keeping you accountable. 

3. Celebrate small victories

You’ve probably heard this one a million times, but breaking tasks into smaller, bite-size pieces may alleviate stress centered around daunting assignments and papers. Psychology Today suggests creating a chart that lists all the baby steps of a task so you can check your progress off as you go. 

Furthermore, reward yourself after checking boxes off. Put together a plan to take breaks after a set amount of time. A timer app will come in handy here. Maybe even try out the Pomodoro Technique: working for 20 minutes, taking a break for five, and after repeating this your third time, taking a 10-minute break.

4. Distance yourself from your phone

Now more than ever, it’s easy to procrastinate at the hands of technology. A recent study from the University of Texas found that “the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity.” So, be proactive: put your phone out of sight when trying to complete a task. Even better, turn on the “Do Not Disturb” setting or “Airplane Mode” to ensure those pesky Snapchat group chats and class GroupMe messages don’t infringe on your studies. 

5. Stop multitasking

You may think you excel at multitasking, but it’s not the most efficient way to retain information and maximize productivity. Neuroscientist Earl Miller explained in an interview with NPR how people can’t multitask well. 

"You're not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly,” Miller said.

Consider closing unnecessary tabs when working to avoid temptation to switch between multiple assignments. Before you begin working, assemble a list of tasks you need to complete. Number them according to priority and complete the list in chronological order from most important to least. If you stay on top of the greatest priorities, there will be no need to multitask. 

6. Normalize saying “no”

Do not feel bad about saying no when you do not have the time, energy or resources to put more on your plate — especially right now. Harvard Business Review suggests preparing a plan — like an email template or script — so you always know how to turn someone down tactfully and professionally. 

7. Resist perfectionism

Psychology Today said a roadblock to productivity created by perfectionists is a tendency to procrastinate; this procrastination is fueled by fear of failure. There truly is no recipe for overcoming perfectionism, but the first step is to just begin whatever task is intimidating you. Psychology Today says that once you get started, you can build on momentum that can carry you throughout the task. Additionally, positive self affirmation can go a long way when trying to achieve your goals. 

You don’t need to push the reset button when it comes to getting your life together. Making a few little improvements to your lifestyle exactly where you are right now can have you feeling rejuvenated, leaving you extra time for self-care and the things you love to do. 

Person 1: This song slaps.

Person 2: Your mom slaps.

Person 1: Thank you, my mom is a kind and wonderful lady.


 Person 1: I’m so sick of alcohol.

Person 2: I don’t know, I’m getting stronger every day. I love it.


Person 1: Do you do the vegan wrap here?

Person 2: We can do the chicken wrap with no cheese?

Person 1: I’ll take the Beyond Burger please. 


Person 1: Oh my God! I feel like I know you somehow…

Person 2: Yeah, we went to high school together. 

Person 1: Oh! *walks off*


Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.


Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.


Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.


Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.


Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 


Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a threesome this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?


Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.


Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 


Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!


Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?


Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?


Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?


Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.


Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.


Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.


Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing


Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.


Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know


Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.


Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.


Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.


Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat


Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?


Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.


Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.


Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?


Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.


Girl: She's not in class this semester

Guy: Maybe she's dead

Girl: Or studying abroad