With the fall semester in full swing and holidays around the corner, Salt Lake Community College professors have advice to help students make the most of their time for the remainder of the year.
Learn how to plan
Productivity is a familiar concept for Katerina Salini, a psychology professor at SLCC. Salini incorporates various methods of planning to help her keep track of tasks.
“I tend to use a bullet journal method, and I also do electronic calendaring,” Salini said.
There is a plethora of ways to keep track of meetings, assignments, and upcoming events. Physical, stationary tools include planners, calendars, bullet journals, and to-do lists.
Other ways of time-tracking might involve the technological route, including Outlook, iCal (the iPhone calendar app), online planners, and Teux Deux (the simple to-do list app).
Essentially, it is totally up to the student to decide what planning method is most practical for them.
“What I would recommend is to try things out. See what works for you. I would recommend electronic methods if you are trying to coordinate with other people,” Salini said.
Once a to-do list is created or a bullet journal filled out, the next thing to do is prioritize the things on those lists. Decisions involve leaving less important things out.
“Decide what you’re not going to do,” Salini said. “Check to see what you really need to do, and schedule in as much as you can.”
“As much as you can” does not mean everything.
“It is impossible to do all the things you imagine that you should do. The way I define productivity is: ‘Am I doing the things I feel I must do and that are important to me in a day?’” Salini said.
Salini prompts students to not be discouraged by unforeseen events.
“Remember that schedules change because life changes; your plans change. And that is not failing, that is just adjusting as new information comes in,” Salini said.
Salini opens the semester with lectures primarily focused on effective study habits in an effort to set her students up for success.
“Work in manageable chunks of time on a single topic and then switch to something else. Rather than trying to do four things at once, do four things, one at a time. It makes sure you are doing the things you want to do,” Salini said.
Working in manageable chunks of time is a study skill of focus in this professor’s psychology class. Breaking down study sessions is also very gratifying due to the measurable and accomplishable nature of this method.
“It lets you be really intentional, and feel in charge. You can see what you’ve accomplished, whereas if it’s all mashed together, you can’t,” Salini said.
Breaking studying into 25 or so minute increments allows the student more purposeful attention on whatever topic they are reviewing. This method is not considered multitasking.
“All humans multitask, it is a really good evolutionary strategy: for us to switch gears and do something else at a moment’s notice — that’s a fantastically useful thing. But when we’re trying to get things done, that can get in the way,” Salini said.
Another study strategy Salini encourages her students to incorporate is retrieval practice, or, the method of retrieving information from our memory before going right to the lecture notes. This method, if practiced regularly, allows the mind to keep important information at hand.
Daniel Carpenter, a biology professor at SLCC, also encourages his students to study smart by sharing effective tips and methods in his first homework assignments and readings.
“I think the most important thing [concerning productivity] is for students to know how to study,” Carpenter said.
Use the available resources and get involved
“We have had this big effort at SLCC called Pathways, where we are trying to get students to be intentional about their goals and give them the resources that they need to be successful,” Carpenter said.
Utilizing the resources at SLCC could mean a successful semester for all students.
“We have tons of resources at the college to support students in all kinds of ways: the writing center, the STEM tutoring center, financial aid, veterans services, I mean it just goes on and on and on.” Carpenter said.
Take care of yourself
“If you’re busy, prioritize sleep,” Salini said.
It can be difficult to balance the demands of day-to-day life, but Salini recommends students focusing on their individual needs in order to be productive.
“We forget that being productive also means taking care of yourself,” Salini said. “If you don’t function, none of your to-do list is going to work.”