Whether completing your education from a home computer (pusuing an online degree) or within the confines of a college campus, there are certain tips and techniques that can be beneficial to any student and at any age. It often feels that no matter what environment in which we find ourselves conducting our studies, there are a vast array of other factors pushing and pulling at our attention. These factors can place certain constraints upon how much time we feel we can devote to our schoolwork. Making useful and efficient use of the time we have available to spend on coursework and studies can be the difference between a successful student, and one that just skates by — or worse, fails. Remember, it isn’t always the amount of time spent studying, but the quality of that time and how well it is utilized. From attending class, to minimizing distractions, and staying organized, even the smallest of factors can make a huge difference in the ability to make the most out of your limited time and still make the grade.

Go to class
While at first, sitting in class or in front of a computer for an hour might not sound like the best use of your time, it can be surprisingly useful in saving time down the road. Professors are teaching for a reason, and while it might seem hard to believe, that reason isn’t just to hear themselves talk. It many cases the material covered during class is often the same material that will be found on the quizzes and exams or needed to complete class projects. And having the professor guide you through it in a 50-minute class session will certainly be more effective than trying to learn it on your own outside the classroom. Often, the professor will also drop subtle and sometimes not so subtle hints regarding certain requirements her or she will be looking for on project work or items that might be found on upcoming exams or the final. Notes taken during class will often be an outline for future exams, which can be reviewed quickly during study sessions. It therefore behooves you to go to class, not only to make sure you’ll be counted on the attendance sheet but also to best utilize your study time.

Minimize distractions
Distractions can be the demise of any good study session. No matter what they are or where they’re located, distractions can ruin the concentration required for optimum learning. Televisions, radios, computers, and friends can prove the greatest distracters for breaking into your thoughts. While break periods are necessary in maintaining efficient learning and sustaining your mental health, they should be taken in moderation and kept relatively short. It only takes one bored person on your dorm hall or stopping by your house or apartment to create a distraction that could end up eating into hours of your study time. “Hey, let’s grab a burger!” or “Want to check out this crazy video on the internet?” can suddenly turn into an evening of lost productivity.

Make lists
Keeping organized is one of the key factors required in making the best use of your study time while in school. However, you can’t just scrawl things on scrap sheets of paper or napkins you grabbed from the cafeteria. With work, family, friends, extracurricular activities, as well as your studies vying for your attention, you can feel as if you’re being pulled in three or four directions at once. Therefore, it is critical to maintain lists to keep yourself organized and on task. You must keep these lists in an area where you are sure to remember to check them. It is also a good idea to keep your lists handy and on your person so you are prepared when you need to jot down something important like a test date, group meeting time, work schedule, etc. It is often easiest to make lists related to individual categories such as, “Work”, “School”, “Household”, “Extracurricular”, etc.

Carry an organizer/calendar
One of the best ways to make sure you are prepared at all times to jot down your most important dates and duties is by carrying an organizer with a planner-type calendar. Having such a tool at your disposal can make staying organized and ensure you make efficient use of your spare time. It will also keep your most critical information in a central location. By using such a device to organize your schedule, you avoid misplacing loose-leaf lists or notes you’ve jotted down and shoved in books, a backpack or similar easily forgotten spot.

With your lists created and an organizer in which to maintain them, it is pertinent to keep the ball rolling by organizing the items on your list in order of importance. Instead of constantly rewriting your lists as priorities change, simply number your items indicating which are more important to accomplish first, and then cross completed items as you finish them. Obviously, studying for that management exam is going to rank ahead of making the intramural football game, and meeting with team members for your marketing project should come before going out with friends for drinks. Keeping your priorities straight and in line with your goals is necessary in maintaining your focus on achieving deadlines, adhering to timeframes, meeting due dates, staying successful in your studies, and making the most of your study time.