7 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

March 19, 2019 Daniel Iknaian

The demands on your time can be endless, especially during midterms and at the end of the term. It can all feel overwhelming if you don't take some time upfront to set yourself on a path towards success. Below are seven tips for tackling your coursework to help you maximize your efficiency and achieve the best outcomes.

1. Know when things are due

Don’t rely on your memory to keep track of important dates. Some organization and technology can lend a hand in a big way.

  • Compile your syllabi for each class.
  • Enter critical due dates from the syllabi into the calendar on your mobile device and set notifications to alert you according to how far in advance you need to complete the assignment or to study adequately. (And, as tempting as it might be, don’t keep dismissing the alert until a later time because soon, you’ll be out of time!

2. Set small goals

Big assignments or group projects can feel overwhelming. Tackle them by setting small goals that drive you toward completion.

  • When dealing with assignments that require multiple steps, such as a research paper, set milestones with due dates, a milestone might be something like reading a reasonable number of sources by a certain time or completing half of your first draft. Make your goals and dates attainable, so you don’t get discouraged.
  • For group projects, hold your classmates accountable. Take the lead and suggest ways in which the project can be broken down into manageable chunks. Then, as a group, set milestones for each of the project components with a commitment and expectation that everyone will complete their parts on time. 

3. Reward yourself

Everyone likes a pat on the back, so remember to give yourself one!

  • Rewards can be big or small. Think of things you want to do—binge-watching a favorite show, or gaming, or taking a walk. Use these things as rewards for a job well done. Commit to putting a solid amount of effort into studying or working on an assignment, then commit to being kind to yourself with a reward. 
  • Small rewards can be used to break up your study time. Set a timer and when the alarm sounds, do something fun for a short amount of time before hitting the books once more.
  • Big rewards might be used to pull you through a difficult semester or push you to excel in ways you haven’t before. Promise yourself something meaningful—not necessarily expensive—for your excellent work.

4. Surround yourself with like-minded people

When it comes to taking your classes seriously, it matters who you hang around with; choose wisely.

  • This tip isn’t about your selection of friends; it’s about identifying classmates who share your commitment to success and buddying-up with them to share notes, study together, or complete group assignments. In the end, you’ll teach and learn from each other and perhaps make some new friends.

5. Get feedback

You don’t know what you don’t know, so it’s best to find out as early and as often as possible.

  • Professors have office hours for a reason; they’re your chance to connect one-on-one, or in a group, with your instructor to discuss difficult concepts, gain clarity, and just check-in.
  • Connect with your classmates. If you’re wrangling with course material, there are probably others in the same boat. Put your heads together and learn from one another.
  • DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE! The day before a test or exam is not the time to run for help, there may be too much that needs fixing. If you had sought assistance and insight earlier, then there’d be no need to hit the panic button.

6. Re-write notes

Wait. What? I should re-write my notes? You read correctly: re-writing your notes is a great way to internalize information. There is a ton of research available that outlines the connection between writing and memory, so give it a try. Oh, and use PEN and PAPER because that’s when the learning magic happens.

  • Did you catch everything the first time? An excellent strategy for re-writing notes is to sit down with a classmate and hand over your notes and have the person you’re with give you theirs. You may be surprised at what you missed during the lecture and vice versa.
  • Maybe your notes are pages and pages long. Try boiling down the information into key points. This will help you focus on what’s important and get that writing-memory connection going.

7. Use your tools

Does your professor use a learning management system or online courseware? Your instructor chose to make this technology available to help you learn the material. As a WileyPLUS Student Partner, I help hundreds of my peers learn the ins-and-outs of WileyPLUS so that they can take full advantage of the application. I see the difference a tool such as WileyPLUS makes when it comes to student success.

What are your tips for successful studying? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

University of Massachusetts Lowell, Accounting and Information Systems //

More Content by Daniel Iknaian
Previous Article
Top 10 Pieces of Advice for College Graduates From Professors
Top 10 Pieces of Advice for College Graduates From Professors

Educators share the advice they often give graduating students who are beginning the next stage in their li...

No More Articles