We’re at an interesting point in the school year for college students. On the one hand, we made it to second semester without burning out or otherwise ruining our college careers. But on the other, we’re not even halfway through the semester, and Spring Break is still a month away!

This is easily the most difficult time to get through, especially for those who tend to look toward the near future (summer) and lose sight of present tasks.

To help you get through the rest of the semester with your grades and sanity in check, here are a few productivity tips to keep you motivated and healthy for the months ahead.

Related: 50 Productivity Hacks to Help You Get More Done

Commit to Excellence

student studying hard

Here’s the thing: We can all be excellent. It’s just that some of us choose to be, while some of us choose to sleep in, drink too much, or ignore our health. The fact that you are reading this post is the true first step towards a more productive semester.

There are a few tricks that will help you along the way, but making the choice to be better is the key to success.

Plan Monday

Always have a plan for Monday. Do it before the weekend even starts. By Thursday evening you should have a realistic plan for your Friday and your Monday. This way you won’t have to worry about forgetting to do homework over the weekend, and you won’t let assignments and quizzes sneak up on you.

Plan out your Monday ever single Thursday afternoon (or Friday morning), starting with an early wake up call. Forget Sunday, there’s a good chance you won’t be checking things off of your to-do list that day anyway. Well, that is unless you…

Drink Less

This certainly doesn’t sound like fun, but with three months of summer at the end of the semester, you can get through the remainder of the year with fewer drinks.

It’s normally pretty easy to bounce back from a night of drinking while you’re still in college, but just because you don’t feel like death doesn’t mean the booze isn’t affecting your body and mind. There are so many benefits to drinking less! From increased cognitive function, to better sleep and immunity, and even weight loss, alcohol abstinence can lead you to success.

Make a commitment this semester to drink less, whatever that means for you. Try to keep track of how many drinks you have per night, or reduce your drinking days to once a week.

Move More

exercise in college

Yes, I’m sure you’d love to make it to the gym for an hour a day, cause in reality, we all love that endorphin rush. But just because you don’t have the time or energy for a two-hour workout doesn’t mean you can’t simply move more to improve your cognitive function and productivity.

Mobile bodies lead to happy and healthy brains, so follow some of these tips to move more:

  • Replace your desk chair with an exercise ball.
  • Walk to and from parties instead of driving or taking the bus.
  • Walk around campus with your friends rather than chatting it up over music and television in your dorm room.
  • Always take the stairs.

Schedule in Detail

Believe it or not, some people do very well scheduling out their day in 15-minute increments. It might seem like a pain, but you should definitely schedule things in detail, at least down to the hour.  If you block off 6 hours to “write a paper” or “study Physics,” you’re not likely to be all that productive.

Instead, schedule out your studying in more detail. A detailed schedule for a Monday afternoon between classes might look something like this:


  • 12:15-1:00 – Complete Sociology assignment (+5 min break)

  • 1:00-1:30 – Read two chapters of Sylvia Plath

  • 1:30-2:00 – Lunch/snack break (walk around)

  • 2:00-3:00 – Memorize 30 Japanese characters (+walk to class)

Plan specific tasks in specific periods of time with ample breaks in between.

Recognize Your Biggest Distractions

Some of us study very well with a partner, while others end up chatting the entire time. The same goes for the Internet. If you’re using the Internet for homework, it can be so easy to get distracted by Facebook, emails, and chat, while others might be able to just tune those things out.

Pay attention to what is stealing your attention and damaging your productivity and take steps to remove it!

Get to Know Your Circadian Rhythm

sleeping in class

While some people think the whole “morning or night” type of person thing is just an excuse, it’s actually backed by science. If you are a morning person, you will naturally be more productive and alert in the earlier morning hours, but staying up too late or drinking too much the night before can compromise these hours of productivity.

College is the only time in life when you can feasibly create your own schedule by taking morning or night classes and sleeping when your body is tired. If you’ve got the discipline to get work done on a different schedule than everyone else, you might find that following the natural path of your circadian rhythm will help you be more productive and successful.

Drink Caffeine During Cortisol Lows

Going along with the whole circadian clock trend, your body’s 24-hour hormonal cycle knows when you should be consuming caffeine also! Cortisol is our “stress hormone” which naturally caffeinates us. It tends to peak at 8-9am, which is when most of us are fumbling out of bed and searching for caffeine.

As Ryoko over at ilovecoffee points out, this will lead to a lower buzz and higher tolerance for caffeine. Instead, know when your body is feeling naturally caffeinated or naturally exhausted and drink your coffee accordingly!

Become an Early Riser

Trying to get things done during normal hours is an uphill battle. It can be impossible to focus on schoolwork when your friends are knocking at your door every few minutes, pinging you on chat, or playing games out in the common room.

One of the best ways to get things done and still be able to hang out is by waking up earlier and working while everyone else is still asleep. It’s easier said than done, but if you can train your body to go to sleep at a regular time and wake up early, you could discover motivation you never knew you had. The best way to begin is by going to sleep a bit early and getting rid of the snooze button.

And without the constant distractions that come with normal working hours, you’ll find your flow and get work done in record time.