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Peer blog: Doing the midterm grind: Strategies for productivity

Kate, PhD Psychology, Year 1

Happy October everyone! I hope you are all doing well as we enter what some students call the “midterm grind,” otherwise known as the part of the semester where assignments, TA duties, and expectations begin to pile up. After a breezy September easing back into things, October always hits me like a ton of bricks. It is during this time that I often find myself asking the question, “Hey, where did my Saturdays go?” With the growing number of tasks to be completed, Saturday commonly becomes my sixth workday of the week. That hasn’t changed as a graduate student. Between scholarship applications, midterm marking, and our own assignments, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. That being said, I always manage to pull through relatively unscathed thanks to my calendar.

I mentioned in my previous blog a few simple methods I hoped to implement in order to increase my productivity. I thought that discussing ways to work faster and with more focus might be useful in such a busy month, so let’s revisit the strategies I planned to try, and rate them as we go!

  1. Turned off notifications on my laptop between 8:00AM and 8:30PM

5/5 stars. A favourite of mine. Without those annoying banners flying across my screen every five minutes, I am able to stay focused for longer periods of time. I don’t even miss the banners! I have actually been using this approach for a few years now and would highly recommend it as a first step to anyone who is having trouble staying on-task.

  1. Deleted the “Messages” icon from the taskbar on my laptop

1/5 stars. I had a lot of hope for this method. I really did. The first few hours were great. It was working beautifully. Without the physical presence of the “Messages” icon, I felt little to no temptation to check my text messages. If you have only one Queen’s account, this is a great method to help fight distractions. However, if you have more than one Queen’s account (i.e., I have a student account and a staff account for my TA duties), I would discourage the use of this tip. Due to Queen’s new security procedures to prevent hacking, I linked my phone to my Queen’s accounts and receive a text message with a code that I must input every time I want to log in. As a student and TA, I am constantly logging in and out of different email accounts and different Microsoft Teams accounts. Thus, several codes get sent to my phone every day. Unfortunately, this means that I was constantly opening my “Messages” icon on my laptop in order to access the code, and it became such a hassle that I ended up re-pinning my “Messages” icon to the taskbar. This method was great in theory but not in practice.

  1. Use a distraction pad to write down distracting thoughts

5/5 stars. I used a notebook to write down things like chores I had been meaning to do or emails I wanted to send so that instead of immediately acting on them, I could address them after finishing whatever task I was currently working on this method worked incredibly well for me! I stopped getting up from my desk to water my plants or reorganize my bookshelf. Taking note of my distracting thoughts allowed me to quickly assess their importance and whether or not they deserved my attention. If they did, I would write them down. This meant I was able to stay focused for longer periods of time and when I finally allowed myself to address the things I had written down, an unexpected bonus occurred. That is, when I took breaks, I didn’t just zone out on my phone for 30 minutes. Instead, I completed the tasks I had written down. It was a win-win situation. My productivity increased both on- and off-the-field.

Although October can be daunting and the to-do list only seems to grow, I hope you remember to take some time to engage in a little self-care. I personally love the spooky season and have already begun decorating my space! I encourage you to do whatever feels self-indulgent: take yourself out for coffee or set aside time for writing, drawing or video games—or whatever else!

I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed at this time of year, so remember to take extra good care of yourself now! Until next time!

Kate’s apartment decorated for Halloween (both in the day and night!)

Kate’s apartment decorated for Halloween (both in the day and night!)