Work Smarter, Not Harder

By Steff Holloway on 26 April 2018

5 Tools That Will Help You Finish Your Term Papers On Time

While many students might romanticize the martyrdom that comes from pulling a few all-nighters to finish their term paper on time, this isn’t the only way to get things done.

“Smart work is the concept that says, if you work more productively you can complete a task in 2 hours that would need 10 hours if you just ‘did’ it” says productivity expert, recent university graduate and author Veeshal Beotra.

While there is a place for hard work when it comes to final exams and term papers, a lot of students waste unnecessary time, energy and emotions on unproductive habits and strategies. With the right tools, you can work smarter and get more done in less time, saving you the headache and anxiety that comes with just barely turning in your next paper on time.

1. Project Management Apps

Many students are perfectionists, especially when it comes to major term papers that dictate their final GPA. It’s therefore easy to see why so many students get bogged down in perfecting their prose, moving paragraphs around, and mixing up the researching, writing and editing phases of their term paper process.

Finish your term paper with a distraction blocker

Source: pixabay

But each stage of the writing process requires a different level of attention, and a different part of your brain. Without clear boundaries, you slow yourself down.

For enhanced productivity, and to help you focus on what needs to be done at each stage, employ the use of a simple project manager app like Trello or Asana. Many of these free apps let you plot out the stages you need to go through for your term paper, and you can then set deadlines for yourself.

This lets you easily track your term paper’s progress through each stage, see if you’re running ahead or behind schedule, and set clear goals on what needs to happen and when.

For example, if you’re in the research phase, you can really hone in on curating the references and quotes you need. When you move into the writing phase, you can let your creativity flow without worrying about typos or mistakes. And when you see in your project management app that you now have time for proofreading, you can sit down to focus on reworking sentences and citations more effectively.

2. Distraction Blockers

Beep. Beep. Boop. From text messages to social media alerts to email notifications, being tethered to the digital world while writing your term paper sabotages your research quality, grammar, spelling and speed.

That’s because it can take you nearly 30 minutes to return to what you were originally working on after you’ve been interrupted by a distraction, warn researchers at the University of California-Irvine. Meanwhile, the researchers noted that the quality of work went down by 20 per cent after people were interrupted.

If left uncurbed, frequent distractions can also lead to student stress and burnout, warn experts.

Distraction blocker

Invest in an online distraction blocker that stops you from accessing social media and other distracting websites. Put your phone on airplane mode to keep text messages at bay. Shut off desktop and browser alerts for incoming emails.

Instead of putting yourself at the mercy of push alerts, these tools and strategies let you check your alerts and messages when you want and where you want.

3. Cloud-Based Word Processing

When you’re crunched for time, every second counts. This is where Google Docs and similar free cloud-based word processing tools can be helpful. It offers all the practical tools and benefits of a traditional word processor, plus all the mobile functionality of cloud-based software.

No matter where or when you log in to your account, you have access to the latest version of your term paper. And the changes you make on one device, be it your phone or your laptop or your tablet, will be instantly reflected across the cloud.

In other words, you can put every wasted second to use. Waiting in line in the cafeteria? Whip open your phone and do some fact checking on some of your term paper’s claims. Stuck at the campus doctor’s office? Update that one paragraph of your paper that you’ve been meaning to clean up.

If your paper is especially complex or long, you can save even more time by organizing your Google Drive into folders, each containing a separate Google Doc for each chapter or section of your paper. This keeps your digital workspace tidy while speeding up how you navigate your work in progress.

4. Productivity Timers

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity-boosting time management method that involves working on one task in 25 minute chunks. Creator Francesco Cirillo developed the technique while cramming during his final exam season in his freshman year of university.

When combined with a distraction blocker, it helps you to bring all of your awareness and energy to the one thing you need to accomplish today to move your term paper closer to the finish line.

From Focus Booster to Marinara Timer to PomoDone, you can find many timer apps that use this technique.

5. Editing Tools and Services

Tomer Yogev is the cofounder of Tandem Spring, a coaching service focused on improving work performance. He says that the key to working smarter and being more productive is focusing on your strengths.

Too often, students waste too much time struggling through academic tasks that aren’t their strongest suit. When you do this, you waste time and don’t put your natural gifts and talents to their optimal use.

Instead, step back and take a look at the writing process. What parts of the process are you good at? Which areas are you a little rough around the edges?

Whether it’s researching or outlining or editing, you can find tools and experts that can help you with each process. Don’t be afraid to outsource these tasks so you can spend more time doing what you do best.

For example, if you’re a pro at researching and writing, purchase editing software to help you quickly catch major grammar and spelling problems so you can focus more on writing and less time on proofreading.

Or, if researching and conceptualizing is your core strength, ask your university’s writing center if there are trained writing coaches — often faculty or recent graduates of your program — who can help you draft outlines and structure your term paper.

distraction blocker

Source: pixabay

“When it comes to working smarter, we often spend a lot of effort on trying to fix the problems that we see,” says Yogev. He suggests that if you want to truly work smarter and not harder, recognize what you excel at and what your weaknesses are, then don’t be afraid to practice the humility of delegating these tasks.

This frees up more of your time to do what you do best, so you’re not wasting precious study time slogging through things that software or a tutor can do faster and better.

About the author: Steff Holloway is a blogger from Newark. She contributes content to education and lifestyle blogs and she’s currently working hard on her first book. Feel free to check her articles on WritersPerHour.