Need a Library Day? Top Tips for Productivity
If you’re a humanities student, the odds are that you’ll be spending a decent amount of time in your university’s library. It can be intimidating at first, but study spaces on campus will help you to focus, and remove the temptation to get into bed if your source gets complicated. In this blog, I’ll share some things that help me to have a productive study day, written while I’m sat in the library, so I must be doing something right! Read on to start your productive lifestyle.
1. Start early
This is for both practical and productivity reasons, as my library tends to get busy after 10am on weekdays. Despite it being open 24 hours, I tend to frequent my library in the day, and only use it in the evenings if I’m collecting books, need shelter from the rain (always carry an umbrella on campus) or working on a last-minute deadline. As an undergraduate, we would often study in the evenings after lectures, but I have my own timetable now, so I like to be sat down nice and early.
Pack yourself some snacks, water and a reusable coffee cup, and choose some comfy clothes. I despise sitting at a desk all day in jeans, so I have invested in several varieties of black bottoms that I can wear with boots and that are comfortable to work in. Pack a jumper too, as libraries are often kept at cooler temperatures in order to preserve the books within. Head to the library before everyone else tends to turn up, and then you’ll have the pick of the seats.
2. Pick the right seat
Now, the silent section may seem intimidating, but I find it’s the most focused work environment. In your library, it may be a dedicated section of each floor, or may be grouped on an entire floor. Talking, audible music or eating won’t be permitted, so be prepared to set up and get right on with your work.
If that’s not for you, I’d recommend a quiet working area. At the weekends and early mornings, I tend to sit at desks which are arranged close to the bookshelves. It’s well lit, peaceful and has lots of natural light and fresh air. If it starts to get a bit distracting, I’ll move up to the silent floor, but I’ll generally just pop my headphones in and get on with it.
Group workspaces are noisy, and although it’s fun to work alongside friends, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re pushed for time, especially if it’s not a group project. If you head to the library with a friend, you’ll often be able to grab seats next to each other in quieter working areas anyway, so the focus will still be there.
3. Make a plan
I used to try and muddle through my library days without much of a plan, and that’s a big mistake. Take half an hour to go through your planner and decide what is the priority task, and a smaller task that you’d also like to get done. Once you’ve chosen, make your reading lists, grab your books and get yourself all set up.
I listen to lo-fi music while I work, alongside classical or film scores. I find instrumental music blocks out any residual noise, but doesn’t have any words to distract me with. Noise cancelling headphones are ideal if you like to work in silent areas as they don’t tend to leak any sound, and I’d definitely recommend the investment.
You may feel under pressure to get started with your work straight away, but take time to decide exactly what you want to achieve in the session, how long you are willing to stay, and how you’re going to get it done.
4. Get to work
I tend to use an extended version of the Pomodoro method. All you’ll need is a timer on your phone, so it’s easy to get started. The traditional timings of the method are working for 25 minutes with a five-minute break, repeated four times with a longer break at the end. Instead of this, I work for 40 minutes with a ten-minute break, repeated four to six times. I can concentrate for longer periods of time than the average person (I’ve found), so extending the working periods made sense to me.
Apps distracting you? There are lots of websites and Chrome extensions designed to block access to certain websites while you work. I wrote a blog on popular Instagram study techniques, so give that one a read if you want to find out my opinion of certain apps I tried.
Stay focused on the task at hand, ticking off things you have achieved from your plan as you go. Feel free to amend your plan a little as you work, as you may schedule something for another day if one aspect of your work is taking longer than planned.
5. Take a lunch break
Splitting your day into two halves can be useful in boosting productivity. After working for around three hours (including breaks), I will take a dedicated lunch break. If I’m with friends, I’ll ask them to watch my stuff while I take a quick walk around the block, eat some lunch and get more water and coffee. If I’m on my own, I generally pack up my stuff and head to the café, as it’s not worth getting anything stolen. The café at my library is bright and airy, so I’ll eat my lunch there and decide what I need to do in the afternoon.
During weekdays, the library is often pretty busy, so I’ll either stay put in the café for the remainder of the afternoon, or take my chances in finding another seat. Do take some time away from your screen if you can, and make your break as relaxing as possible.
6. Rinse and repeat
For my afternoon session, I’ll often roam around to find a seat elsewhere in the library for a change of scenery, especially at the weekend when it’s pretty quiet. Sometimes I’ll move somewhere else on campus entirely, it just depends on the environment I’m seeking.
Get your work done in the afternoon, but also bear in mind what time you aim to finish. Staying there until your work is done is an option, but I never find that particularly motivating. Instead, I’ll pick a leaving time, and evaluate where I am when I get to it. If you’ve had enough by then, pack up and head home, or continue working a little longer to wrap up what you’re doing.
7. Record your achievements
Make sure that you write down what you’ve done, and anything that still needs to be done. Doing this before you leave the library means that you can give your brain some space once you leave, and also means that you’re less likely to waste time trying to figure out where you are starting from next time.
Put your books back, place holds or pick out new ones before you leave too, especially if the book that you want is popular on your course. Also, don’t be that person that sits and holds onto a book all day without taking it out! I’ve been to the library so many times to collect books, only to find that they’re not on the shelf. Just pop over and borrow the books, it’s my pet peeve when people don’t!
Congratulations, you’ve made it! Libraries are quiet, focused places that have really helped me to be productive whilst also being friendly and welcoming. Taking a day in the library can help when deadlines are tight, and it does help to romanticise your studies every now and then.