If you’re reading this it’s quite likely that time management is not your strong suit. You probably feel over-worked, over-tired and over it all!
But there is always light at the end of the tunnel. By identifying and using some simple time management tools that will improve your ability to manage your time effectively, you can quickly start freeing up more free time than you realized was possible.
Tip number one – create and use to-do lists. It might sound obvious, but the first step in getting things done is actually creating a list of the things you want done! How often do you try to avoid writing lists and instead just try to remember the stuff you have to get done off the top of your head? Some people are perennial list makers. But some people never make them at all. If you want to use your time wisely you need to use lists. Period. Use numbers or letters to distinguish between your top priorities and your low priorities (for e.g. 1-10 or A-J) and make sure you are very specific in each to-do item (vague to-do items only lead to more procrastination and more time management challenges!) Need more help? You can get a free time management tool to help with your to-do lists here: www.rememberthemilk.com
Tip number two – actually prioritize your tasks. Going to back to tip one, you should understand which tasks always come first and which tasks can always be put off. Think of them in terms of air, water and food. You can last seconds without air, days without water and weeks without food. So how quickly will you die if you don’t do the task? That should help you clear up the priority level of the task…and also creep you out a bit.
Tip number three – set your study goals. What are you trying to achieve anyway? Do you even know what your goals are? And if you don’t know what you want how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Seriously, how will you know? Will you just get a vibe or something? When creating a goal you must be specific, measurable, achievable and time-based – otherwise it’s not a goal, it’s just an idea. For example, “I will have a B average in Maths by the end of First Semester” is a lot better than “I will improve in Maths”. When you know what you want you can easily identify those things that are going to help you get there – and those things that are a total waste of your time (i.e. pretty much everything!)
Tip number four – eliminate all distractions! If you wanted to, you could be in a constant state of distraction. The world is full of things and people trying to interrupt you. The real challenge is blocking all that out and focusing on what matters. Distractions can truly account for hours of your time each and every day. That’s hundreds if not thousands of hours every year. Instead, you need to focus purely on what you want and then make a beeline for it. Turn off all distractions and get to work. Once it’s done you can switch all your distractions back on and prepare to waste some serious time! Woo!
Tip number five – overcome any tendency to procrastinate. We all do it. Something is due but we can’t be bothered so we do nothing. Life’s hard. We get it. Everything is hard. We get that too. But if you don’t do the work it will catch up with you. Something brown and stinky will hit the fan. So just do it! Get off your butt and get to work. But don’t worry about completing the whole thing. If you have to write a paper just write one paragraph – or even one sentence. If you have to complete a worksheet of Maths homework just do the first question. Instead of getting overwhelmed and anxious about having to complete the whole task just make sure that you first get started. It’s easier to keep going once you actually start.
Tip number six – lower your expectations. We all want to shoot for the stars – but don’t put unreasonable pressure on yourself for no good reason. If you’re taking too much on and your expectations are way too high (for example, if you believe that nothing less than an A+ average for all your subjects is the only acceptable standard) then as soon as you slip under that extremely high standard a major meltdown will occur. So be committed to your ambition but not attached to every single outcome.
Tip number seven – do what counts. A major trap we all fall into is trying to do everything that’s assigned. But that’s actually a waste of your time. You should do only what you know counts towards your final grades. If a paper is worth 50% then spend lots and lots of time on it. If your homework is not worth grades but must be handed in – then make sure you hand it in – but don’t spend as much time on it as anything that counts towards your final grade. Find out what counts the most and give that the most time. Worrying about everything will only drive you nuts!
Tip number eight – focus on one thing at a time. When you focus on multiple things at once there is a strong tendency to start all tasks but get nothing completed. Not only that, but your work also tends to be of a lesser quality because you are not focusing. That is a poor use of time. Just complete the tasks one after the other in a sequence and you’ll find that things get completed quicker and with more awesomeness.
Tip number nine – take regular breaks. It seems to make sense that if you work for 5 hours straight you will get 5 hours of work done. But the problem is that after an hour or so your brain will have turned to mush and a quick freshen up is required. So after 5 hours of non-stop study you will probably be in a catatonic state where you thinking running around your house peeing on “your territory” sounds like a good idea. Instead of that, a ten minute break every hour will really help your batteries to recharge and your mind to rejuvenate itself. Go for a walk, have a chat to someone, listen to some music or grab a cup of java, but whatever you do, stay away from the cat bowl!
Tip number ten – schedule your work for when you are in your study Zen state. We all have different time clocks inside us that dictate when we have the most energy. Yours may be in the morning or it may be late at night. Whatever it is, schedule your work around this time. There is no point trying to push a horse up a hill – so just study at the times you feel super switched on and you will find it far easier to get the work done.