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Time management is a set of skills involved in managing your time around planning for the future, setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and monitoring where your time actually goes.
NOTE: This is a skill, not an innate ability, which means it is learned and developed.
As a new school year approaches, so does the stressful task of juggling work, classes, homework and social calendar. It’s not uncommon for College Plus students to ask for tips to help them manage their time. As requested, we compiled some of our favorite tips around time management to help students meet every deadline without the stress.
1. Document how you are spending your time.
To become better at time management, you must first be aware of your habits. Take a week or two to observe and document everything you do and how much time you spend doing it. Afterwards, see what conclusions you can draw from it. Where are you wasting time? What can you cut out?
2. Be realistic about how long a task takes to complete.
One of the most common mistakes people make is underestimating how long it takes to complete an assignment or task. The next time you start one, set a timer. Then, plan accordingly when managing your schedule going forward.
3. Review your schedule before starting your day.
Before jumping into your day, spend a few minutes reviewing what’s ahead. By having a clear picture in mind of your appointments, along with your ‘to-do’ list, you can generate a plan for tackling the day.
4. Before each task, determine the goal you want to achieve.
It’s important to determine what you want to get out of a task before starting it. For instance, if you are meeting with an academic advisor, you might want to leave with a clear idea of which classes you will take that semester. In order to do this, you’ll need to draft key questions for the advisor to ensure you reach that goal. Before and after a task, spend about 5 minutes assessing your goal and if you achieved it.
5. Make room for short breaks.
Research shows that taking short breaks actually makes you more productive! The Pomodoro Method2 encourages you to dedicate a 25 minute period towards focused work, followed by a 5-minute break, then another 25 minutes, then a break, etc., until the task is completed. Of course, you’ll need to understand how long the task takes before getting started (see tip #2!).
6. Know your ‘floating tasks’.
Floating tasks are those that can be completed anytime, anywhere, such as reading an article, reviewing notes, or responding to emails. If you know you’ll be riding the bus for 20 minutes or waiting at your doctor’s office, bring the things you’ll need to complete the floating tasks in order to maximize your time.
7. Spend some time thinking.
Thinking time is productive time, believe it or not, because you need to determine the best strategy for completing a task. For instance, before you can write that paper, you’ll need to draft an outline of your key points and counter arguments. With this focused direction, you can write your paper more quickly and easily. If you take the time to organize your thoughts, you can formulate a plan to best accomplish a task.
8. Put up the Do-Not-Disturb for critical tasks.
When it comes to crunch time on a deadline, put up a metaphorical ‘do-not-disturb’ sign. This means letting your family and friends know that you will be unavailable for a certain period of time. It also means ignoring all other distractions, such as social media, text messages, phone calls, and TV. Then, you can channel all of your energy into the task at hand.
9. Find a time tracking tool that works for you.
This might take some trial and error, but it’s critical that you find a tool that works for you. Some people like a physical planner that they carry with them at all times. Others use a calendar on their smartphone. I personally use the Google calendar app, which allows me to color code different activities, such as green for work appointments and blue for personal appointments.
Time Blocking is a popular method, which requires you to block off specific times for most common tasks and standing appointments. It also includes blocking time off for those ‘do-not-disturb’ tasks.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice
Keep trying new strategies until you find one that works for you and stick with it!
So there you have it – our favorite time management tips. If you have a method or strategy not listed above, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Roman Bozhko via Unsplash
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