October 27, 2020
“Ordinary people think merely of spending time; great people think of using it.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
Time is a precious and limited resource – once it is gone, there is no way to get it back. Even though we all have 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds in one day, time marches on and it is up to us to use it wisely. Simply put, time management is a way to balance our hours of rest, work, and leisure. Whether we realize it or not, we are always making time management decisions. Every day, we decide when to sleep in, go to class, study, go to the library, go to the gym or chat online. And these decisions play a role in our personal time management strategies.
So, the next logical question we might ask ourselves is: how can I work intentionally, productively, and effectively?
Here are a few tips to help us with time management:
• Create a time audit. Find out what activity is eating up the most time in a week. You may believe that you only spend 30 minutes a day on your phone or checking emails, but it could be closer to one or two hours! There are several apps you can download that will track and report all your time-stealing activities. Based on this information you can adjust your schedule accordingly.
• Plan ahead and prioritize. A famous quote, mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain, stated that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you. The point being made is that you should take care of your biggest and most-challenging tasks first. This is where having a plan comes in handy. Whether you prefer planning the night before or first thing in the morning, your routine should involve writing a list of the most urgent matters and addressing them immediately.
• Use an online calendar. Calendars have always been a lifesaving tool for time management. However, online calendars have taken this to the next level because you can access them from multiple devices, easily schedule meetings and appointments, set up reminders, create time blocks, and schedule recurring events.
• Set a time limit / deadline for each task. Having a deadline prevents you from distraction or becoming a “pro” at procrastination. First, decide on a timeframe and then determine what amount of work will fit into that timeframe. If you’ve determined that a project will take two months, you can now break it down into one-month units, then one-week units and so on.
• Learn to say “No”. It’s never our intention to deliberately upset anyone. But you can only handle so much. If you already have a full plate, then you might have to decline that after-school party, resist signing up for too many school groups or extra-curricular projects until you have more time. The trick is to say “no” firmly but amicably in order to achieve your goals.
• Delegate tasks. The famous quote by John Donne simply states; “No man is an island”. This means that you cannot always manage everything on your own. You save time, reduce stress, and accomplish a lot more when you assign tasks to the right people. Try to relinquish your death grip on the driver’s wheel and delegate authority with responsibility to qualified people.
• Take breaks. Unless you are Superman, you can’t sustain working long hours on end without burning out and sacrificing on quality. Ideally, a short five-minute break for every hour or two of work, helps you reset your brain in order to think more creatively. A break means stepping away – either mentally or physically – from your emails, computer, social media and go for a walk, get a snack, or just sit and meditate.
• Follow the 80-20 rule. The “Pareto” principle states that 80% of the effects (results) come from 20% of the causes (actions). This is commonly used in sales as 80% of sales typically come from 20% of the customers. The same can be said for time management. Start by looking at your schedule or to-do-list every day. For the sake of simplicity try to get down five tasks you need to accomplish. Using the principle, you can probably eliminate most of the items on your list. It may feel unnatural at first but over time this will condition you to scale up effort on the most important tasks.
• Stop being perfect. Being a perfectionist means that nothing is ever good enough and yet it is a known fact that productivity decreases if you go over the same task multiple times. Perfection does not exist, so unless you are a surgeon or work for NASA, just do your best and move on.
Better time management can lead to improved concentration, better overall organization, higher grades and, most importantly, it will reduce your level of stress. By organizing your time more effectively, you will find the right balance between your leisure, rest, and study time. On top of that, you will feel happier.