As much as we wish time was infinite, it is a finite resource. Whether you are Beyoncè, the President of the United States or a parent going back to school, you only have 24 hours in your day. Staying focused, working efficiently and being productive can allow you to enjoy your free time more by feeling relaxed and less anxious. Here are some time management tips that will help you make better decisions and get the most out of your time.
1. Establish your values and priorities.
The first step in establishing healthy and fulfilling time management practices is to know your personal values and prioritizing the activities in your life that adhere to these values. Take some time to sit down and really think this through. Identifying the top values in your life will be important to build into your schedule.
2. Use a planner.
You may have a paper planner or a digital one, but it is important that you have one – don’t waste time trying to remember everything. In this one place, write (or type) everything you need to keep record of. Any activity that is important to your success, professionally and personally, should have a date assigned to it.
3. Evaluate when you do your best work and prioritize.
Reflect on what time of day you seem to be the most productive. This is a personal preference and may be different for everyone, but make sure you know what is right for you. Then you should prioritize the tasks you have on your plate. Think about which ones are absolutely necessary and which ones need to take precedence. Night owl or early bird—whichever one you are—that is when you should schedule your highest priority tasks.
4. Stick to your schedule.
When you plan out your week it is hard to know exactly how everything is going to go. Certain external factors can mess up even the best-laid plans. But if you have something on your schedule, even if you have to adjust the specifics (i.e. shorten your work out), you should still attempt to complete things you found important enough to place in your schedule. Build the habit, even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned.
5. Build in time for surprises.
Murphy’s Law: Whatever can happen, will happen. This is a good way to think about leaving extra time in your schedule for anything life may throw your way. Basically, plan some time where you don’t have something planned.
6. Plan ahead for big assignments.
This is as easy as knowing your deadlines and having them clearly marked on your calendar. We recommend working backwards from there and setting mini-deadlines along the way. Maybe you are someone who works best under pressure (that’s okay), just consider things that cannot possibly be done last minute and get those taken care of ahead of time.
7. Don’t multi-task
Don’t fall into the cycle of multitasking and thinking that works. It really doesn’t. Research shows that multi-tasking can actually cause you to take longer to complete what you are working on and retain less of what you have done. It’s a good practice to effectively eliminate all distractions during scheduled productivity time. You will get so much more done and it will produce better quality work.
8. Realistically estimate how long something will take.
When you are planning your tasks and activities, be realistic. Give yourself plenty of time to complete projects to the best of your ability. Don’t overcrowd your schedule with unrealistic expectations.
9. Learn to say no.
There is nothing wrong with giving your time generously to things you are passionate about. It’s also ok to say no every once in a while! Make sure that you are intentional about the items that fill up your schedule. Remember, you have 24 hours in a day, no more and no less – make them count.
Yes, we said there are 24 hours in the day, but that doesn’t mean that you can be productive for all of them. Sleep is so important to keeping yourself stress free and at the top of your game.
You may use these tips now as a student to balance work, school and your family, but we think these are habits that could help you for the rest of your life and career. If you start implementing these time management practices, you can lower your stress level and be more productive. At South College we want to work with you to develop organization and leadership skills to help you succeed! If you are interested in going back to school, learn more today!