Many students discover the need to develop or refine their time management skills when they start professional studies, College or University. Unlike school, where teachers frequently structure our assignments and classes to fill our day, there will be less time in class and more work to do outside of class giving us a great deal of freedom and flexibility. These pages will provide tips for managing time well.
Barriers to Effective Time Management
We may find it difficult to identify our own particular barriers to effective time management, or perhaps there are too many to mention! Look at the following barriers, tick the boxes that apply to you and consider the possible solution.
Now consider the following time management tools:
- Abolish waiting time. If we ever find ourselves waiting for a bus, an appointment etc. don’t think of it as a waste of time but think of it as a gift of time. Use it constructively. We could use it to relax, to weigh up a decision, to review our daily tasks etc.
- Make a daily check-list and prioritise our tasks
- Make deadlines and write them in our diary
- Combine activities –for instance, discussing a project with a colleague over lunch
- Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. If something is worth keeping its worth knowing where it is when we need it.
- Make a filing system.
- Always keep a notebook. Don’t lose an idea because we had nowhere to record it. Think on paper.
- Constantly ask yourself “Is this the best use of our time right now?”
Weekly Activity Schedule
Use a simple weekly planner to manage and protect our planned activities. We’ll manage our time by managing our activities – that means protecting the time slots we plan for our tasks. Time management is mainly dependent on planning activities into time slots and then protecting the activities from interruptions, whether from other people or our own distractions.
Try to plan and defend time-slots for everything that we do. Make lists and work to them. We must also plan time slots for unplanned activities- we may not know exactly what we’ll need to do, but if we plan the time to do it, then important things will not get pushed out of the way when the demand arises.
Use the test: is this urgent or important? Something may be terribly important, but may not need doing now. Get the genuinely urgent tasks out of the way first, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the bigger tasks that we can do later.
Managing yourself isn’t easy. But follow these tips to help us achieve our goals…..
1. Use a diary
Procrastination paralyses many people. Getting started is the hardest part of many tasks. We need to understand that there are no easy fixes for this – we just have to exercise some real will power and get on with it. But we can help ourselves by scheduling a task in our diary, and sticking to it as we would an appointment with someone else.
2. Sort out our time
Keeping a diary sounds easy, but using it properly is harder. This means not just writing down records of meetings and appointments, but also notes that remind us to block out time for ourselves and time for tasks. We can also record deadlines, a list of phone calls to make and correspondence to send. This ensures that our diary is a powerful tool for prioritising each day and getting things done. Then all we have to do is stick to it.
3. List your life
Our to do list is our best friend. Whether we use an electronic organiser, a Filofax or just a notebook, list everything we need to get done. If these tasks involve phone calls, write down the numbers. Then develop a system for prioritizing these tasks and take this list with you everywhere you go. This means that idle time need never be wasted because we can spend it doing odd jobs, such as making calls.
4. Organise our filing
If we can’t find what we need more or less instantly, it’s too well-hidden. Organise papers, files and so on so that we know where everything is. It doesn’t have to look neat or follow a recognised system. The essential test is that if we had to give someone instructions to find something over the phone, would we be able to tell them exactly where it is?
5. Be ruthless
Wouldn’t our lives be simpler without people? Just think what we could get done. People interrupt, change deadlines and take up our time, so we need to handle them effectively, or they will steal our time in a multitude of ways. Be ruthless, but nice. We need to tell them that we’re too busy. Tell them we can’t. Tell them we’ll get back to them. Say ‘no’ to them, nicely.
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