I don’t know if this is just me, but the beginning of the school year often seems equivalent to New Year’s Day.
“This year, I will do things differently”;
“This year, I will not procrastinate”;
“This year, I will do x and y so that I can get to z”
run through my head.
And the list goes on.
If you are like me, you will write these resolutions down on a piece of paper, hoping to accomplish them. We try our best to follow through for a few weeks . . . until our old habits slowly start to resurface and we begin losing motivation.
And what almost always holds one of the top spots on a student’s (and many other people’s) list of resolutions? Better time management.
Whether you are someone who procrastinates or someone who does the opposite (rush through things, often too many of them, just to check them off), most of us struggle with time management at least at one point during our lives.
To avoid battling with time management — and the various emotions portrayed through a series of GIFs below — I did some research and even took a trip to the Sound and Moving Image Library (SMIL) for a Learning Skills Workshop (LSS). The following tips and overviews are a culmination of my personal experience and research, as well as insights derived from the LSS time-management workshop.
Continue reading this post to avoid the following:
The key to successful time management is understanding just what it means to “manage” your time. In spite of the conceptions people may have, time management is not about scheduling and micromanaging every second of our lives; it’s a tool to help us set goals and create workable plans while achieving a work-life balance. Another important thing to remember: what works for another person may not work for you. If all your friends use agendas and to-do lists for organization purposes and only calendars are effective for you, continue to use those calendars. Time management is meant to be personalized!
STEP 1: Know How You Spend Your Time
The first thing to do when managing your time is to know how you spend your time. Let’s do the math: there are 24 hours in a day; 168 hours in a week; and 2016 hours in a 12-week term. During the LSS time-management workshop, we were each given a sheet in which tabulated where we spent our hours during the week. Take a look below at a representation of an average student’s hourly commitments every week.
Note: This graphic is based on a 15-hour course load and does not account for full-time or part-time work, extracurricular activities or the like.
If we know how we spend the majority of our time, we can use it to our advantage. For example, if you feel you are spending too much time on personal care, you can try to cut that down by 15 minutes each day, which will save you almost two hours per week. And if you manage to multitask and do some of your readings during your commute, it can save you up to 10 hours a week.
STEP 2: Set Priorities
The second step in this process is setting priorities. Managing your time effectively means that you have to differentiate between what is important and what is urgent. You can do this by using Stephen R. Covey’s (you may know him as the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) time-management matrix:
Quadrant 1: Important, urgent: crises & pressing problems (worst-case scenario)
Quadrant 2: Important, not urgent: preventive & proactive approach (best-case scenario)
Quadrant 3: Not important, urgent: any interruptions (emails, messages & calls)
Quadrant 4: Not important, not urgent: time wasters (“pleasant” activities)
The next time you are about to embark on any activity, ask yourself, what quadrant am I satisfying?
Using Covey’s time-management matrix will not only help you distinguish between your priorities but will also help you avoid procrastination. How? By managing time wasters. Procrastination is most closely correlated with quadrant 4 activities — ones that are neither important nor urgent, but ones we enjoy doing. When rewarding yourself for accomplishing work (a technique many people use), it is important to be mindful and strict with yourself. Instead of getting sucked into “black holes” (e.g. watching four hours of Netflix in a row), try enforcing time limits. If you have a problem doing so, consider programs and extensions such as Stay Focusd, a Google Chrome extension meant to increase “productivity by limiting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites.”
STEP 3: Use a Planning Tool
The third step in the process of managing your time effectively is using a planning tool. Although they can be tedious to keep up with, planners of any sort add order and organization to your life. As I learned in the LSS workshop, you can use any of the following planners:
- Planners by day (e.g. to-do lists)
- Planners by week (e.g. agendas)
- Planners by term (e.g. calendars)
Personally, I benefit most from using a combination of both the week and term planners. I use an agenda to map out my weekly activities and a big term calendar (from the YorkU Bookstore) to remind myself of the larger deadlines in my courses.
Tip: Visit the LSS website for some great templates.
Want an Electronic Planner?
Looking for an e-calendar that syncs between your phone and laptop for easy access? Consider using Google Calendar or a built-in calendar in your computer/laptop.
STEP 4: Stay Positive & Healthy
The fourth step is to stay positive and healthy. These two things come together to become the energy you require to accomplish your goals. As I learned in the LSS time-management workshop, time management is meant to reduce stress, not induce it. By using time management, you can create time to relax and rejuvenate both physically and mentally. If at any point you feel that your time-management technique does more harm than good, you should consider switching gears.
On a final note:
If you have any questions about time management, feel free to leave a comment below or tweet @YorkUStudents with the #YUBLOG. If you want to learn more about managing your time + tips to do so, I highly suggest attending an LSS workshop; you will not be disappointed!