Improve Your Efficiency
The key to time management is efficiency. You can become more efficient by:
- Doing the job more quickly.
- Making better use of time you usually waste.
If you think you don't make good use of your time, then time management skills are where you need to start! Follow these four steps to develop good time management skills.
#1 » Become Aware of How You Spend Your Time
Often the first step in beginning to manage your time more effectively is to realize how much time you are spending in which activity. Perhaps the simplest way to get started is to just track how you spend your time.
Keep a time log.
From the time you wake up until you go to bed, jot down all your major activities and how much time you spent doing each. It may surprise you to see how much free time slips away from you. This will help you see when you can better utilize your time. Once you know how you spend your time, the next step is to free up time that you don't use productively.
Eliminate common time-wasting habits.
Never hit the snooze button on your alarm clock. Set the alarm for the time you want to wake up and obey it. Take breaks while studying, but remember to keep them short. Learning in short blocks with space in between is more effective. A good general rule to follow is 10 minute breaks for every hour you study. You can also break this down into 5-minute breaks for every half-hour of studying, if you can't maintain attention for an entire hour. Keep a "worry pad" near by—this is a small pad you can use to jot down stray thoughts or concerns. It is a way to deal with them temporarily so that they won't constantly resurface as you're trying to concentrate.
Use small blocks of time effectively.
Carry note cards with you and whip them out whenever you find yourself with 5 or 10 spare minutes.
Review mentally in the few minutes before and after class—in order to highlight the main points of the previous lecture or anticipate what might be coming next.
#2 » Use a Planner
Contrary to popular belief a planner is not constricting. In fact with a good schedule in hand you will probably feel more organized and self-assured. After planning becomes a habit, you won't miss commitments and you will find yourself with more time than before.
Use different types of planners.
A master schedule blocks our fixed activities and time commitments. Remember to include:
- Classes and labs
- Regular study groups
- Work or work study
- Club meetings
- Athletic practices and games
- Volunteer service commitments
- Meals and sleep
After you've filled in all your regular commitments the blank boxes indicate free time. Keep a copy of your master schedule with you or post it in a clearly visible place, this guides the way in which you schedule daily.
Download a blank Master Schedule.
A semester academic schedule shows every day of the semester, preferably on one large sheet. As soon as you receive your syllabi, mark all exams, quizzes and major assignment due dates. This allows you to pinpoint especially busy times when several tasks or assignments are due at once and plan accordingly. Keep this posted in a visible place at all times.
A weekly schedule is a duplicate of your master schedule, with changing details marked in. Photocopy your master schedule for the number of weeks in your semester. Each week add commitments that might vary such as extra time needed for a research paper due next week.
Download a blank Weekly Schedule.
#3 » Be Realistic and Practical When Scheduling
- Schedule yourself a certain amount of time and stick to it. Strike a balance — allow enough time to challenge yourself (you'll probably finish faster than you thought) but be realistic.
- Use reinforcement to ensure that you stick to your schedule. Reward yourself for successfully completing a study goal. Some to try:
- Checking your Email
- Lunch or dinner
- Calling a friend for a quick (10-minute) chat
- Use the daylight hours as much as you can—studying in the morning is much more effective than at night.
- Do what you don't like first—use subjects you enjoy as rewards for getting through the ones you don't like so well.
- Set specific goals and challenge yourself.
Download a Goal Achievement Worksheet.
#4 » Prioritize
Create a to-do list and mark items according to priority—low, medium, or high.
- Include at least one item which you know you'll do early (eating breakfast) because the satisfaction of crossing it off will help motivate you.
- Move undone items to the next day's list.