They say we have 24 hours a day each to achieve what we want.
On paper, yes. But what about the time that goes into commuting, and school hours? And then there are projects, assignments, rest, etc. After accounting for all this time, what remains is usually dedicated to self-study and hobbies.
Suffice it to say that student life is hectic.
While there are plenty of time management techniques to choose from, it is crucial to pick one that is realistic and right for you.
To help you understand time management better, and cultivate the skill, we have put together some pointers.
Start With a Time Budget
Budgeting your hours is time management 101. The goal is to use your time wisely and live a balanced life while also being ambitious. To do this, you must bring together your time and your priorities.
How can you achieve this? By using the principles of time management to get things done. However, it’s important to note that you will sometimes fall short of your expectations. And that’s okay.
While making your time budget, ensure that you have realistic expectations of yourself and what you can get done in the limited time you have. This budget then becomes a guide to your daily decisions. The idea here is to translate your time budget into sizeable chunks of weekly and daily plans.
But do we really need a time budget? Yes! Because we tend to believe that we’re in a time deficit and are often unable to find time to do important tasks or even activities we love. And, because we tend to underestimate the amount of time we spend on distractions.
Therefore, we must do a time audit to identify our wasted hours and make use of them for worthwhile tasks such as quick revision or rest.
Conduct a Time Audit
A time audit is simply asking yourself a set of questions to determine how and where you spend your time. The idea is to obtain an understanding of areas you can improve to optimise your hours better. Here are 6 questions to get you started:
- How many hours do I spend learning?
- How much time do I spend on distracting activities? Hint: Mindless scrolling
- What do I do during my free time – after school and studies?
- How much time do I spend on activities that bring me closer to my goals?
- How many of my hours are located for my well-being-related activities?
- What are some of the activities I want to get done?
The next step is to separate your actual priorities from the ones you’ve stated in question 6. You’ll always have a long list of activities you’d want to do. If you make everything a priority then nothing is a priority. And you’re overwhelmed and unfocused. To solve for this limit yourself to 3 priorities at any given time. Make sure that one of your priorities falls into the well-being/hobby category to avoid burnout.
To prioritise, you might want to figure out your most important goals and the most impactful actions which will help you achieve them. Your goals can be simple like scoring above 85% in board exams. To do this you need to be thorough in concepts. Therefore, your impactful action would be to self-study every day for a few hours.
To prioritise also means to de-prioritise. Learn to let go of a few tasks to get the most important ones done. Go back to your time audit and look for activities that don’t fit in with your current list of priorities. This could mean skipping a volunteer commitment to make time for your hobby. Or, reducing movie time to prepare for an upcoming test.
Pro Tip: Parkinson’s Law states that the amount of work expands to fit the amount of time you give it. Therefore, while doing a task try to avoid the temptation of perfectionism and instead focus on speed and accuracy. You will find that you have completed a task on time.
Plan Your Weeks and Days
To be able to prioritise well, you’ll need to plan well. The secret to planning is creating more time in your day. No, you won’t have to add the 25th hour to your day. All you have to do is optimise your time. Here’s how:
Make Plans: You can always plan your days and weeks according to your intentions. Begin your days with intentions. This will help you achieve what you’ve set out to do more efficiently. While planning your time keep these points in mind:
- Daily planning should take you 20 minutes and weekly planning 60 minutes
- Have buffer time to incorporate unexpected activities
- Be flexible and open to moving things around, if required
Plans don’t have to be perfect or rigid. They are meant to guide you and help you make the most of your time. You can always implement weekly reviews, where you look back at your week and ask yourself questions to plan better for the upcoming weeks. The questions can be along the lines of:
- What is it that I couldn’t accomplish this week?
- What prevented me from prioritising my activities?
- How can I fix these areas?
Focus Work: In your time audit, you may have found that an activity that could have been completed in 2 hours took you 4 hours. The main reason is that you kept checking your phone every 20 minutes. You can avoid this distraction by keeping your phone away during the activities.
- Have an ideal study space or working environment to help you stay focused
- Use site blockers or focus mode to reduce distractions
- Try single-tasking wherever possible, this saves a lot of time
Besides these techniques, you can try techniques such as Pomodoro, time blocking, etc., to get things done.
Try Time Blocking & Task Bundling
Time blocking is one of the easiest ways to optimise your time and get things done. All you need is a piece of paper to write down your to-do list.
Next, create time blocks starting from the first activity in the morning. Add your tasks in one column and in the next one, add time blocks dedicated to the task.
They can range from 15 minutes to 2 hours.
Eg: 7:00 AM – 7:30 PM – Dinner and 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM – Reading before bed. Remember to slot some buffer time for tasks that may take longer than anticipated.
You can also explore task bundling. It’s not like multitasking. It helps create more time in your day by blending complementary activities. For example: listening to a science podcast while commuting to school can be super productive and helpful. Or, you can help your parents out with grocery shopping while also walking to the store. This will help take care of your well-being and allow you to help out at home.
Use Time Management Tools to Your Advantage
Simple tools like to-do list apps, calendars, and timers can help you manage your time in an efficient way. Some to-do list apps come with a focus work timer to help you finish your tasks without distractions. Most of these apps are free. Digital calendars are an effective way to practice time blocking. While the timers help in keeping track of your time and aid in focussed work.
Time management is no rocket science. It’s a useful skill that can be cultivated with some effort. The rewards of time management are many and one of them is a better quality of life. We hope that the above ideas will help you plan your days better and get closer to your goals.