Developing Great Time Management Skills

Refining Your Time Management Skills Before College

If you have ever felt like there are simply not enough hours in the day, you are not alone.  While the root cause of this feeling will vary from person to person, it is vital to understand what drives this emotional tide for you.

Understanding Time Management

Let it be said, that time management is not about accomplishing everything but rather taking care of the things that are important to you.  In other words, working faster and doing more is not the goal of time management.  A person that has mastered the find art of time management stays focused on critical tasks while constantly (re)prioritizing as time passes.

Think of time management as a means to achieve a better quality of life by keeping important things in focus through a fog of activity and distraction.  By keeping a healthy perspective on your priorities will help you to manage stress and anxiety while leaving margins in your life for other things of your choosing.

In a broad-based study by Key Organization, there are a number of risks to poor time management as well as a bevy of positives.  Some of the most notable benefits from prudent time management include: productivity enhancements, emotional stability, better sleep patterns, increased satisfaction, improved relationships, less frustration, and better overall health.

Top 10 Strategies to Improve Your Time Management Skills

There are a number of strategies that can be employed to improve your time management skills.  You will need to perform an honest, objective assessment of your time in order to arrive at an optimal solution for you.  Below are a few suggestions we have gathered from practitioners, students, professors, and working professionals around the globe to use as a guide.

1. How do you spend your day?

In order to understand how to better prioritize your time, look at how you currently allocate your time.  For a visual representation of how you spend your time, visit Study Guides & Strategies exercise here.   Once you have an understanding of how your days are spent, you can begin to adjust and fine-tune your schedule.  Write down your findings and take notes during this next section.

2. Chunk Your Day

In other words, create chunks or blocks of time to perform certain activities.  Chunks of the day will be dedicated to studying while chunks of your day will be set aside for breaks.  The duration of the chunks will be determined by you and your span of effective attention.  In other words, if you notice attenuation to your studies at 65 minutes of time then you will want to chunk studying around an hour followed by a designed time for a break.  A break should be created will the express purpose of returning to the task at hand renewed and recharged.

3. Prioritize

As a student, the natural tendency for most of us will be to tackle the easiest assignments first and leave the most challenging for last.  In most cases, we have found it important to reverse course on this notion and begin with the most challenging assignments first.  For most students, you will perform best when your mind is most acute and receptive to new information.  Creating a good habit of tackling challenging obstacles first is also a great life skill that will yield significant dividends later in life.

4. Confine Work

In other words, you will be best served to dedicate time and space for studying.  Having a distracted mind will reduce the efficacy of studying and be less effective than a clutter-free work space.  Set yourself up for success by creating a distraction free space to study and accomplish important tasks.  The fewer distractions the greater likelihood of your time being efficiently spent on the task at hand.

5. Review

Take the time in your busy schedule to perform a review or audit of your previous week as well as the week to come.  A review should be done with consistency the same time each week to help your mind create a predictable habit and keep you accountable.  Many find it easiest to perform this activity on a Sunday night to help wind-down from the week, review important notes, and get prepared for the upcoming week.

Getting in the habit of near-term reviews will also help you improve performance in class.  More specifically, taking the time to review your notes before class will help train your brain to recall important facets of the class and improve retention.  At the end of class, take a few moments to review your notes yet again.

Many professional psychologists have opined the greatest opportunity to retain new information is found within the first 24 hours.  Reviewing new material soon after a lesson is taught will help with retention and set you up for success heading in to the following class.

6. Managing Resources

If you are stuck on a topic or need help with a particular assignment, knowing who can help will improve your time management instead of flailing for endless hours.  Whether the best option is your professor, a teacher’s assistant, tutor, friend, or classmate it is important to your success in school and in life to determine the best resource available.

7. Step One

In some cases, the best thing to do is to simply start.  Creating a roadmap for a big assignment will help paint a broad-based picture of the end result but may not be as important as getting the wheels turning.  In other words, taking that first step to figure things out and push an assignment forward will create an inertia you can build upon as you move from milestone to milestone. Taking that first step can be intimidating and may a substantive amount of courage yet will be a necessary part of your personal growth.

8. Understanding Important versus Critical Activities

You will have a number of things pop up while at school that are important to address.  You will also have a number critical things to be completed prior to moving to the next phase of your development.  Take the time to really understand the difference between an important activity and a critical activity will help you keep your priorities straight.

A real world example may be declining an invitation to the movies with your friends the night before a big exam.  If you are not fully prepared for the test, it will be critical to be prepared to the best of your ability instead of attending an important movie premier.  Your priorities will help you drive many decisions between critical and important to help make decisions easier to process.

9. Margins

Take the time to understand how you manage your free time.  What works best for you and how do you feel at the end of this free time.  How do you replicate that feeling while in college?  For some people, margins are created by listening to music or by exercising while others prefer reading a book or writing poetry.  Either way, understand how to optimize your downtime and build that chunk of time into your everyday routines.

10. Build Lists

Writing down your goals will have a powerful effect on your overall success in college and in life.  Your lists should include three different terms: immediate, short-term, and long-term.  Your immediate goals will include things to take care of today and in the coming days, while a short-term list will be a bit more broad covering a month’s time or perhaps semester.

A long-term goal will be an overarching set of goals you will accomplish further out in the future.  In reverse order, long-term goals are updated or changed with less frequency than more near-term goals and daily goals & to-do lists will be updated by the minute to help satisfy the ebb and flow of the day.

Having your goals written and visible will help drive important decisions (critical versus important), keep you energized, better manage stress, and help you focus on a trajectory of growth.  Perspective is good and healthy.  Maintaining a set of goals will help you keep perspective, stay organized, and better manage your time.

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