Time. It’s a funny concept. We are always saying we don’t have time, yet we have the same amount each day. We also have the same amount as everybody else. So why is it that some people seem to have more of it than others? These same people always seem to get their tasks done and more, and rarely complain about lack of time. What do they have that you don’t? The answer is good time management. It’s not that these people live in some sci-fi world where they are magically given a few extra hours each day, they simply manage the time they have in a useful and effective way. This article will help you make better use of your time, making your learning ad recalling of information far more efficient.
What is Time?
To define time accurately and in detail would require a whole article in itself. To keep things simple, we can look at what we know about time. We know it is constantly passing, never stopping, and that we measure it in seconds, minutes and hours. Days, weeks, months and years are also a measurement of time. We follow time using clocks and calendars, many people keep diaries or their phone to keep track of time, and the appointments and deadlines they need to keep. This can be helpful for time management, but students may not benefit from the same strict calendar-following schedules as working adults.
Why is Time Management an Important Skill for Students?
Sure, textbooks, tutors and teachers are all incredibly useful when it comes to learning, but managing time is a major factor. Students have so much do, so much to learn, not to mention other factors such as social events, family commitments, jobs, and leisure activities. Poor time management can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed, and when you feel overwhelmed it can be hard to get going again. What we want to do most is bury our heads in the sand and wait for the overwhelming feeling to go away. This is of no help whatsoever. In fact, it can lead to more stress and anxiety as you fall further behind. The best, and easiest, thing to do is to not let time get away from you. To not let the amount of tasks you need to do become so large you don’t know where to start. In many cases, poor time management may come across as a lack of knowledge, which can further hinder a student’s learning process – students that appear smarter often get more attention in class, therefore increasing their learning. The good news is that there are few simple ways you can get control of your time.
Tips for Developing Positive Time Management Skills
Like many other valuable skills in life, time management can be learned. You can learn and develop your skills at any stage of your life, meaning if you are a slightly disorganized student who feels like you are always overloaded with work and not enough time to complete it, you are in luck! Start by implementing some of the useful tips and you will be amazed at how much spare time you actually have!
Use ‘to-do’ lists
Rather than being ruled by dates and times, simply write a list of all the tasks you need to complete. If you have a large task, such as revising for a major exam, break it down into smaller, more specific chunks. It is very vague and overwhelming to write ‘study for anatomy test’. Instead break it into smaller sub-topic, such as each system of the human body.
If you are a forgetful person, write down everything on your ‘to-do list’, even if it’s to do the laundry! Organize your list into larger and smaller tasks and prioritize in order of importance. You may find it useful to create some kind of color code to help you (see tip 4 for more details). If you find yourself with an unexpected small amount of time, such as waiting for your dinner to cook in the oven, you can always check your list for any small tasks that can be done. This could even include packing your bag for the next day to make sure you have all your essential items. Working this way will free up more time for the larger, more time-consuming tasks.
Start with the most important tasks first
This may seem like a no-brainier, but too often people spend more time on the little, easier tasks. This is why it is important to prioritize your list. Sometimes the most important task is the most dreaded, but the only way to free yourself of its burden is to get it done! Working this way also eliminates the possibility of last minute cramming which is not only stressful, but also ineffective. Remember, your most important task might not actually take that much time – calling your mom on her birthday is a very important task!
Focus on the task at hand
Multi-tasking may seem like an easy solution to getting everything done, surely doing many things at once is a good use of your time? Don’t let that thought fool you. In fact, by trying to work on many tasks at the same time, you are unlikely to complete any, especially not to the standard they need to be. When completing your ‘to-do list’ choose a task and give it your whole attention and focus. This includes removing distractions such as the television, your phone and quite often music. By fully involving yourself in one task at a time, you are likely to get it done sooner, thus making effective use of your time.
Create organizing systems
This one is a little personalized, and many students will already have various systems in place. Develop whatever systems you can to make your life easier. Some examples include;
- Keeping your emails in check – delete emails you do not need, create folders to store important emails, allocate a set time each day to read and respond to your emails so nothing gets missed.
- Use a filing system – try using various folders or binders with dividers or a drawer with a specifically designed filing insert. Add your study notes, handouts and test papers to their allocated file. This will eliminate a pile of papers on your desk, your bag or your bedroom floor.
- Use a whiteboard or noticeboard – hang one of these in your room and write your ‘to-do list’ on it. Keep your list up to date by changing it daily, preferably in the evening so it is ready for the morning. Try using colored pens and sticky notes to help you. This system is a visual aid for all the tasks that you need to complete.
The more organized you are, the more time you can spend on the important tasks. If you know where all your notes are, your allocated one hour of study can be entirely devoted to revision, not finding your notes and study material!
Look for hidden time
Most of your tasks should be given allocated time into order to ensure that they are completed to the highest standard possible. However, some small tasks can be done on your daily bus ride, whilst waiting for the doctor or even whilst watching television. Sending quick emails to friends or family, listening to insightful podcasts (or your recorded notes), and reading your notes can all be done in this hidden time.
Cutting out on sleep, most often by staying up late to complete assignments and to revise, may seem like one of the easiest ways to ‘add time’ to your day. Whilst this is good in theory, the reality is that a lack of sleep can decrease brain function. Any work completed when you are tired is likely to be of poor quality and information you are trying to ingest whilst studying is unlikely to stick in your memory. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night in order for your body and mind to function at an optimum level. Try to keep your bedtime and wake-up time relatively the same to help create routine. When you follow many of the other tips suggested here, you will find that you won’t have the need for late night cramming as your tasks will be completed at reasonable hours of the day, with deadlines taken into consideration.
Time Management – Conclusion
You can only gain so much learning from classes, lectures, study groups and text books. Being able to use your time effectively will ensure you get the most out of your resources. There is no ‘one size fits all’ time management system, but I have highlighted plenty of tips you can use to create your own, effective system. Be aware that it may take some time to figure out what works best for you, but you will benefit in the long run. Go out and make the most of the 24 hours you are given each day!
Modified: August 23rd, 2017
Published: August 17th, 2009