Time management is a large part of my life, especially because I play two sports at a time for most of the school year. Most nights during the winter and spring, I don’t get home until after 9:30. My busy lifestyle is something that has caused me to come up with effective techniques to manage my assignments. The purpose of this blog post is not to try to convince you to use my techniques, or say that they are the best ones. I personally can’t stand it when other people try to tell me how to manage my time, and believe strongly that each person has to come up with something that works well for him or her. Instead, with this post I am attempting to provide an overall picture of what I believe are strong underlying principles of creating a productive time management strategy.
After talking about the partnering style of teaching in the beginning of the year, I noticed that this class was going to require good time management. The partnering style of teaching requires the student to take initiative to complete their projects on time, and to the best of their ability. The teacher takes a more laid back approach than in more traditional classroom setting. Students are given projects with long term due dates, and are not heckled by their teachers daily about the status of their project. I see three main elements that are vital in having successful time management techniques: motivation, organization, and efficiency.
The first element, and possibly the most important, is motivation. Motivation is required for success in all areas; without motivation, nothing is completed. One technique that I find useful is to create some sort of external motivation to help you get the task done sooner. For example, allowing yourself to do something desirable after completing a certain part of a task: taking a break, eating some food, playing sports, or watching TV. The more essential type of motivation, however, is internal. No matter if there is the physical reward for completing the task, you still find some desire inside of you that gets you to get the job done. In order to complete everything that needs to be done, you will need motivation to start it and to finish it. Just motivation alone will get the job done, but it is not the only important element of time management.
Also crucial in effective time management is organization. Organization spans a broad range of areas, the most important being the organization of materials, and the organization of assignments or tasks. Luckily, the ways in which one can organize his/herself are practically endless. Just a few of the organization tools for materials or school work are binders, notebooks, Evernote, Google Docs, folders on laptops, etc. Keeping materials organized makes it easier to complete tasks quickly. One tool that I would propose as very useful for managing tasks and assignments is Google Calendars. Google Calendars is perfect for school assignments because it allows you to sync your calendar with all of the calendars that teachers create for their classes. It compiles all of your assignments and their due dates on one page, and gives you the option to customize colors for each different calendar. The image below shows my google calendar with a week’s worth of assignments on it.
Google Calendars can also be programmed to send you email reminders about tasks or events.
Another great way to organize tasks is to create to do lists. To do lists can be made using Google Calendars, stickies, pen and paper, iPhone Apps, emailing yourself, or whatever way is the most effective for you. To do lists are great because they give you a clear picture of what you have to do, and allow to visually see when you have completed the task by crossing it out. Below is an example of a to do list that I found from google images. Linked here: To Do List
Staying organized ensures that all tasks get completed, and keeping all of the tasks in one place saves time by not having to go search different places to find out what the tasks are that you must do. Once you are motivated to complete the tasks, and have found a way to keep all of the tasks organized, the next step is to complete the tasks as efficiently as possible.
In order to spend less time doing more, one must have means of being efficient with his/her time. Each person has a different environment where they work most efficiently, so it is crucial to know yourself and where you personally work best. Some things that are important to know are what time you are most productive, where you are most productive, and what distracts you from being productive. For example, if you know that you can’t write well after 10:00pm, you should probably schedule to do your writing assignment earlier in the evening. Likewise, if you know you can’t do math when people are talking, you probably shouldn’t waste your time trying to do math homework in a room talking to a bunch of friends. It seems obvious, but yet if you can plan ahead and schedule to do certain tasks at the best times and in the optimal environment, you will save yourself time and produce higher quality work. Consciously choosing and scheduling in times for each task can be key in time management. One method that I have heard of that is used to complete tasks is to do the hardest one first, and then work down to the easier one. Another method is to mix it up so that the easier tasks are in the middle so that it gives you a break. A tactic that I use when approaching my homework is to always do the subjects in the same order. This technique works for me because I don’t have to waste time deciding what to do next, but for others it may sound like a terrible idea. Because people are so different from one another, I urge you to find out which approach works best for you.
I hope to have made clear to you what I believe are three significant elements to focus on if you want to improve your time management skills. Focusing on these components will save you time, and help you to complete large numbers of tasks more efficiently. However, time management is more complicated than just the three ingredients mentioned above. Being the best time manager that you can be requires reflection and analysis on how you work best. It requires experimenting to find out which techniques work best for you. The specific approaches that I use may not be what are best for you, or they may not be. But I believe that the main ideas proposed about motivation, organization, and efficiency are essential parts of time management that apply to everyone.