Each of us has exactly 86,400 seconds to spend every day. How we make the most of those seconds is up to us.
Did you do anything yesterday that was not necessary?
Maybe you started a discussion post during your lunch hour and got side-tracked by a co-worker with a “quick” question.
Or you got sucked into Angry Birds while you were in the pick-up line at your son’s school when you could have been getting a jump on a reading assignment.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg said, “Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.”
Clearly, that’s so much easier said than done, especially when you wear many different hats in any given day — from parent, student in an online program and employee, to sister, brother, or caretaker. We don’t always have complete control over our time.
Here are 14 strategies you can use to help better manage whatever time you do have available.* After all, good time management skills can help you become more satisfied in all areas of your life -- and be successful in your online program.
1. Take care of yourself physically.
If you’re run down and exhausted it will be more difficult to put any time management strategies to good use. Schedule seven to eight hours per day for sleep, eat three balanced meals a day and exercise.
2. Know yourself.
What environment makes you most productive? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Can you work on-the-go in a coffee shop or do you need to be at home? You may be wasting time if you’re working in an environment that doesn’t match your work style.
3. Organize your space.
Clutter can be a distraction to productivity. It also can be a time-waster when you have to sort through multiple piles of papers to find your class notes or textbook. Organize your study space so you have easy access to everything you need to work.
4. Visualize your goals.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed when your to-do list is long or a project is extra challenging. Keep the bigger picture in mind. Put an image that represents your goal—a family photo or a graduation cap, for example—near your workspace. Visualizing your goal will help you stay focused.
5. Be realistic.
Artist Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” And that’s okay. If you’re striving for perfection, you may be wasting your time. Each task should have a clear end or reasonable level of satisfaction.
6. Create lists.
When you first create a to-do list for the day or the week, it could seem overwhelming; but when you start crossing completed items off the list, it’s a confidence booster. Put both personal and academic items on the same list.
Some things are important. Some are urgent. Some are both. Some are neither. If you don’t understand the correct order for doing these tasks, you might end up wasting your time. (Hint: Do tasks that have both importance and high urgency first; then do tasks of high importance and low urgency.)
8. Set deadlines.
Procrastinating is easy. But organizing a schedule to complete various tasks can help you stay on track. Organize a list of deadlines for your tasks, and give yourself a small cushion of extra time, in case something urgent comes up.
9. Break down tasks.
Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable goals. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete those small portions, which can encourage you to keep plugging along to finish that big task.
10. Use time wisely.
Use short blocks of time (like waiting in the car to pick up your child from school, or waiting at the doctor’s office) to accomplish easy or small tasks. Use long blocks of time to focus on complex tasks.
You don’t need to do things others can do for you. Could your husband make dinner a couple of nights a week so you can get extra study time? Could your kids take on a few more household chores? Don’t micro manage at work – delegate.
12. Just say, “no.”
This can be one of the most difficult time management strategies, because we all want to be involved and help others. But if you say yes to things that aren’t relevant to your long-term goals, you might be zapping time better spent with family or studying. It’s important to distinguish between what you can and can’t do right now as you work toward your goal.
13. Take breaks.
We all need time to re-energize. Get up from your chair every hour or so and take a walk down the hall at work or get a healthy snack. If you find yourself getting too distracted by breaks, set a timer so you know when it’s time to get back to work.
14. Reward yourself.
Having something to look forward to can help you stay on track and maintain a positive attitude. Figure out what kind of reward you want—maybe a trip to the ice cream shop when you complete a big paper, a massage when the semester is over, or a vacation when you complete your degree.
You may already be using some of these time management strategies, but incorporating a couple more into your routine could help improve your efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity even more—not to mention make you feel better.
What time management strategies work for you?
Image credit: Keith A Frith on Shutterstock
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