College years are always associated with intense flow of events: this is the time of being active, multitasking like a superhero, making a dozen of friends in one day and studying the whole subject in just one night.
Being young and courageous definitely has its benefits. Students can do thousands of things in just one day, so I came up with the list of technics that will help you work effectively and accomplish more.
1). Follow a big picture
Create a yearly calendar to plan the peaks and slow periods of your workloads. School tasks are not something you can do over one day, but the good thing is that you almost always know when the big assignments are planned and can distribute your workload accordingly.
For better result accuracy, break this big yearly plan into monthly and weekly ones. But don’t forget to modify it when the week/month performance isn’t as expected. Of course, sticking to the plan is always tough, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t improvise or set priorities. Here is a good way to do it.
2). Put everything in writing
Believe me when I say that you don’t look like your grandma when you write down your action plan: things to buy, people to talk to, books to consult, projects to manage… It is important to organize your schedule on the paper in a visual way. The trick is that when you write things down, you automatically prioritize your tasks (you wouldn’t bother to take a pen to write about something trivial) and can see when you are taking too much load, what you can live without or what things can be postponed for later.
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Additionally, when you keep your short-term memory free of such practicalities, as remembering to meet your professor about the paper, you are better equipped with exercising your creative energy and open to new ideas hitting you spontaneously.
3). One day = one project
What do you feel when you open up a written work plan and see 10 different subjects, essays and projects to complete? Right, you feel stressed: your heart is racing, your mind can’t grasp where to begin, your brain automatically seeks for distraction: a clear and well-defined distraction that is easy to distinguish and quick to accomplish. This distraction becomes writing an email, eating a portion of ice cream, watching TV – anything but actual studying.
Whenever you have big projects, try to separate them into different days and focus on one or two (max three) assignments in a day. Like this you don’t feel stressed over having tons of things to do, your brain can focus on one subject, and at the end you see a clear finished result instead of ten half-finished ones.
4). Prioritize and review
Once you have the full (and short) list of things that need to be done, prioritize them according to various criteria:
- Requires little time to accomplish in full (should go in first);
- Requires a lot of effort or needs to be started from scratch (should go in second);
- Revisions and rewrites (should go in last).
When you are up for the next studying day, assess your previous progress, finish what can be finished in less than 10% of this day’s study time or make conclusion as to what should be done differently from now on, so you can finish the task in its allocated time.
5). Study in short sessions
The amount of materials modern scholars need to learn is unbelievable. And if you stay buried in the subject for hours and hours, you risk loosing interest and missing out on the other classes. Have you ever wondered why even the easiest and shortest essay always ends up being written in the last night? Parkinson’s law states that the person will take as much time to complete the task as he or she is given. Which means be it three hours or even ten days, your productivity might be the same as if you had just one hour to complete the task.
Come up with a schedule where you have to accomplish 70-80-90% of the task in 45 minutes – having a limited timeframe will boost your productivity and allow to evenly distribute your efforts among all classes.
6). Practice discipline and rewards
In the process of mastering the art of time management, you will have to develop discipline and move aside the unnecessary things like facebook or friend phone calls. But having little distractions can actually be useful to freshen-up your mind.
The famous Pomodoro technique encourages you to work in a non-stop way for certain time (25 minutes are suggested) completing a certain tangible part of the assignment: writing one page, reading one paragraph and etc. Then you can allow yourself to write a message or make a phone call during a 5-minute break. After three or four such working cycles you can go on a longer break.
7). Clean up your working space
As silly as it sounds, it’s hard to concentrate being in a messy environment. Every sheet of paper on the table is a piece of unfinished business that is pressing on you mentally. Unnecessary things distract you, or even worth, make you nervous about all the tasks you haven’t done or will have to work on in the next week.
Keep your working space organized and the same will happen to your mind and logic: you will be more concentrated and productive. And if you take time to surround yourself with pleasant lightning, green plants and comfortable chair, it will be utmost delight to work there.
8). Discover your hidden potential
Time management is not only about managing your time, but also about proper handling of your energy. Unlike time, your body, mind, spirit and emotions can bring you endless benefits and produce four times the results you are used to getting.
Spend time outside to nourish your body, read extracurricular materials to excite your mind and don’t neglect doing things that motivate your spirits – all this will allow you to recharge your batteries and work in full force.
9). Learn to say no
There are so many interesting things and offers you are gonna get. The world is full of out of school activities, projects for extra credit, additional study materials, not talking about endless parties and friend gatherings.
Sadly, there are only 24 hours in a day so you have to learn to turn down offers that are not your immediate priority at the moment. For example, if you have 10 pages to write tonight and somebody is inviting you to an interesting PhD lecture – sure, go ahead if you can sleep less than five hours and still be functional. But don’t feel guilty to say no sometimes and do the work that is really important for your grade. Being a responsible student doesn’t mean doing all the extra work.
10). Get rid of time wasters
Being a student means having a very rich social life, which extends far beyond parties or evenings in a bar with friends. You follow hundreds of people on facebook, you stop by to listen to a new joke during breaks, you stay after school to hang out and chill, you spend hours checking out new YouTube releases and 9GAG posts. All that requires time, which you can of course spare to relax and enjoy, but how much is enough and when should you stop?
Calculate the value of each hour in you life. You can do it in various ways:
- How much do you or would you earn running a part-time job? Shall we say $8 to $9 an hour?
- How much would you give up for a possibility to sleep an extra hour in the morning? For me it can be as much as 10-15 bucks.
- How much would you have to pay for an essay if you didn’t have enough time to write it yourself? In my experience it can be anywhere from $7.50 a page.
So next time you decide to waist an hour on YouTube or meaningless chat with a friend, tell yourself that it costs you 9 dollars and get back to doing what makes your life more meaningful and useful.
The optimal balance is that 75% of your time is devoted to rewarding activities: working, gaining new knowledge, sleeping and taking care of your body, doing things you are strongly passionate about.
If every student managed to master their time like a pro, I don’t think colleges, professors and campus buildings would be able to handle all this extra energy that would be released. This is something to strive to achieve, guys.
Time management is a crucial skill needed for personal life just as much as for professional advancement. The sooner you master it, the better your life progress will be. And there’s no better time to learn it than being in your 20s and while in college. So go ahead and practice, practice, practice. What is your best time-management tool or trick so far?