Managing Your Time Efficiently

Developing good time management skills is something that even I have a hard time accomplishing. It means getting up early in the morning, planning out your day accordingly,  turning off Facebook and all other distractions that could keep you from conquering the day. Whether you’re still in school or just starting your career, you can benefit from much of the advice I give here, because by getting yourself into the habit of managing your time efficiently, you can get more done in a week, giving you a greater sense of accomplishment.

1.    Buy Yourself A Planner

It’s a handy tool that I’ve mentioned a couple times. It’s very useful if you’re not in the habit of keeping a calendar or a white board in your work area. It’s also portable, allowing you to check on what’s next on your list anywhere you go. The trick though is keeping up with it and spacing everything out so that you’re not working yourself to death by the time deadlines are due.

First, you’ll want to look everything over and write down your deadlines. Then from there, plan everything that you need to get done by the week, spacing it all out evenly. You’ll be adding to it during of the course of the semester (as a student), but that’s to be expected. Each day, you should be looking over what you need to be doing for that day and working to get as much of it done as you can.

2.    Eat Healthy, Sleep, and Exercise

A good cycle is to get plenty of rest, exercise and stretch for an hour in the morning, and eat a big, healthy breakfast. Now this isn’t easy to do if you’re in college, especially if you’re both working and going to school full time, but it really does help improve your focus. Exercise keeps your blood flowing, eating healthy keeps your brain working, and sleep keeps you alive. If you’re lacking in any one of these areas, your body tends to deteriorate pretty rapidly.

First off, don’t be pulling off all-nighters. Not only do you work much less efficiently than you do if you were well rested, but your body’s ability to recuperate is diminished, and over time, can lead to some serious health risks. Now to counteract the lack of efficiency caused by fatigue, people will try to use caffeine. This helps with raising mental awareness, but doesn’t do very much in the focus department — you just simply feel less tired. So save yourself the money and any future doctor’s visits: get some sleep.

Again, try to eat healthy and find time to exercise. This is good not only for your physical well-being, but it helps keep you feeling more alert and aware. And overall, you’ll just feel better.

3.    Keep Everything Else Out of Sight

The best place to get work done is in the library. There’s no television. No loud noises. You have free internet, but it’s in public, so you’re less likely to waste time when you know that there’s stuff that needs to be done — unless if you really don’t care if other people see what you’re wasting your time on, then you could probably do without the internet. I actually have a folder on my Bookmarks bar titled Time Dump. It contains links to GameSpot, YouTube, and Facebook, as well as a few others. Keeps it all out of sight and out of mind.

But not everything is limited to just the internet. A clean workspace helps too as it improves your efficiency and reduces stress as well. Now some people actually work better with a messy desk — it all depends on your personality. For me, I’m in between. A good rule of thumb is that if you need it for whatever it is that you’re working on that week, leave it alone; if not, then get rid of it. If you’re working on writing a space opera during your free time and having that statue of Master Chief  on your desk gets you into the mode, then he’s good where he stands, but it may be wise to just put him away if all you can think about is playing more Halo.

4.    Segment By the Hour

For most people, it’s hard to focus one task for more than an hour at a time. You’re much less productive past that, which means that precious time is being wasted. Tackle your hardest, most challenging task first — whether it be practicing for your calculus test or working on that research paper for Psychology. Take a five minute break and work on the next thing.

The mistake that many people make is they set a goal, like a word count, and work to achieve that goal. The problem with that though is that it’s easy to slow down once you get closer to that goal. For me, it can sometimes take me two hours to write 500 words if that ends up being my goal. But if I give myself only an hour, I push myself to write as much as I can and end up with 750 words on average by the time I’m done. So instead of setting a goal to practice so many math problems, give yourself an hour to do as many as you can. Count how many you were able to get done and try to beat that number the next time. If you don’t, too bad. Try again next time.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to improve your productivity, getting more done while spending less time getting it done. Many of us have busy work weeks or have a lot that we’d like to get done in the week, so it’s always good to find a way to discipline yourself and try to get as much done as you can. Hopefully, you’ll get to the point where you’ll be able to set aside some free time to unwind and not be spending that time in bouts of space-out sessions or dumping that time by perusing the interwebs and whatnot.