No matter the life you lead it probably requires some sort of time management. Sometimes it feels as though the world around us thinks we all have time-turners stashed in our back pockets when loading our plates with daily tasks. Whether it is simply balancing your workload for school or university or juggling multiple work loads from your actual paying work to your creative pursuits, I hope I can help you with your time management with a few simple tips that have always worked for me.
Falsify Your Deadlines? (Creating Personal Deadlines)
This is my number one tip for time management and that is simply because it has always helped me. I don’t know about you but time makes me anxious (inconvenient given how it’s always there). Because of this, I like to take a little control when it comes to my deadlines. If I have a big project due on a certain date, assuming I’ve been given more than a week’s notice, then I will always put the deadline in a few days earlier in my diary than it is really due. At university this was usually a week ahead of an essay deadline but there is obviously room to tweet this tip to the piece of work you are dealing with. I would then, without hesitation, work to my new, self-imposed deadline. This significantly decreased my personal anxiety at having a deadline. Despite my treating the new deadline as seriously as if this was really the day an essay was due in, almost always completing my work for that day, simply knowing that if I missed that deadline I wouldn’t affect my overall grade put me at ease. It is also effective if you have multiple projects like essays due in on the same day or very close together. Set new, evenly spaced deadlines for each project, one of which may be the original deadline. It helps to take the pressure of that one date and to focus your mind on each item individually.
Or, in other words, as soon as is humanly possible aka when you know what you have to do. If you have an essay deadline presented to you, and it’s possible, get started as soon as you leave the classroom. Starting early is good for multiple reasons. For one, you leave time for emergencies or changes of heart in the direction you want to take your work. It also means you can do smaller amounts of work over a longer period of time. This leaves space in the day for self-care and other projects you may also have to complete. The one complaint I hear most often when it comes to the ‘start early’ advice is an apparent lack of motivation; according to some people they require the fear of an impending deadline to accomplish anything. And do you know what, that’s fine, if it genuinely works for you. But I would ask you to consider whether it genuinely does. Does leaving things to the last minute destroy your mental health? Is what you hand in the best it could possibly be? Are you getting dissatisfying results? Then maybe it’s not working for you. Don’t sit around waiting for motivation or inspiration to strike. Find it. Power through or at least sit-down and try. A little bit of writing, or whatever output your creating, is better than nothing. And nothing is what you’ll have if you don’t at least attempt to start the project.
Manage Your Tasks
I’ve touched on this briefly already but it is important to consider individually. You might have multiple work projects on the go, or essays for uni, or you might have a project you are working on for work and another for university that are completely unrelated. You need to consider each project individually and then come up with a plan as to how you will finish each item on time whilst not forgetting about what else you have to do. Sit down with each of your deadlines in front of you and start allotting time to each of your tasks. How much time does each project require? Not everything needs as much of your time so turn your time into units such as days or hours and section off allotments to each item; prioritise according to due date and importance. If you have a plan you are less likely to spend an excessive amount of time perfecting one project only to realise that you have left yourself an impossibly short amount of time to do another two pieces of work before they are due. With time allotted you can also focus on each task with the enthusiasm it deserves by not allowing yourself to get distracted and waste time dwelling on your other pieces of work.
Take Time Off (Yes, really!)
Or, in other words, take care of yourself. What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t fool yourself into thinking you can do more in a given space of time than is possible. Be realistic with your deadlines and equally importantly, wherever possible schedule time off. Your brain will function better, your work will come out better and you will feel far more satisfied if you take time off. Not to mention, time away from a project can often give you a fresh perspective when you return, and a new lease of life. The ability to do this is also made all the more possible when you follow my previous pieces of advice.
I think you can tell from this post that each of these pieces of advice works best for me in conjunction with the others. Learning to manage your time is a process and can take practice but with all of this in mind it is, I honestly believe, the simplest advice that serves us the best.
Hopefully this post was helpful for some of you. If you would like to hear me talk in more detail about how I manage my time when studying then I have a whole video dedicated to the topic, which you can watch below; like any practical advice, a lot of what I say applies to more than just school and university.
In the meantime, the best of luck, and do let me know if you have any more helpful tips for managing your time in the comments.