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15 ways to improve your time management skills

15 Ways to Improve Your Time Management Skills

Posted on: February 10, 2020

What is time management and why is it important?

Time management may sound dull and boring but mastering it is key to working smarter not harder. In fact, being good at time management will help you discover you have more free time than you thought, simply by enabling you to use the time you have more efficiently. Get that essay done more efficiently and you will have more time to relax, more time to spend with your friends, more time to spend catching up on sleep.

Hour glass representing time management

It has been proven that better time management skills make you more productive, less stressed and better able to achieve your goals and objectives. Sound good? Here’s 15 ways to become better at managing your time.

How to be better at time management

1. Multi-taking doesn’t work

It’s a popular myth that we can multi-task and continue to be productive, just as focussed on one task as on another. And, like many myths, it’s just not true. Evidence shows that multi-tasking makes us less productive as we split our attention rather than spending time prioritising just one thing. Decide which task is the most important and focus on that until it is completed, then move onto the next. You’ll find you achieve more and get better results.

2. Important and Urgent

When faced with a list of things to do, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Do you start with the biggest tasks first or the little ones that you can get out of the way quickly? The answer is to look at it differently. Instead, ask yourself if a task if urgent or important. Is it both?

So, if a task is both urgent and important, it should sit at the top of your list. Urgent and not important? They come next, followed by important but not urgent. Finally, those tasks which are neither urgent or important come at the bottom. Splitting your tasks like this will make it much easier for you to know where to begin and to make sure that deadlines are met.

3. Take regular breaks

We may think that we can focus for 2-3 hours at a time, but the truth is pretty different to that. Our brains will generally only fully focus for around 30 minutes so without a break any time after that becomes less and less productive. Keep yourself fully focussed for short bursts, give yourself a break of 5-10 minutes then get back to your tasks.

image of a list to improve your time management skills

4. Get organized

At the start of each semester, as soon as you get your course information, sit down with your calendar or diary and mark down all the important dates; when your coursework is due, when your exams start. Work backwards from those dates and decide when you need to start your revision or your essay.

Block out a set time each day and commit yourself to always studying at that time. You’re expected to do more studying than is required in simply attending lectures and seminars or doing assigned coursework. Make sure you plan in time for reading the texts on the reading list and for going through your lecture notes to make sure you are absorbing the information.

5. Set yourself goals

Setting goals may seem a bit pointless but having something to work towards will help you to focus better. Set goals for what you want to achieve this week or even just today. Do you want to finish this week’s reading? Maybe set a goal to complete the planning for that difficult essay? Write them down, plan what you are going to do to get there and enjoy crossing it off the to-do list when you’ve reached it.

6. Distractions and time wasters

We all have those little things that distract us. Time wasting tasks that keep us from focussing on what we should be thinking about. Working out what these time wasters are for you and eliminating them from your daily routine where you can will help free up time. For example, do you find yourself checking social media twenty times an hour? Put your phone across the other side of the room so that you have to physically get up to look at it. You’ll soon find yourself wasting less time playing with it.

These days it feels almost impossible to get away from the constant ping of notifications. And it can be hard to remind ourselves that we don’t need to know about things instantly. But when we’re studying they can be a huge distraction. When you site down to study turn off all your notifications (or even the device!) so you don’t get tempted to check your latest email or text message as soon as it arrives. It almost certainly can wait an hour or two so make that decision to let it do just that.

7. Eliminate bad habits and form good ones.

We all know what our bad habits are. How we promise ourselves we’re going to sit down and study once we have watched one more episode or listened to one more podcast. While there’s nothing wrong with indulging our bad habits once in a while, we shouldn’t let them take over and good time management insists that we tackle our bad habits. Instead, turn them into good habits – reward yourself for with that podcast when you’ve finished your essay; promise yourself that indulgence after the task is completed.

8. Get some exercise

When deadlines are looming the last thing we want to do is exercise. Instead, we chain ourselves to the desk and push onwards with our work. But evidence shows that getting plenty of exercise will help us perform better. Exercise changes the brain, enabling us to retain information more easily. It’s relaxes us too, releasing endorphins and helping to sustain better mental health.

man and woman jogging on a bridge

You don’t need to do much; but find a little time for exercise every day and you’ll soon see the rewards. After all, a brain that is more responsive to learning is a brain that will learn more efficiently and more quickly.

9. Make a to-do list for tomorrow

At the end of each day make a list of the tasks you need to achieve tomorrow. A little preparation in advance means you won’t waste 20 minutes tomorrow working out what you need to do next.

10. Declutter

We all work differently, some thriving in a clean, tidy space while others do better amidst a mess of unorganised paper. Whichever camp we fall into, decluttering is essential. Make sure that what is around you is simply what you need for the tasks you need to achieve today. If you can’t find this term’s notes because they are muddled with notes from last year, you’re going to waste time and increase your stress levels.

11. Ask for help

No matter how much we study there will always be things we don’t understand. As students, our time is pressured so spending it trying to understand a difficult concept is not ideal. If you find yourself struggling don’t be afraid to ask your teacher for help.

They’ll appreciate your desire to understand and will be happy to help you. Don’t forget, they were all in your shoes once, they probably have a lot more to share than you realise.

12. Be realistic

It’s tempting to set ourselves goals we can’t achieve; to promise that we’re going to write an essay from scratch in one day; or to read that entire book by lunch. Don’t do that to yourself. From the start, be realistic, set yourself goals that you know you can achieve. If you are constantly setting yourself unachievable goals you will end up discouraged and unmotivated.

13. Learn to say no

We all have a lot of demands on our time so when someone asks us for help or invites us to something then it can be hard to say no. We want to support our friends and help them out with that event they’re organising. We need to relax but you’ve already got a million things to do this week. And we worry that if we say no then we won’t get asked again.

Learning to say no is tough but for the sake of our mental health it is something we all need to learn to do. When someone asks you to do something, don’t give them an answer immediately. Let them know you’ll think about it, check your diary and give them an answer as soon as you can. That way, you can give yourself time to think before you answer and can be sure whether you want to say yes or no.

14. Get plenty of sleep

It’s tempting to pull all-nighters as a student, to stay up and cram before that last exam. But evidence shows that cramming is detrimental to learning. Getting the sleep you need will help you to learn better the next day, to feel fully rested and mentally clear for that exam.

15. Plan rewards

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Plan rewards, whether it’s an episode of your favourite show, a few drinks with friends or cooking your favourite meal, after all that studying you need to treat yourself well.

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