Three strategies for time management

Girl holding a pen over her planner

There are a lot of reasons you might not feel as focused as you’d like right now. But learning, growing and zeroing in on your future comes first. Which means you still need to focus on school, even when it’s tough. If you need a good method for managing your time, check out these three strategies.

1. Sit down and go to work.

If you’re the type of person who can let tasks pile up, but doesn’t mind tackling them all at once, this is the strategy for you. Start by removing any distractions like silencing your phone or letting your roommates know you’ll be in the zone and not to bother you. Once you start working, focus on one task at a time. When you multitask, your IQ will appear similar to someone who didn’t sleep the night before, so stick to one task at a time. (Besides, how well did you really sleep last night?) 

Strategy tip: Prioritize the tasks you need to accomplish right now over things that need only a little time today but will build toward a larger project. You can make small chips at the larger project after you’ve finished your must-do list. 

2. Structure your time. 

When your time is often taken over by small tasks that pull your attention away, try giving yourself some structure. Start by creating a to-do list of everything you need to get done for the day (or week, or year). There are an infinite number of ways to organize your list, but here are two basic techniques to start from. 

  • By time: Give each task a set time to be completed. Plan it by how long it will take to complete (15 minutes) or give tasks a “start” and “end” time (4–4:30 p.m.). Then organize each task within the constraints of your day. If you need to make sure you have enough time to complete a certain task, move it up in the schedule. If you need more time to complete something, break it into chunks — give yourself 20 minutes to start thinking about the task, and an hour to complete it later on in the day. 
  • By interest: Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself what you feel like working on most. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with smaller tasks to get started and tackle the bigger projects once you’ve had some small wins. If you’re feeling a lot of interest in your anthropology class right now, start with your work for that class. You can work on the project you’re less excited about after treating your brain to something it’s interested in. 

3. Make it automatic.

While this method takes some planning, once you set it up all you have to do is stick to it. Start by determining where in your current schedule you can work in set periods of time for studying. If you have Monday and Wednesday evenings open, schedule yourself for a study block of three hours both nights. From then on, you’re busy during that time and can’t make other plans. Then try the Pomodoro Technique or other studying styles to make the most of your study time.

Try any (or all) of these strategies until you find one that helps you keep up with studying, enables you to meet your deadlines, and keeps you on track with classes and projects. Let us know if you have a strategy that isn’t on this list that works for you — we’d love to hear about it. 

If you’re looking for even more tips and info on managing your time, read making time for time management and how to improve your time management skills from the Adulting archives.

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