Set time limits for yourself.
In order to effectively manage your time, you must first set realistic and appropriate time limits for yourself. Before beginning a new task or project, it is sensible to take some time to think about how much time you should spend on that task. This helps to ensure that you are not spending too much or too little time on any one thing. For example, if you have been given an assignment in your math class that only consists of three math problems, then it may be silly for you to spend three hours trying to complete the assignment. Likewise, if there is an upcoming test in your history class, then it would probably be beneficial for you to take more than two minutes to study for it.
By setting a timer or looking at the clock whenever starting a new task, it becomes easier for people planning their days and schedules to stick with those plans and goals. If someone has decided that he wants to finish writing his essay by 8:00 p.m., then he needs not to worry about actually finishing his essay by 8:00 p.m.; instead, he just needs to make sure that he finishes as much of his essay by 8:00 p.m., knowing that he will continue working until his work is completed later in the evening. Additionally, when making this type of plan—whether daily or weekly—it can be helpful if someone includes times when they are allowed to rest and do things other than work on homework and study for tests; after all, using all of one’s energy planning their schedule could mean having no energy left over for actually carrying out their schedule!
Create a To-Do list.
One of the best ways to manage your time is to create a list of things that you need to do. Write down all the tasks on a piece of paper or in the notes section on your phone. Then, prioritize those tasks and start ticking them off throughout the day. Whenever you finish one task, it’s important to check back on your list and re-prioritize it if necessary. This can help you stay focused when working on projects that require sustained attention. Don’t forget to add any new items that pop into your head as well!
Focus on one task at a time.
The key to managing your time effectively is to do one thing at a time. Do not multi-task. If you are on a deadline for an assignment, do not check your email or answer your phone. When you concentrate on one task at a time, it is easier to stay focused and it takes less time to get things done.
Figure out what distracts you and eliminate it from your environment.
Once you’ve defined your goals, it’s time to make a plan. Many people get distracted by social media, TV, and other distractions that are within arm’s reach at all times. If you’re trying to stay focused on a project or task, try to eliminate these constant distractions from your environment. For example:
- Turn off notifications on your phone so that you’re not tempted to check for messages when the phone vibrates or dings.
- Turn off the TV if you aren’t actively watching something so that the room is silent and you can focus better on your work.
- Shut down social media apps if they open in another tab automatically in your browser. This will prevent temptation from sneaking up on you when you have idle time between tasks as well as keep them from distracting you during a project that requires focus.
Use the popular Pomodoro Technique to structure your time.
The Pomodoro technique is a time management method created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. Its name comes from the tomato-shaped timer that Cirillo used as a university student, which is known as a Pomodoro. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as pomodoros and are named after the tomato timer. (Check out my post on the Pomodoro Technique!)
The goal of this technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow, or one’s uninterrupted progress towards a goal. It uses timeboxing: breaking down tasks into fixed-length intervals with frequent breaks, which is intended to help you stay focused for short periods, avoid burnout and improve motivation.
Learn how to say “no” to requests for your time.
As we’ve just discussed, being more aware of your time and setting boundaries can help you regain control of it. However, the next step is to make sure that others respect those boundaries. This means stopping others from taking advantage of your time and energy, including your boss, friends, family members, or even strangers. Learn to enforce your boundaries.
One way to take back control is by learning how to say “no” without feeling guilty. Although some people don’t have an issue with saying no to requests for their time and energy in order to keep their schedule balanced, others are more likely to feel bad about disappointing others or feel pressured into taking on tasks for other people because they hate conflict or worry about what others might think about them if they decline a request or favor.
Here are some tips for learning how to turn down requests without feeling guilty:
- Don’t apologize unnecessarily before declining the request — instead, just say “no thanks”
- Respectfully answer questions about why you’re saying no in order to reduce the person’s curiosity (this will also help prevent them from trying again in the future): “I’m sorry but I don’t have time right now,” “I’m currently overcommitted,” “I already have plans”
Taking charge of your time will help you be more productive and less stressed.
The key to being less stressed and more productive is to take charge of your time.