Fifteen years since I finished my PhD, I see that some things never change. Students never have enough time between their studies, part-time jobs and the need to experience new sensations. Scarlett Gibson is a freelance writer also employed as a content strategist at MyEssayWriting. This post is about her personal quest to manage her time as a student.
Time management is a critical subject. I remember when I had to combine studies, part-time work as a babysitter and a dog walker, and still volunteering in the zoological sanctuary. Managing time to do all these tasks was a mess. But I had to work out the best time management strategy that works to strike a balance.
I understand that most of the students may have found themselves in this situation at least once in their school life. Despite their efforts to organize their time and observe their schedule, they still find it hard to manage time properly. Of course, students have different activities aside from studies which may take up most of their time. They are allocated different tasks with limited time which is not like the eight-hour workday that other people have. Also, they have things like homework and voluntary tasks that are time-consuming making it difficult to manage time.
But there is a solution. Take your time to create a to-do list of all your tasks for the day, the week or month and you will see that time management is not that hard, especially, when you know your next steps. So, what are time management skills are you doing wrong and how can you fix it?
Here are five common mistakes that affect your timeline and how to overcome them.
Not prioritizing tasks
A to-do list can be an effective way to write down your thoughts and what you need to get done before the day ends. But failing to prioritize these tasks means your most important task may slip off your radar. You end up jumping from one task to another. Students need to understand that there will be homework and assignments that will come up and they have to deal with it.
I realized the importance of prioritizing tasks in the second year of university studies. My to-do lists were not that long, however, I failed to complete them all the time and – what’s even worse – it always was something important that should have been done. It was a sunny Wednesday morning when I was helping the veterinarian in the zoological sanctuary (because volunteering was on my list, you know!) but my hands were shaking and my heart was trying to jump out of my chest because I realized that I had to pass the extremely important test the next day – and I had no time to get ready.
I realized eventually that, for example, walking the dogs and writing an essay for English class are both important but have a different value for me. Walking the dogs was my part-time job and the source of income – which was obviously important. My studies seemed not that valuable, but in the long-term perspective education could do much more good and change my life for better. So I had to choose between the egg today and the hen tomorrow. I made the right choice, I guess – and now the girl next door walks my dog for me while I have various employment opportunities.
Learn how to prioritize your tasks. This will take time and practice to get the right technique that works for you. If you find it hard doing it for yourself, there are plenty of tools online to help you prioritize your work.
There is nothing that is harmful to your attentiveness than putting off tasks and making excuse for unfinished work done. This is known as procrastination. When you procrastinate you keep going round in circles, the feeling of guilt about not getting started sets in, and eventually, the reality catches up with you when you don’t complete the task. In most cases, it creates a huge backlog.
We all know that feeling when you need to write your college paper which is really boring and exhausting – and you suddenly realize that it is the high time you organized your closet by colors! So I’ve been doing some useless stuff just to put off the important – and had long sleepless nights at my papers with coffee mixed with bitter tears of regret.
The best solution to this situation is to dedicate some time to start the task. All you need is to do is to start doing that assignment and soon enough you’ll be involved in the entire project. Also, try to break the task into small manageable chunks. Just tell yourself that you need to do one small step right now – and then you will have a rest. That will help you complete the tasks at intervals and beat the challenges of time management. After finishing several stages you will catch the wave and complete your task easily.
Not managing distractions
Students encounter numerous distractions in school and it’s easy to get carried away. Social media platforms and communication channels allow us to effectively communicate. But they are major distractors in the modern life.
Once I woke up motivated and ready to make an extra task which was the last chance from my teacher to make up for my missed classes and skipped deadlines. I was as concentrated as possible… Until my best friend called me to ask whether I needed her help. Three hours later I realized that we were still on the phone arguing about the best Batman role performer.
A phone ringing or a notification signaling either a chat or social group message interrupt the student’s concentration and break their creative process. To manage the distractions, turn or switch off all the chats and notification and schedule time to complete your work with minimal distractions. It can be one or two hours provided you concentrate on stuff that have a positive impact on your school work.
Multitasking may work great for some people, but striving to be skilled at different tasks leads to multitasking. Doing so many tasks at the same time will prevent you from concentrating on all the tasks equally and you end up wasting a lot of time completing these tasks. If you want to be good at multitasking, be exceptionally creative and ensure your concentration is high throughout.
Just imagine a girl with six dog’s leads on the right hand trying to read a book on popular translation which is in her left hand and with headphones in her ears. That was me – trying to combine dog walking with test preparation, which was both weird and dangerous.
But if you fall into the category that cannot multitask, focus and concentrate on completing one task at a time. Do it until it’s completed. This will help you put your time and focus on one task and produce high-quality work.
Failing to take breaks
It’s nice to think that you can concentrate and work for a whole 8 to 10 hours, especially when you have to meet a deadline. However, it’s hard to remain focused throughout and produce high-quality work without allowing your brains to rest and recharge.
Some students think it’s a waste of time but it’s important to incorporate it into your regular routine to achieve positive results. Whether you have an urgent task or you need to complete some small errands, taking some time off from your busy schedule is effective. You can grab a cup of coffee, take a walk, or just sit and relax at your desk. This helps to clear your thoughts and recharge before resuming your work.
By now I hope you have already started seeing that some of these time management mistakes are quite easy to fix. Being a student is an exciting period but it is full of challenges that will prepare you for the adult life. If you have realized that, it’s time to take action and incorporate them into your daily life. In the end, you need to maintain consistency and keep yourself in check.