You might be brilliant. An exceptional student. But if you can’t get your paper in on-time, revise ahead of the exam, or juggle a busy student & home life, then no-one will ever know how you brilliant you are. Time management is the skill that unlocks everything else. If you want to get more done you need to be a great student of time management skills, because this is the key that can open every door.
Why Time Management Courses Don’t Work is a great book by Fergus O’Connell. Fergus shares with us that time is constant. 365.2 days and 52 weeks in a year, and seconds that just tick by. We cannot ‘manage time.’ The only thing we can do is to make better choices. And to make better choices we need a time management system. Be it a great or a poor system, you managed to get up, get dressed, get to a lecture, and juggle a million things in your life. You just don’t achieve all that you want to. Luckily there’s help….
‘I was writing that essay until 2 o’clock this morning’
Everyone procrastinates. Puts things off. It’s human to do so. If you want to get more done and more done fast, then recognising that you do put things off is an essential first step that you need to recognise and tackle. You can procrastinate on the former, not on the latter.
Procrastinating is a good thing. I’ll say again, ‘Procrastinating is a good thing.’ Sighs of relief all round. Here’s the rub – As long as you do it on the right things. Not organising a social with old friends at home isn’t essential (Though some will disagree). Not handing in a paper on time is essential.
One of the main reasons we procrastinate is because we don’t trust ourselves. Imagine you have a deadline of 2 weeks Tuesday to hand in an assignment. Your brain says that if you start it now you’ll get it done and then spend forever titivating. Spending time changing paragraphs, researching a bit more, finding new arguments, and so on. So, instead the genius of your brain subconsciously plans, schemes, and calculates that if you start it at 11am on Monday, you’ll have just enough time if you work at breakneck speed and half of the night to hand it at 9.01am on Tuesday. The brain is exceptional at doing this!
The challenge is to recognise the schemer in you. Accept it, and set a deadline. If the assignment should take you around 11 hours, track your time and spend about 11 hours on the assignment. Beware that we always think we can get things done much quicker than we actually can, so add 50% to the time. Maybe 16.5 hours to get it done. Then allow 3 hours work per day, track it, and commit to finishing the assignment after the agreed number of hours. And no titivating afterwards. You will begin to trust your brain and it you. Next time an assignment comes around you can build on that trust until you and your brain trust each other enough to work in this more effective way.
‘The most successful people are the ones with the emptiest heads’
Most students carry their to do list in their heads. Everything they need to do is there. Not in a system. Imagine the weight of carrying all those tasks around every day. Like the RAM of a computer, ours is limited, and if there’s too much in it, tasks will either be lost, or slow us down, or worse still, make us sick. Using your RAM for solving problems is a much better use of its power than to just remember stuff. Especially when there is so much technology around to help us, to remind us, and to help keep us on track.
One of the key principles of an effective time management system is to use it to get stuff out of your head and into a system that you trust. It doesn’t have to be fancy. For many successful entrepreneurs, a pen and a pad is all they need. The time management guru’s call these capture points. Having the right amount of capture points that wherever you are, whenever you are, you can get stuff out of your head and into a system. You might be walking across campus and something pops into your head – You might use Siri to put it into notes, or you are in a lecture and you use OneNote to capture the notes. The next step is to ensure that you empty your capture points frequently. This 1-minute video will help you, or you can take ‘The 7-week Time Management Challenge.’
Featured image credit: Hourglass clock time by stevepb via Pixabay.