Ever felt like your day needed more than 24 hours, like your To-do list was finishing you off instead of the other way round? The split between work, study and leisure time whilst trying to maintain a healthy social life can sometimes bear more resemblance to torture than a graceful gymnastic pose. Time management can look like an insurmountable obstacle and there is a whole industry making profit of it, featuring fancy calendars, self-help books and apps. I, however, believe that time management can be broken down into almost trivially simple steps that require no utensils apart from some optional paper and a pen.
1. Set your priorities!
If you want to manage your time better, you need to know a) how you are currently spending your time throughout the day and b) what you are working towards to. Then you’ll be able to answer two questions truthfully – will this matter a year from now? And: is what I am doing today bringing me closer to where I want to be tomorrow? If you are a visual type, a blank sheet of paper in front of you might help. Think of your tasks and the things that you do but are not obliged to. Then list them into four basic categories:
Urgent, not urgent, important, unimportant.
This should help you to become more aware of your goals and thus make planning for the week easier.
2. Ban those distractions!
Let’s be real for a second, we all have time consuming guilty pleasures that fall into the “unimportant” category, such as stalking people on social media, hitting the “refresh” button or bingeing on trash TV. These addictive habits are increasingly assimilated by our culture. Breaking news: if you actually want to get things done and work efficiently, you will need to declare war on whatever is distracting you from completing the “urgent” and “important” tasks. Put your phone on flight mode, or download a free browser extension that allows you to put websites on a black list for a specific amount of time. No matter what you need to complete, by paying your full and undivided attention to it you will not only be more focused but also faster to finish.
3. Set deadlines throughout the day
If you know you are prone to procrastinating and panicking the night before the deadline, make your life easier by setting deadlines throughout the day rather than giving yourself a week and permitting to lay the assignment off day by day until at last the due date is one long and unpleasant all-nighter away. Pick a task, pick a time by which it should be done, and set a timer. If you cannot concentrate for long, try the Pomodoro technique: work intensely for 20 minutes, then go on a quick break, rinse, and repeat.
4. Get up earlier
Name anything you currently “don’t have enough time for”. Exercise? Cooking? Reading? Whatever it is, your problem is not that you don’t “have” time – you are not MAKING time for it. Think about it: you get up early to go to work, or uni… but you’re not willing to wake up half an hour earlier to invest into yourself? Yes, it might take getting used to and it can be a quite literal step out of your comfort zone if you are not a natural early bird but waking up earlier is one of the best ways to start the day doing something you enjoy before heading out the door relaxed and well prepared instead of rushed in the last minute. If you just got up twenty minutes earlier to work out, or do some reading (for pleasure or otherwise), to prepare a simple homemade meal or just plainly enjoy a hearty breakfast with a cup of tea, how much fitter, healthier, happier could you be a month from now? Do you dare to imagine, and pursue that image?
The only person stopping you from spending your days exactly how you want to, is yourself. But, that also means you have all the power and freedom in the world to design the day that YOU want.