By Harriet Lowbridge | Head of Advice
Why time management is important:
Effective time management and organisational skills are essential tools for everyone to develop. Good time management practises can have numerous benefits throughout all areas of your life. It can help improve your relationships and build up trust in your reliability. It can also help prevent stress from growing, as well as reducing your potential of feeling overwhelmed.
Time organisation is, however, something that must be constantly worked on and improved. Even the best of us will falter in our schedules and can be thrown off balance by unexpected circumstances. The key goal of time management is to ‘achieve the lifestyle balance you want’ as well as developing a level of control over your life. It is not something that will happen over night but once developed your organisation skills will allow you to be more flexible and relaxed. The main aspects to get started building your time management skills are to plan, prioritise, and to allow yourself time.
Where to begin?
The first thing you need to know is what you need to get done. Plan out what goals you want to achieve. Find out what upcoming activities will need to be completed within the next few weeks. Determine what long term goals you want to achieve and find out what steps you could take today to get you closer to that goal. Creating a plan of everything you need to know allows you to reflect on your life and keep track of all the tasks you need to complete. Tracking your tasks also allows you to break larger tasks into manageable bite size tasks. This step is key to managing overwhelming feelings. Big intimidating tasks are easier to tackle when they can be segmented and worked through individually.
Once everything is planned out and ready to be completed, the next key aspect of time management is to prioritise. You can attempt to accomplish your important tasks first or work through them in any order that fits you best. Some people will find it easier to get all their small tasks out of the way first so they can focus on larger tasks later. This step will take some trial and error, but it is always important to track how well you manage your time. If you find that you are still struggling to manage your time, reorganising which jobs you prioritise will likely be a good place to start.
Allowing Yourself Time:
It may sound like an obvious statement, to allow yourself time to work but you also need to ensure you set aside time towards your downtime and relaxing. One of the key elements to get your important tasks accomplished is to allow yourself to enjoy sufficient downtime. Similar to rest days from the gym, your mind needs time to process and recover from the mental work you do too. Plan what goals you need to accomplish but do not forget that you need recovery time as well. For example, you could plan a half hour of gaming or TV for every hour you study. If you have spent a day at work, allow yourself an hour or two to relax first before trying to get any studying or housework done.
Where to go from here?
Begin your tasks early, completing what you can do early means you will have much more downtime later.
Where possible, create a schedule. Some people will find that having a rigid and timed schedule will help get tasks finished. Similarly, having a routine can be extremely beneficial to ensure you have dedicated times to work and play.
Try rewarding good behaviour. Some people will find small rewards help them get their jobs done. You could treat yourself with that game you wanted if you get your assignment handed in early. You could enjoy a treat food if you complete all your task for the day. This method will not work for everyone but can work well if you can be strict. It will not work if you allow yourself treats for every small task you do, or if you treat yourself early.
Do not be too hard on yourself if you break your organisation plans. Sometimes life will get in the way, and you may find yourself behind. This is normal. The best advice is not to let it get you down, just keep in mind what caused you to break your time management for future. It is also a good practise to keep in mind those who are relying on you to get your tasks done. Your relationships may begin to suffer if you are repeatedly late or behind on projects that they need your help with. This would be a time to re-evaluate where you are prioritising your time and create a new plan.
Structure your priorities. Not all your tasks will carry the same weight, each will fall under one of the following four categories set out by Emma Donaldson-Feilder on the NHS website. These will either be ‘urgent and important, not urgent but important, urgent but not important, neither urgent nor important’. Your best chance for success is to focus on which tasks fall into the second category when possible and get those done early. You will find that categorising and structuring your priorities will prevent you from rushing to get your urgent tasks done. By doing this you are less likely to find yourself with urgent tasks and you will find that you are not rushing yourself to get tasks done.
Consider that not everyone will work the same or find the same resources helpful. You may need to consider what different resources you may require and adapt your time management towards what fits you best. Those of us with neurodivergent minds, such as people living with ADHD/ADD or are on the autism spectrum, might need different routines. An example of this may be that they find working in shorter but more frequent intervals will work better. Do not expect to find that a cookie cutter organisation plan that works for others will necessarily work for you. When beginning to learn your time management skills, allow yourself to be flexible and test what allows you to work most efficiently.