Life can get extremely busy, trust me I’m there. I have a part-time job, a full course load, and multiple organizations. I’m also trying to work out, eat healthily, and have a social life. Somedays I feel like I barely have time to breathe! Thankfully, I learned some great time management skills in high school since I was also heavily involved in sports, organizations, and AP/Dual Credit classes. Time management isn’t hard once you learn the skill, but it does require discipline and determination to get there. Here are my top five tips for staying on top of everything life throws at you.
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1. Use a Planner
Keep a planner! There is no way around it. You will have a very hard time keeping track of everything if you try to remember it all. As I’ve mentioned before, I keep two planners and they are my lifesavers. One planner is for school and the other is for life things.
In my school planner, I have all test dates and due dates on the month view. On the week view, I write down what I need to do each day whether it be reading a chapter, finishing online homework, or studying for a test. After I complete each task, I check it off which makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. In my planner for life things, I write down my work schedule, organization meetings, doctors appointments, and other similar things. On the week view, I will write down things like time and location.
By having two different planners, I’m tricking myself into feeling like I have less to do and therefore less to worry about. It sounds silly, but it works for me!
2. Write down the details
Having a planner isn’t going to magically make you better at time management. You have to actually use it. Each Sunday, I take a look at my life planner to see when I’m working, at a meeting, or something else. Then I take my school planner and plan what I’m going to do each day. If I work all day and have meetings that night, I write down less to do that day compared to a day I don’t work or have meetings.
Here’s my trick to making my planner work for me: I write down how much time I’m going to spend on each task. So my online French homework might be 20 minutes and reading a chapter in a textbook might be 40 minutes. When you have a long to-do list in front of you, it can be easy to avoid it and procrastinate. I found that if I give myself a set amount of time to complete a task, I’m much more likely to do it.
3. Use rewards
Back when I took Psychology of Adjustment (which is the absolute best class at A&M btw), we talked about using rewards to help with time management. As you can imagine, you reward yourself when you complete a task. You have a few different options for doing this. If you need a lot of motivation to manage your time, try giving yourself a reward right when you complete the task and reward yourself after each task. As you get better at it, you can move on to rewarding yourself after you complete every task for the day. Then move on the to rewards only at the end of each week and keep decreasing the rewards until you feel comfortable managing your time on your own.
Another option is a point system. For each task you complete, give yourself a point or points depending on how long it took. Then pick some rewards and make them worth a certain amount of points. You can “spend” your points later on when you have time.
Your rewards can be anything that you would rather be doing than studying or doing chores. It could be watching a movie, taking a long hot bubble bath, going out with friends, or anything similar. The trick to this is making sure you only reward yourself for completing a task or else the reward loses its value and appeal.
4. Keep track of your day
If you find that you write down everything you need to do and have a reward system in place, but you just can’t complete everything that needs to be done, try writing down what you are doing during the day. Sometimes, I will go through my day feeling super busy only to realize I’ve accomplished very little. For the next few days, I will write down what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. Turns out sometimes I think I’m studying but I’m actually scrolling through Instagram and oops there goes 2 hours of my day.
Making yourself aware of how you spend your time can really help you manage your time. Are you cooking big long dinners, talking with friends, or on your phone instead of studying? Sometimes, simply writing down what you are doing and at what time can help you manage your time better. The awareness keeps you on task. At the very least, you will see what takes up the majority of your time each day and you can find ways to fix it.
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5. Get organized
I talked about organizing your planner earlier, but it’s important to organize other areas of your life as well. A clean room and an organized study space can do wonders for your time management skills. You’ll feel like you’re more in control and have an easier time completing what needs to be done.
Meal prepping before your week gets started can also help you get ahead. I like to make overnight oats, prep my snacks, and cook anything that can be cooked ahead of time like rice, pasta, or roasted veggies. This way you have one less thing to worry about during the week and you can focus on your chores and school work.
What are your top tips for time management? Let me know in the comments below!