Blog Post for September 2020: Tips to Master Time

From thee Editor:

Santiago Hernandez, Elizabeth Rouse, Justin Young, and Cricket Bidleman are all successful students, juggling responsibilities both in and out of the classroom. We all know that is important to manage time wisely, but how, exactly, can this be done? Keep reading for tips offered by these productive students on how to manage your time more efficiently.

Create a Routine

Time management is probably one of the most important skills I have utilized throughout my education. These skills have provided me with the means to complete tasks with greater efficiency, encompassing both class work and miscellaneous tasks that arise at any given point in my daily life. One of the most important aspects of time management, in my opinion, is of creating a routine. It takes a great deal of discipline to establish a routine for yourself, and as if developing the routine isn’t hard enough, the challenge of maintaining that routine is no walk in the park either. Beginning these practices at a younger age, in my case as a high school student, carries great benefit. The earlier you begin, the easier it is to adapt to new situations. When entering college, for example, if you’ve got a routine down flat, you can focus more on fostering relationships, learning your new environment, and involving yourself in extracurricular activities. To begin establishing a routine, I’d suggest identifying the things that make your day a success. For some people, a shower in the morning is a necessity to wake up and be productive. For others, breakfast is a must. Think through your good days and identify the practices that foster success. Write them down along with an estimate of the time it takes to complete the given task. Then, try out your routine. Add, modify, and eliminate. Think of your routine as a work in progress until you get it right.

Balance Your Schedule

It is incredibly rare to find a student who enjoys spending their entire day studying, completing homework assignments, or revising a paper. Therefore, I strongly advocate for finding a balance between work and play when it comes to education. This balance can come in many forms. For some, taking an hour to decompress after finishing up the last class of the day is enough. For others, setting short-term goals is beneficial. For example, I’ll finish a chapter, phone home, and review my class notes before dinner. Then, after I eat, I can spend time with friends, watch a show, or play a game. Personally, I find extracurricular activities to be a perfect stress reliever. After an afternoon of studying and a rigorous play rehearsal, Bridge Club was a welcome way to engage other parts of my brain. Finding tasks that engage my brain in different ways, or tasks that seemed to let my brain disengage entirely, broke through a given day’s monotony. After a balancing break, I was able to hit the books harder and felt like I was retaining information again. Studying or working for too long can actually be bad for you. In fact, you can even overstudy for something. Try using new techniques to retain information. Have a friend quiz you while you walk between classes. Teach the material to someone outside of your class. Make up a song to help you remember a certain formula or equation. Another important part of balancing your schedule is setting boundaries, which will give you time to unwind, de-stress, and take care of yourself. Some people choose not to work past a certain time at night. Others reserve a certain part of a weekend for simply relaxing. For me, boundaries are a must at mealtimes. I do my best to avoid doing work while I'm eating, and I'm almost never on my phone if I'm sharing a meal with friends. This boundary allows me the mercy of a few minutes respite, when I’m not tempted to respond to emails or check to see if a grade has been posted. If I'm with people, I want to enjoy their company instead of dividing my attention between work, school, and my social life. Obviously, if there are inflexible deadlines, exceptions can be made, but everyone needs time to decompress. Try to set and stick to those boundaries whenever possible, so that you can maintain some separation between work and the rest of life. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with friends or classmates either. Encourage others to acknowledge and respect your boundaries, too. Just because you’re an amazing writer doesn’t mean you have to edit a classmate’s work at midnight, derailing your original plan to head to bed. Boundaries are healthy, and they may sometimes be the only thing keeping you from toppling over the edge of insanity.

Battle Against Procrastination

For many years now, my friends have asked me, “What’s new with you?” or “What are you up to these days?”. After explaining what I’ve been doing to keep myself occupied, the response I usually receive is something like, “Wow, you sound super busy. How do you have time to do all of that?!”. My gut response is to laugh and say that it takes quite a bit of practice. I begin by sharing this common exchange because time management, regardless if you are a student involved in extracurriculars, a working professional, a business owner, or anyone in between, you need to learn how to confidently and effectively manage your time. One aspect of time management that I have struggled with is knowing how to battle against procrastination. The primary technique I’d like to share as a means of combating procrastination is the power of pacing yourself. As students with countless deadlines, sometimes a paper, project, or exam can become overwhelming. Instead of allowing that tidal wave of panic to drown us, we can pace ourselves. For example, if you are working on a project, you can take it section by section, allowing yourself sporadic or scheduled breaks in between sessions. In fact, this method of working or studying is better for your mind and body than cramming. In the same way that we take fit breaks during General Session, these breaks can also apply to academics! These breaks are also a way to balance out your routine. Instead of simply stretching, you can call a friend and grab dinner or go for a walk. I’d also advocate for trying out different strategies that can help you track your progress. Some people love creating lists of all the tasks they need to accomplish in a given day. A certain sense of satisfaction accompanies checking off things from that list, offering physical proof that there is less to do. For others, setting feasible, mental goals is enough. For example, someone might decide, “After I finish this chapter, I’ll go grab a smoothie.” For some, this mental goal is enough. For many, a system alerting them to specified break times is helpful or even necessary. Phone alarms, computers, and other smart devices can act as pacing tools instead of distractions. Do what works best for you, and if you don’t know what that is yet, try out a few tactics. Ask your friends and family what works best for them. While learning time management is unique to the individual, it isn’t necessary to reinvent the whole system. Learn from the successes and failures of yourself and others, too. And, always remember, it takes practice to manage your time effectively. Be patient, show yourself some grace, and take a smoothie break now and again!