Chapter 7: Time Management
Have you ever head people talk about making time for what matters? This concept of making time is about making conscious choices about when and how much time we devote to different tasks. In order to make time for something, you need to make a plan. There are a number of tools out there to help you do this. If you want more time, you may find it is worth investing your energy in organization and time management tools.
- Use a Planner. There are planners that help organize your time at daily, weekly, and monthly. Some are open-ended and others will provide you with prompts to help you stay on track. You may find it helpful to try a whiteboard calendar or invest in an application for your phone to help.
- Set a Schedule. Daily and weekly schedules will help you fit things in and track important dates and times. If your work schedule changes from week to week, then it will be helpful to use general principles for workdays, school days, and off days.
- Make a List. A list will act as a mind extender. It will help you to keep track of tasks that are easily forgotten. If you find colour helpful, consider investing in coloured sticky notes or highlighters to help distinguish between work tasks, school tasks, and home tasks.
- Use a Timer. If you struggle with staying on tasks, try to do your work in controlled conditions. Set a timer to help segment your time on task and your time on break. You might even consider trying the Pomodoro technique, where you work in 25-minute intervals on a single task with a 5-minute breaks (Cirillo 2021).
- Set Reminders. These might be something you set up electronically, add in your calendar, notify you via email, or post to your computer monitor. If something is important, document it! This may help to reduce stress and pressure in a critical moment.
- Embrace a Routine. Routines help reduce stress and give you more thinking time. They are particularly important when it comes to beginnings and endings. Follow a pattern when you get up in the morning, get to work, go to school, as well as when you complete a project, leave your workstation, or get ready for bed.
- Review, Reflect and Revise. Take time to see how your planning is working. Did you buy a planner you never use? Are there certain tasks you are always forgetting? Take time each week for 30 minutes to plan, reflect on how your strategies are working, and to tweak your strategies to maximize your performance.
Dealing with Pressure at During Work and School
One of the biggest time sucks you will experience at work and school comes from pressure. You may feel like you never have enough time, but the demands and expectations of others continue to grow. This is what happens when the extrinsic motivators begin to pile up unchecked, and the fear takes over. There are many factors that can increase the pressure you feel. You may have an upcoming deadline, a meeting with your supervisor, or a new task added to your plate you didn’t expect. You may have fallen behind on a task which others are waiting for. These kinds of situations are normal but have big emotional costs.
How does this pressure impact your work? For many, pressure leads to feelings of overwhelm and avoidance—a fight or flight response. You might also feel less motivated. You may start to dissociate or day dreamdaydream. You may feel stress. When things get serious, you may even feel that pressure impacts your credibility, work ethic, and success.
In order to properly deal with pressure, you need to get organized. This means you need to think about how you schedule your time. Reflect on your work skills self, the tasks you need to complete, and any external/personal factors that are impacting progress.
Responding to Pressure in Three Stages
Sometimes, in the moment, you need to deal with the pressure you are feeling. Instead of exploding, try this simple three partthree-part strategy. It should help you calm down, get organized, and get your work done. Completing each stage will not only hopefully motivate you and help you feel more successful as you return to your tasks.
Stage 1: Prepare Your Mind
- Get comfortable in your mind and body.
- Take deep breaths and remind yourself that you are capable and that you can accomplish your tasks. If you are totally overwhelmed, consider starting with a guided meditation exercise.
- Boost your energy with positive affirmations.
- Remind yourself that you are capable and can do hard things.
- Remind yourself of your purpose.
- Ask yourself, “What will completing this task help you achieve?” For bigger projects, you can also reflect on your goals, priorities, and values.
- Remind yourself what the task is that you need to do.
- Try saying it out loud or writing it down.
- Break down the task into steps.
- Instead of seeing the big task, focus on the smaller pieces. Ask yourself “what steps do I need to do?” Again, say them aloud or write them down. If you like, turn them into a checklist.
Stage 2: Prepare Your Space
- Prepare your workspace.
- Set yourself up to get in your zone – your space and time in which you often find yourself most relaxed and productive.
- Give yourself a healthy routine and diet.
- This cannot be done in one sitting, rather it is a gradual effort that builds into a habit, following through will improve your personal stage over time.
- Remove excessive distractions from your surroundings.
- Distance yourself from their sources. This may mean closing tabs, putting papers to the side, or closing your email. You can try disabling notification on your devices, placing your phone on silent, or setting your status to “Busy”.
- Block your time.
- Set a time or specified period in which you would like to achieve a single task. You may even want to work with an alarm or timer.
Stage 3: Tackle the First Step
- Look at your list of steps.
- If you can break it down further, start by doing that.
- Complete the first task step-by-step.
- Check off the steps as you go. Work on the task to completion. Focus on one step at a time.
- Report on your progress.
- Do one step at a time. Send an update to your supervisor or collaborators if they are waiting for you as soon as you feel the task is sufficiently completed. If you are working for yourself, your report can be as simple as a checkmark! You can also take some notes to help you track your progress.
You did it! At the end of this stage, celebrate your victory. You have completed a task and hopefully reduced some of the pressure you feel. If it helps, take a short break (5-10 minutes). When you are ready, and complete the next task. Remind yourself that small steps lead to big successes.