Time Management Tips

Goals of Time Management

  • To be able to have control over your life - manage your time, don't let it manage you!
  • To be healthier and happier (less stress).
Online courses give students the flexibility to take their class anytime, anywhere. The trick, students say, is staying on top of them.

Doing so requires discipline, commitment, and organization—traits any successful student should possess, no matter what path they're taking to complete their degree.

Procrastinators, learn how to stay on top of your online classes.

Be Organized by Making A Plan

Spend time planning and organizing.
Using time to think and plan is time well-spent. In fact, if you fail to take time for planning, you are, in effect, planning to fail. Organize in a way that makes sense to you. If you need color and pictures, use a lot on your calendar or planning book. Some people need to have papers filed away; others get their creative energy from their piles. So forget the "shoulds" and organize your way.

Plan Ahead (Schedule it and it will happen!)

  • Determine how long your tasks will take (do this before agreeing to take on a task!)
  • Consider whether any activities can be combined.
  • Determine if big tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks that may be easier to schedule (such as studying for exams and visiting the library as part of an assignment to write a term paper).

Be Organized

  • Use time saving tools: appointment calendars, "to do" lists, e-mail, answering machines, file folders, etc.
  • Have an organized workplace (don't waste time constantly looking for your work).
  • Use your appointment calendar for everything, including listing study time.
  • Use "to do" lists for both long-term and for each day/week.

Use a to-do list.
Some people thrive on using a daily To Do list which they construct either the last thing the previous day or first thing in the morning. Such people may combine a To Do list with a calendar or schedule. Others prefer a "running" To Do list which is continuously being updated. Or, you may prefer a combination of the two previously described To Do lists. Whatever method works is best for you. Don't be afraid to try a new system — you just might find one that works even better than your present one!

Prioritize Your Tasks

  • Use an A-B-C rating system for items on your "to do" lists with A items being highest priority.
  • Set goals for both the short term and long term as to what you want to accomplish.
  • Look at all of your "to do"s to gauge the time requirement and whether additional resources will be needed to accomplish them (if yes, schedule time to obtain those resources). Don't postpone the small tasks (a sense of accomplishment is good and overlooked small tasks can become larger tasks.)

Use the 80-20 Rule originally stated by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noted that 80 percent of the reward comes from 20 percent of the effort. The trick to prioritizing is to isolate and identify that valuable 20 percent. Once identified, prioritize time to concentrate your effort on those items with the greatest reward. Prioritize by color, number or letter — whichever method makes the most sense to you. Flagging items with a deadline is another idea for helping you stick to your priorities.

Be Flexible and Avoid Overload

Be flexible.
Allow time for interruptions and distractions. Time management experts often suggest planning for just 50 percent or less of one's time. With only 50 percent of your time planned, you will have the flexibility to handle interruptions and the unplanned "emergency." When you expect to be interrupted, schedule routine tasks. Save (or make) larger blocks of time for your priorities. When interrupted, ask Alan Lakein's crucial question, "What is the most important thing I can be doing with my time right now?" to help you get back on track fast.

  • The unexpected happens (sickness, car troubles, etc.); you need to be able to fit it into your schedule.
  • Know how to rearrange your schedule when necessary (so it doesn't manage you - you manage it).
  • Know who to ask for help when needed.

Avoid Overload

  • Include time for rest, relaxation, sleep, eating, exercise, and socializing in your schedule.
  • Take short breaks during study and work periods.
  • Don't put everything off until the last minute (for example, don't cram for exams).
  • Learn to say "no" when appropriate and to negotiate better deadlines when appropriate.

Consider your biological prime time.
That's the time of day when you are at your best. Are you a "morning person," a "night owl," or a late afternoon "whiz?" Knowing when your best time is and planning to use that time of day for your priorities (if possible) is effective time management.

Look Ahead

Practice Effective Study Techniques

  • Have an appropriate study environment.
  • Split large tasks into more manageable tasks.
  • Read for comprehension, rather than just to get to the end of the chapter.
  • Be prepared to ask questions as they come up during study, rather than waiting until just before an exam.
  • Do the most difficult work first, perhaps breaking it up with some easier tasks.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to complete your projects.
  • Read the syllabus as soon as you get it and note all due dates (and "milestone" times) on your calendar.
  • Be a model student! (be attentive and participative in class, and punctual, prepared, and eager to learn)

Eliminate the urgent.
Urgent tasks have short-term consequences while important tasks are those with long-term, goal-related implications. Work towards reducing the urgent things you must do so you'll have time for your important priorities. Flagging or highlighting items on your To Do list or attaching a deadline to each item may help keep important items from becoming urgent emergencies.

Practice the art of intelligent neglect.
Eliminate from your life trivial tasks or those tasks which do not have long-term consequences for you. Can you delegate or eliminate any of your To Do list? Work on those tasks which you alone can do.

Avoid being a perfectionist.
In the Malaysian culture, only the gods are considered capable of producing anything perfect. Whenever something is made, a flaw is left on purpose so the gods will not be offended. Yes, some things need to be closer to perfect than others, but perfectionism, paying unnecessary attention to detail, can be a form of procrastination.

Conquer procrastination.
One technique to try is the "Swiss cheese" method described by Alan Lakein. When you are avoiding something, break it into smaller tasks and do just one of the smaller tasks or set a timer and work on the big task for just 15 minutes. By doing a little at a time, eventually you'll reach a point where you'll want to finish.

Have a Vision

  • Don't forget the "big picture" - why are you doing the task - is it important to your long-term personal goals?
  • Have and follow a personal mission statement (personal and career). (Are your activities ultimately helping you achieve your goals?)
  • Know what is important to you. (What do you value most?)
  • Have a positive attitude!

Do the right thing right.
Noted management expert, Peter Drucker, says "doing the right thing is more important than doing things right." Doing the right thing is effectiveness; doing things right is efficiency. Focus first on effectiveness (identifying what is the right thing to do), then concentrate on efficiency (doing it right).

Speak Up

If you struggle or fall behind, don't stay silent.

May times, for whaterver reasons, students are hesitant to ask for help.

Some instructors may offer wiggle room with deadlines or extra credit if a situation warrants it.

There's always a middle ground, we don't want the students to fail miserably

Learn to say "No."

Such a small word — and so hard to say. Focusing on your goals may help. Blocking time for important, but often not scheduled, priorities such as family and friends can also help. But first you must be convinced that you and your priorities are important — that seems to be the hardest part in learning to say "no", but "no" could be a good avenue too.

Reward yourself

Even for small successes, celebrate achievement of goals. Promise yourself a reward for completing each task, or finishing the total job. Then keep your promise to yourself and indulge in your reward. Doing so will help you maintain the necessary balance in life between work and play. As Ann McGee-Cooper says, "If we learn to balance excellence in work with excellence in play, fun, and relaxation, our lives become happier, healthier, and a great deal more creative."