When discussing time management, we often seek a magical technique that can keep us on track. However, unless you possess the abilities of a Drengrian Chronos deity or a time-turner like Hermione Granger, such a technique probably doesn’t exist.
But effectively managing your decisions, motivation, and priorities is definitely possible! We'll provide some tips to help you view time management from a new perspective. These tips are beneficial for individuals who may be hesitant to balance work and study, as well as those who are already doing so. (They are, however, also useful for everyday life!)
Keep goals in mind
When starting a new activity, the most important thing is to understand what you seek to accomplish.
The fact is that our brains are pretty efficient. One part of its anterior cingulate cortex is constantly evaluating how much effort we have to put in to achieve a goal. It allocates cognitive resources accordingly. These resources are not limitless, so the brain only provides them with things that will actually yield results.
Think of your brain as a bank — you need a loan of time and energy from it. Show the "bank" that the case is winnable, innovative, and promises a large payoff, and explain why you can handle it!
Here are some questions to help convince your brain to allocate the necessary resources to you:
- Does this goal really represent your inner desire?
- What benefits will achieving this goal bring you? What opportunities will it open up?
- What circumstances are motivating you to pursue it?
- What are the consequences if you fail?
- Will you regret not starting immediately? What are the consequences of delaying?
If you really need to do something and have a good reason to do it, the energy, inspiration, and strength you need won't be far behind. And with proper motivation, the issue of lack of time usually resolves itself.
Set the right priorities
Often we add new things to a schedule that's already packed. You work full-time, have a hobby or watch TV shows after work, and spend weekends with friends or doing house chores. Then you decide to add a new thing to your schedule, like studying.
When we're excited about starting something new, we tend to overestimate our resources. You might fall into the trap of thinking that you can simply do everything faster to fit it all in. But when the excitement fades, we realize that we don't have enough energy or time to accomplish everything we want.
According to neurobiologists, constantly delaying tasks leads to frustration, which affects our attitude toward the task. We begin to feel annoyed with it, devalue it, and eventually give up on it.
So, how can we avoid this? Prioritize your tasks. Follow the rule of "one new thing minus one old thing". When starting a new activity, think about what you can give up.
For example, if you want to spend 20 hours a week on a new profession, you'll need to free up those 20 hours from your schedule. You might need to sacrifice a regular hobby or overtime at work for a while.
That doesn't mean you have to give them up forever. You just have other priorities right now. Once you achieve your goal, you can return to your old routine.
Time management isn't about managing time, but rather your decisions. What will you spend the next hour, day, or week doing? Some of these decisions will make you more effective, more successful, and happier.
Plan your time
It’s easy to commit to studying for two hours per day. However, it's essential to tailor your timetable to your specific needs and make it convenient for you. For example, if you have an important meeting on Wednesday and you know that you won't be able to focus on anything else until it's over, factor that into your plan.
Set aside a specific time each week for studying and book it in your calendar, just like you would schedule work calls or meetings. Try to make it non-negotiable and independent of external circumstances. Urgent tasks, problems with a project at work, or a coworker seeking assistance can all disrupt your schedule. When that happens, we tend to change our plans and hope to return to our personal work later. However, there will always be urgent matters, and the more we allow them to control our time, the further they pull us away from our original goals and create chaos in our lives.
To stay on track, maintain a closed to-do list for the day, as suggested by Mark Forster, a British coach and bestselling author of "Do It Tomorrow". Plan out your day and draw a line under the list, indicating that no new tasks can be added until the current ones are completed. When someone asks you to do something, write it down for the next day.
When studying, it can be easy to become distracted by various temptations. Often people sit down at their desks determined to get to work and then find themselves scrolling through pictures of cute cats, surfing social media, and chatting with friends.
A person is capable of effortlessly focusing their attention on a single task for an average of only two minutes and eleven seconds. Research has shown that people tend to perform tasks more slowly and struggle to retain information when they frequently switch between tasks.
In his book “How to Unchain Your Brain in a Hyper-Connected Multitasking World”, neuropsychiatrist Theo Compernolle compares our brain to a computer processor that can only handle one task at a time. Any additional tasks are stored in working memory, which has limited capacity. When the working memory is overloaded, some information must be eliminated to make room for new pieces. This is what occurs in our brains when we attempt to multitask. We have to complete a chain of events from memory to resume the process, which can be time-consuming and prone to errors.
To save time, don't rely on multitasking. Instead of working slowly and getting distracted by minor things, try working in shorter, more intense periods. The well-known Pomodoro method can help with this. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on your work without any distractions. After that, take a five-minute break and repeat the cycle again — keep working.
Put perfectionism aside
When starting a new activity, it's a mistake to think you must do both ― retain your previous pace, as well as do everything flawlessly. You may want to achieve perfect grades and reviews, inspire your classmates, continue to work hard, and impress your boss at the same time. However, striving for this ideal can lead to losing interest in learning, buckling under the weight of impossible demands, and living in constant fear of criticism. The result of this race will be the opposite of what you intended.
Try treating yourself with the same care you would offer a loved one ― especially in moments of intense pressure. If you can't handle extra work while studying, don't take it on. If you can delegate something, do it. If you're not performing as well as usual, it's okay because your workload has increased. Even if your code isn't perfect, it's still better than having no code at all.
When you face a difficult task or fail to meet your expectations, try to approach the situation with curiosity rather than judgment. Instead of saying: "I'm such a loser, I didn't get anything done again," ask the following: "I seem to be spending less time on this thing than I'd like. Why is that?"
And don't forget to rest. A calm and rested person learns faster and better. It's an easy way to improve your time management.
Quick tips on time management
And here's where you can apply them
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