4 simple steps to boost your time management skills
Being a student means that not only do you have lots of work to do, but the work is often spread across several different papers, and it can be quite difficult to keep on top of it all and manage your time properly. During my three years at university so far, I’ve worked out a system that works for me, helping me to get my work done on time and also keep track of what I need to do next.
Step 1: Use a calendar to plan out your week
Often our weeks can get filled up pretty quickly with university, work, events and social occasions and it’s important to keep track of this so you know when you have spare time and when you can fit in study around your other commitments. I use the inbuilt calendar app for iOS and OS x because it’s already there on my devices, it syncs across them all, I can have multiple calendars and I can invite other people too. Above you can see a screenshot of a typical week coming up for me and what I’ve got planned. I’ve blocked out when I’ll be at uni, when I’ll be at work, when I’ll be at the gym and when I’ll be at church. Chances are that as the time gets closer I’ll probably add in more commitments like band practices and creative meetings for church, social events with friends and anything else that comes up. This allows me to visualise when I’ll be busy and when I’ll be free for study. I can easily see that on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday I’ll have the whole afternoons to work, and on Saturday I’ll have most of the day. I can also see the days when I’ll only have evenings to work on whatever needs to be done so this allows me to make the most of my time effectively.
Step 2: Make to do lists
The next step is to keep track of all the tasks that need to be done. For example, say you have to create a draft of a poster for your next class, a potential to do list might look like this:
- Research poster inspiration
- Sketch thumbnails (at least 12)
- Annotate thumbnails
- Decide best ones
- Create colour palette
- Choose typeface
- Create 3 digital concepts
- Screenshot progress
- Print out options
Breaking a large task down into smaller, more approachable tasks helps you to get started and tackle one thing at a time, and it also helps to make sure you don’t miss any steps or forget to do anything. I use an app called Trello to keep track of all the things I need to do and this also syncs across my computer, phone and iPad so that I can always be aware of what to do next. You can see an example above of my tasks for an ISTD Information Design paper at university last year. On the left you’ll see all the separate tasks and the due dates for them so I could easily see the main things I had to achieve and when they needed to be completed. Within those tasks, as you can see in the centre, I broke them down into smaller tasks that I could tackle one by one. Again, since I’m a visual person, this helps me to visualise what needs to be done and when. You can use this for anything that needs a list of things to do - I use it for work, university, church, this blog, and I even share a board with my boyfriend where we can list things we need to do, movies we want to see and whatever else, so you can use it for whatever you like!
Step 3: Use a diary to plan out your days
Once you’ve got an overview list of things to do, it’s time to plan when to do them all. Since I’ve already planned what days and times I have free, I can easily pop tasks onto appropriate days that give me enough time to get them done. For example, since I have class for VCD on Friday afternoons, there are a few spaces in my week to get whatever work needs to be done for that class finished before the next class. I know that I’ve also got Interpretive Typography on the same day so I might not have enough time to get them both done on the free afternoon the Thursday before. This means that I might plan to do my work for VCD on either Saturday, Sunday or Tuesday. I use my diary for planning this, so I can place the small tasks that I broke down earlier into my each day. So I might plan to do 7/10 VCD tasks on Saturday afternoon, and then do the rest on Sunday afternoon. As you can see above in my to do list for the day before this blog launched, I write down all the tasks that I need to do that day so that I can see what I need to achieve. (Sorry if you can’t read my scrawling handwriting!)
Step 4: Prioritise
The last step is to prioritise the tasks for each day. I usually just place numbers next to each task in my diary so that I know what needs to be done first and what can go last in case I potentially need to move it to the next day. This gives your day structure so you don’t waste time figuring out what to do next and worrying about what you haven’t done yet. If it works for you, you can prioritise based on what class you’re working on, or you can do all the small tasks first to get them out of the way, or whatever works for you. I usually always have homey tasks included in there like putting washing away or going grocery shopping so that I’m always on top of what I need to do and when I need to do it in order to get everything done on time!
This is the process that I go through to manage my time, and it works really well for me, but it might not for you! If it does, that’s great and I’m glad I could help! You could try parts of it, change what apps you use for yours, not use apps at all, use the whole process just as I do it, or you could do something completely different! I’d love to hear how you plan your tasks and manage your time, it might help to improve my process! So let me know, how do you keep on top of it all? If you’ve got any questions about any of the things I’ve mentioned or want some more in-depth looks into the process, let me know and I’ll try to answer as best that I can!
Much love, Hollie! :D