4 Ways to Effectively Manage Your Time
I’ve always thought the phrase “I don’t have time” is kind of funny; actually, we all have time and we all have the same amount in any given week - 168 hours. To be fair, how we manage our time may be vastly different and can certainly make us feel as though we don’t have as much time as others. As students and young professionals, time management can either defeat us or give us an advantage in school and career.
Check out these 4 ways to more effectively manage your time:
1. Let technology organize so you can strategize
Staying organized is one of the more challenging pieces of managing time well. There are a million moving pieces moving at a million miles an hour; it feels like all we can do is keep up, and there is no room for strategy in that cloud of commitment chaos. As usual, technology can help! There is tons of awesome tech out there to help you stay organized so that you can create the margin you need to be strategic.
As much as I love a beautifully color-coded, hand-written planner or calendar, tech just wins at organization and accessibility. Your calendar, weekly to-do list, daily to-do list, assignments, events, and anything else vying for your attention can be accessed on any device at any time. Plus, all of those tools can be set up in a fraction of the time it takes to completely fill out a planner for a new semester. Below are just a few of my favorite digital time management tools, ranging from Mac to Microsoft and free to $10:
- iStudiez Pro App: track classes, assignments, exams, and more; this one is a game changer in defeating syllabi shock ($9.99 or iStudiez LITE is free)
- Free College Schedule Maker: not a pretty website, but oh so functional
- Google Calendar: We all have a digital calendar, but utilizing your Google Calendar and its great features makes organizing time relatively easy
OneNote: your digital, shareable notebook, notepad, to do list, and more - this Microsoft application is free to download online
When tech organizes your time, you are allowed to assess it strategically and then manage accordingly. A quick google search will give you tons of other options for distraction reducing, task managing, productivity boosting technology (usually software); happy searching!
2. Implement strategic transitions
Most schedules include at least a few transitions each day; some, of course, more than others. Whether it's a 45 minute commute to work or 15 minutes between classes, transitions tend to capture time covertly.
Personally, as a college student, transitions account for around 3 hours of most of my days. I drive about an hour to and from work, I am transitioning between classes for about an hour most days, and it generally takes me an hour to settle in when I arrive home in the evenings. One of the most powerful strategies I’ve used to manage my time as a student is to implement strategic transitions
For example, my time in the car is used to decompress; on my way to work, the radio is off and I’m detached from the happenings of the day. My transitions between classes (15-30 minutes) are intentionally social; it's time to say hi to friends and make plans with those people I’ve been meaning to connect with. That evening hour I need to settle in when I get home is for picking up the apartment; that one is definitely quirky, but it’s therapeutic for me. Use transition times as strategic blocks in the day, don’t let them steal 3 or 4 of your hours without permission or purpose.
3. Own your ideal week
I am a huge believer in the ideal week. Mapping out your ideal week, including all of your commitments and transitions, allows you to design goals that uniquely accommodate your preferences. Not a morning person? Design your ideal week day to start at 9am. Spent after 8pm every evening? Design your ideal week day to end at 7pm. Constantly missing lunch and dragging later? Design your ideal week day with tons of margin right around noon.
Even the design process (aka plugging stuff into Free College Schedule Maker or Google Calendar) offers a sense of ownership and control over those 168 hours each week brings. It’s practically impossible to execute an ideal week every week, but at least you’ll know the goal in the midst of life’s chaos. Design your ideal week, map it out in a way that makes sense for you, and then own it!
4. Know your time debt
In my ideal world, here’s what each week day requires:
- 8 full hours of sleep
- 1 full hour of exercise
- 1 full hour to get ready for the day
- 1 full hour for mindfulness/spiritual enrichment
- 1 full hour to prepare, eat, and clean up breakfast
- 1 full hour to prepare, eat, and clean up lunch
- 2 full hours to prepare, eat, and clean up dinner
- 1 full hour to focus on my family
- 1 full hour to unwind before bed
So, 17 of my 24 hours have already been accounted for; I only have 7 left, and that’s not even enough for an 8 hour work day! Work, transitions, projects, community commitments, meetings, etc. haven’t been considered yet, and I’m already in debt 1 hour by working a full day. If I operate with that 1 hour of time debt for too long, suddenly I never eat lunch or never get to bed on time, because I am missing a whole hour in my day.
We all have different levels of comfort with time debt; some people have no problem operating on 4-6 hours of sleep to produce an extra 10 waking hours in the week, while others consider a full 8 hours of shut-eye non-negotiable. If you set your time debt first and then answer to commitments accordingly, you’ll learn how to wield the power of “no” really quickly.
Time may be our most difficult resource to manage - it’s easy to waste and hard to consistently use well. Hopefully by employing technology and strategy, you won’t be caught feeling like you don’t have time. You definitely do have time, 168 hours every single week, so decide how you need or want to spend it and then own that decision. Best of luck!
About the Writer
Well, hello there. I’m Lizzie! I am the Enactus Event Coordinator and a Junior in the Business Administration program here at North Central. I really love cycling, vegan-friendly restaurants, and coffee in a mug on Saturday morning. Don’t let the whole introvert thing fool you - my husband, Tyler, and I are super goofy and love laughing with friends.