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Time Management 101

With finals coming up, it is a crucial time to talk about time management skills. Despite tasks piling up and more studying than ever, we still only have 24 hours in a day.


One of the staples in my business library is Stephen Convey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". It looks at seven habits, but the golden egg of this book is the Eisenhower Decision Box. The box splits tasks into Important/Urgent, Important/Not Urgent, Unimportant/Urgent and Unimportant/Not Urgent.  I strive to complete this 'taskmaster' at the start of every week. The idea is everything deemed important and urgent you do, and the important but not urgent is put on delay. This leaves the important and unimportant but non-urgent tasks to be delegated or eliminated. I use it for academic and personal tasks because once it is on paper, it is so clear to know what to do! Always, always, always keep a list of upcoming tasks!

When studying, I like the Pomodoro method. In the late 1980s, Francesco Cirillo created this great method named for the tomato-shaped timer that he had as a university student. The timer would break his work into 25-minute sessions, and then a brief break acts as the reward. This allows studying to consistent and therefore more productive. By reducing the impact of internal or external interruptions, you have a better study session. I can stay focused quite well, and as such have my schedule at 35 minutes ON and 10 minutes OFF. My ten minutes are used for a snack, quick browse of social media or reading an article online. You can go for as long as you mentally can. If this is in 5 minutes sessions, that is A-OK! The point is to stay motivated and focus for the full period.

I travel to McMaster daily and spend upwards of two hours on public transit (half an hour each way, sometimes twice). Somedays I love to just tune out and listen to music or watch an episode on Netflix. But I make a big effort to make the most out of my time on the bus. Whether it's an audiobook, a daily podcast or typing up an assignment. If I have not done it at home, I use this chance to update my task list.

Sometimes a good "unplugging" is nice! Start by unfollowing or unfriending your 'filler friends'. These are the people that you do not really follow or are close to and as a result of their activities just clutter up your feed.  I also make sure that my phone's notifications are turned off from 11 pm to 6 am to eliminate interruptions when I am asleep. When I am studying, I keep my phone in the other room and only check it during my study breaks. This really maximizes the effectiveness of my studying.

I have a running schedule for each week that allows me to stay on top of all upcoming events, tasks, projects and where I have the time or studying, my dogs, my work or ME! From this, you can create daily routines that work best for you. Daily routines are proven to help you as a student, a professional and a person (ahem... these people follow daily routines!). I can plan mine in 30-minute increments, but even just having an "Order for the Day" can help. On this note though, be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. Setting lofty goals can leave you discouraged and unmotivated. At the end of the week, reflect on what needs to be changed for the following week.

Set a timeframe for your homework. I am the dictator of many of my group projects and set a deadline for parts of a project to be done. I do this because I know how much it benefits me. For example, if it is an essay that's due I would start two weeks in advance. This allows 1 day for general information collection and 3 for an intensive research period and then 1 day for a break. From there, I have 2 days to form a draft, one day to take a break and two days to edit it in full. I can then leave it for a day and review it. This allows it to be submitted early and very well reviewed.

Finally, a massive part of time management is making sure that you are able to concentrate and are healthy. This means getting a solid 7+ hours of sleep and allotting some time for self-care. If you make the most out of 15 hours of the day, you have nine hours left for yourself and your well being. Don't forget to eat well.

Congratulations though! You have almost made it. In the home stretch of the semester!

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