5 top techniques to help manage your time (and studies)
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Unfortunately, for us all, the clock is ticking and hours can drift by. The past is ever-increasing and encroaching on the possibilities of the future as even the smallest of regrets about wasted time begin to build inside us. But, with the right methods, it is simple to work out how to order your work and studies, by collecting information on which are the most important and structuring yourself in a way to suitably meet these tasks. All, so you can begin to claim back the most precious resource available. Time.
For students, national exams are kicking back in after a 2-year hiatus. I am not trying to scare you, they are just the facts. Combining this with school mock exams holding a greater level of importance than pre-pandemic means that every term feels like revision season. Being inundated with this constant pressure can make it harder to stay organised and know what to study at the right time. But don’t fear, this blog will outline multiple ways to keep you on top of your workload and get you exam-ready. Plus, parents might learn something too. Winners all around!
What is time management?
To put it simply, time management is the process taken to organise and manage your time. Good management of time can help you be more efficient and schedule time effectively between the most important daily activities. Bad time management can lead to incomplete work, missing deadlines and increased stress levels.
The true objective of improving time management is to efficiently adjust the time spent on specific activities to help you attain your goals in the fastest possible way. Reducing the time spent on trivial tasks that have no bearing on your objective will free up time to spend on more important frugal activities.
What is the 80/20 Rule?
Commonly referred to as the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule is an axiom that states 80% of our outcomes/output is a result of 20% of our inputs/tasks for any given event. Being able to identify the inputs/tasks that have the potential to be more productive and making them a priority is one of the most efficient ways of managing your time.
Whilst the rule is commonly used in the world of business and economics, the concept can be applied to any field, task or habit in both personal and professional life. At its core, the principle is about identifying the best assets available and using them in the most efficient way to maximise value. For example; students preparing for an upcoming exam should use the rule to identify which parts of the syllabus hold the most potential for marks and focus on these first.
The benefits of efficient time management
Good time management allows you to accomplish bigger and better things in the time you have available, leading to more freedom, a better work-life balance, increased productivity and lowered stress levels. By working to minimise distractions and procrastinations it allows you to take control and focus on the important tasks and complete them simply and easily.
Here are 5 benefits of efficient time management:
- Better work-life balance
Achieving a good work-life balance has become the crown jewel for any employee or student, it allows you to be more productive at work as you feel comfortable knowing you have a good amount of time to spend on the most important things in your personal life, whether that is hobbies, family or other relationships.
Spending long hours at work increases the risk of burnout and can contribute to a consistent lethargic feeling that you carry over into personal experiences.
Being efficient with your time management means you are aware of the value your time holds. You know the reasons behind spending time on certain tasks and what the outcome of those tasks will be, helping you plan concisely and reducing the time spent on pointless tasks that hold no value to you.
- Less stress
The holy grail we are all searching for. To reduce the amount of stress we experience in our lives so we can focus our minds on what brings us contentment and joy.
Being able to manage your time well will reduce stress levels and increase your confidence. Meeting tight deadlines in a time appropriate manner will reduce the feeling of anxiety naturally associated with a deadline being set, contributing to a sense of pride in knowing that you have done all that you could in the time available to you.
Managing your time appropriately stops the feeling of being overwhelmed by work and inundated with tasks. Feeling overwhelmed is also a huge factor related to lethargy, a consistent feeling of tiredness throughout the day regardless of how much rest you get.
- Greater focus
Effective time management increases your focus and you will see improved levels of productivity after making the positive change. The ability to focus greater can lead to better opportunities to capture greater value for yourself, a business or studies.
The greater focus is achieved mainly through prioritisation of tasks and using the Pareto principle. Expanding your list of to-do tasks and working longer hours does not necessarily mean you are more focused. Being able to work smarter instead of harder and accepting certain disruptions are natural but planning around them will allow you to focus more on the tasks whilst you are conducting them.
- Higher productivity levels
Going hand in hand with greater focus is higher productivity levels. Getting more done within the same amount of time due to effective time management is a haven we can all appreciate.
Time management skills help you reduce stress and prioritise time and tasks effectively, one of the main factors behind lower productivity levels is procrastination and good time management does not mean cutting that out completely because that is unsustainable. It is more about recognising when you are procrastinating and allowing yourself set breaks in which you can use a set amount of time to recharge instead of losing an hour of your day.
- More time freedom
Time management techniques are designed to ensure that you have the freedom to do more of what matters most to you. Having more freedom with your time allows you to analyse and evaluate your old goals as well as set yourself bigger and better targets that you know you can achieve.
Having freed up the time, you can spend more of it with family and friends. The more time you have to deepen and strengthen those relationships, the more motivation you will have to succeed and you will have a natural feeling of contentment to take you through tougher days.
Ensure that you take action to find your purpose in life. Begin to ask yourself what you would do with an extra couple of hours each week and then manage your time accordingly to ensure that you remove trivial tasks that have little to no impact so that you can claim those hours back.
Small changes to improve time management
If you are keen to begin making some changes but don’t want to totally revamp your entire lifestyle through the bigger techniques listed below, then there are a number of smaller changes you can make to test the water and begin claiming back previously wasted hours.
- Analyse how you spend your time
This is a really quick, simple method to figure out where all of your time goes, so you can begin to make positive changes with your time. We have all pleaded with friends and family vigorously that we don’t spend that much time on our phones. If you haven’t, then congratulations, you deserve a pat on the back. But for the majority of us, do we really know how long we spend glued to technology? What may feel like 20 minutes is actually more like an hour and an hour could actually be 4. If you haven’t begun making use of your phones built-in digital wellbeing settings then they can be incredibly informative about how much ACTUAL time you spend in each specific app.
You can apply the same logic to other tasks. If you spend a lot of time watching TV then feel rushed with deadlines, it may be worth actually figuring out how many episodes you watched of your favourite show, applying some mental arithmetic gymnastics and calculating the actual time you spent watching.
Spend too much time in the bath or shower? Set a stopwatch when you get in and stop it when you are finished. Just becoming a little more aware of the actual time you spend doing certain tasks will open your eyes to the true value of time. This awareness will lead to better decision making and revolutionise your time management skills.
- Find a work zone
The pandemic has taught us the importance of separating work and social life. With working from home becoming more common, the increase in stress levels has soared. A large contributing factor for this was the lack of separation between our work and personal lives. So many of us were guilty of working in the same room that we use for leisure or rest. This plays absolute havoc on our minds as we either felt guilty for not being at our desks working or distracted us when we were trying to work.
Find yourself a dedicated work zone, even if you are not able to go into the office still and have to work from home, don’t cram yourself into a room. Use it as an opportunity to take your work to the local coffee shop or library. Knowing that you have to commute, even as little as 5 minutes can help you plan out your day and manage your time more efficiently.
- TAKE A BREAK!
This one infuriates me. The number of people I know who do not take small breaks and slowly find, as the day grinds on, that they lack the motivation after a productive morning is shocking. We are not built or wired to be focused on a single task for 7 hours straight, it is physically impossible, so why would you even contemplate attempting it.
Don’t be afraid to get up from your desk and go for a 5-minute walk around the office, if you need it to refocus your mind on the job at hand then do it. That 5-minute walk or coffee break could be the difference between you completing a task by the end of the day or completing it the next morning.
Regular small form factor breaks help you to manage your time better as you remain more focused on the priority tasks at hand by indulging yourself in small pockets of planned procrastination.
5 time management techniques
Technique 1: Tick Tock Time Block
What is the Time Block?
The time block takes a usual daily calendar planner and spins it on its head to present your daily tasks in a more engaging, visual way. Each block in the grid is sized differently depending upon 2 things. How long the task is predicted to take and how much time of your day it should take up. Being able to visualise the tasks that will consume the majority of your time throughout the day will allow you to effectively plan other tasks around them.
It has been designed especially for visual learners who prefer to take their information in an aesthetically pleasing visual format. Visual learners take on board information when a specific relationship between ideas is displayed in a graph, chart or diagram. The use of colours in the diagram simply correlates to the different tasks involved throughout the day so that they are easily segregated and lines are not blurred between tasks.
How does the Time Block help manage time?
The time block helps individuals to manage their time through a visual representation of the daily tasks they need to complete. Being able to visualise which tasks are the largest brings additional motivation to check them off and complete them to free up more time in the day.
Calendars are useful tools for keeping track of upcoming meetings and deadlines to remind you of important events. Applying a daily time block takes all the benefits of a calendar and enhances them into a visual art form.
Technique 2: The Eisenhower Matrix
What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
The Eisenhower Matrix is a way of organising your workload and priorities in a simple way. Great time management is not just about being efficient but effective as well. We need to spend our time on things that are important, not just those that are urgent. The matrix helps to separate the activities into four unique zones all attributed to what you should do with a task depending on its importance and urgency.
The four zones of the Eisenhower matrix are; “Do First”, “Schedule”, “Push Back” and “Avoid”. The tasks deemed to be the most important and require urgent attention are those that you should do first. If a task is important but does not need to be completed soon, schedule a time in the future to tackle the problem. For the tasks that are not important but have an urgent deadline coming, try and push them back until you have the spare time to complete them. Finally, the tasks you should avoid doing at all costs are those in which they are irrelevant in both importance and urgency.
How does the Eisenhower matrix help manage time?
Being able to split your tasks into those that are important and those that are urgent can allow you to tackle those tasks that provide the best value for time and effort above all else. Categorising each task by importance and urgency helps provide a sense of value around tasks that can be applied to everything you undertake. Being able to understand the value of your time will reduce the amount of time you spend procrastinating and on time-wasting tasks, providing more fulfilment in your life.
Technique 3: The Pomodoro
What is the Pomodoro technique?
Taking its name from the Italian word for tomato, this one may sound rather strange. But there is a method behind the madness. Most timers come in the form of either a tomato or an egg, so let’s be honest, Pomodoro sounds much better than uovo. As this technique revolves around setting yourself small-timers throughout the day to maintain focus on a particular task, it all of a sudden starts to make sense.
The Pomodoro technique breaks the day into chunks using a 25-minute task timer. You begin by turning off and removing yourself from any possible distraction. Whether that is a phone, TV, books or other people. You then create a 25-minute timer using something analogue that would not be a tempting distraction. Once the timer has begun, you focus on the task at hand as fully as possible. It is only natural as humans that certain distracting thoughts may enter our minds during this time, luckily the Pomodoro technique caters for this inconsiderate act. Should a thought, irrelevant from the task at hand enter your mind, you write it down as a note and move on. This creates a mental link that you have created a new task for later and allows you to refocus. Once the timer goes off, you should then take a short break, take a walk, make a drink and look back at all the thoughts you jotted down.
How does the Pomodoro technique help you to manage time?
The technique is designed around busting procrastination and giving your full attention to the desired task and provides some ways to combat those pesky thoughts that may enter your head whilst trying to concentrate. By breaking up your day into small chunks of time, you are able to comprehend the value your time has and engage with the thought process behind how much time you actually lose to procrastination during the day.
Technique 4: Priority Pyramid
What is the Priority Pyramid?
The priority pyramid is a way of listing all of the tasks by order of importance. With those that require urgent attention or that hold a high level of importance taking their place at the top of the pyramid. The aim is to work your way down the list and tick them off to reach the bottom each day to provide a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment each day. There is no clear method of defining what is more important or what requires completing urgently but it is up to you to decide upon the order in which you rank them.
I would suggest combining the priority pyramid with the Eisenhower matrix in order to create the list of tasks that you need to complete.
How does the Priority Pyramind help to manage time?
Prioritised work is productive work. When there are clearly defined priorities, you feel more confident that you will hit deadlines every single time. There are a number of work management tools out there that you can use to further help with your time management but for those looking to dip their toe into it, I highly suggest organising your work like an Egyptian.
One of the most devilish feelings that we experience is stress. Thats not to say that stress itself is bad but if left unchecked it can lead to anxiety which is crippling. Understanding the importance of certain tasks can help to reduce stress. When you run around like a headless chicken and constantly feel like you are only just meeting certain deadlines it can burn you out quickly. The priority pyramid can stop you from becoming a part of the 71% of workers who reported feeling burnout during 2020 according to the Anatomy of Work Index report by Asana.
Technique 5: The Upward Trend
What is the Upward Trend?
The Upward Trend is a version of the good old “eat the frog” technique that has been made popular as a time management scheme. The “eat the frog” time management school of thought states that if you were tasked with eating a frog and you dreaded doing so, it is best to complete that as your first task of the day so that you have got it out of the way and can focus on other ventures.
How does the Upward Trend help to manage time?
The upward trend begins by planning out your day in an upward curve. Starting with the most difficult tasks that you are fearful of completing first so that as the day is ending you are completing easier tasks to begin winding down for the evening. Being able to wind down and separate your day into sections can help with time management as feel well rested and less stressed in the evenings when you are looking to rest.
What improvement will I see in my work/studies?
Whether you are a working adult or a student scampering to class you will see a marked improvement in the quality of the work that you produce. This comes about through understanding the newfound value of your time and focusing on the tasks that are most important to you and you want to spend time on. Ultimately, providing the motivation required to produce a high standard of work, leading to better grades or career progression opportunities.
Good time management will make you more efficient in your work, removing getting caught up in multitasking and focusing on a singular activity for a specified duration will mean you give that task your undivided attention and best shot at succeeding with it helping you to realise your goals faster.
Managing your time well elicits a sense of confidence and accomplishment from meeting all of your desired goals and objectives. This lift increases the belief you have in your capabilities. Boosting confidence has a direct link to higher grade attainment in the classroom as you begin to test your abilities to a higher level.
As an employee, it can help you become more reliable who appears dedicated and complete high-quality work on time. This improves the value you hold as an employee, boosting your professional reputation and opening up further career opportunities.
How does Sherpa help with managing my time?
As a platform, Sherpa has been designed from the ground up to make learning outside of the school environment as convenient and simple for every party involved. We believe that the barriers to a good education should be as low as possible and are committed to ensuring that tutoring specifically is accessible to all walks of life.
The Sherpa platform is all-inclusive and the one-stop shop to find your perfect tutor, get into contact with them on your own terms, schedule a free introduction and complete tutoring sessions without any of the traditional issues that come from face-to-face sessions or from a typical tutoring agency.
Having a single platform that holds all of the tutors that you may need allows you to schedule your time effectively between your daily school studies and the additional help you may need from our selection of qualified teachers available to help you out after school.
As a tutor, Sherpa offers you the ability to choose your own working hours and the rate you wish to charge depending upon your qualifications. This flexibility helps to provide our tutors with an excellent work-life balance ensuring that they do not experience a form of burnout in their sessions and come to each with a fun and engaging demeanour helping to build a good rapport with students to boost their grades and raise their confidence.