By: Sam Li
Hi, Marauders! Today, we’re mastering the art of time management. You don’t think you can master the skill in one day? It’s understandable, and we can help you get there! Read this post to find out how I did it. Also, register for the webinar happening tomorrow, July 15, at 5:00 p.m. (EDT), for more helpful time management tips from the academic skills team.
Breaking it down
Overall, I think time management is an art. In my first year, I had to stay dedicated to my study plans and practice prioritizing tasks. Over time, I created a five-part workflow for effective time management.
1. Understand your schedule
During the first days of classes, I record due dates for all my classes, important social events and extracurricular commitments on a four-month calendar. Scheduling makes me more aware of busy weeks so I can get ahead in my assignments and studying.
2. Narrow your focus and establish key goals
I use a weekly schedule to plan one or two weeks in detail. Then, I identify my short-term, achievable academic goals for that time frame. These goals keep me feeling motivated as the term progresses.
Be sure to come to tomorrow’s webinar to get some helpful goal-setting frameworks.
3. Break up goals into smaller, meaningful tasks
Next, I deconstruct my goals into smaller tasks. I ask myself, “What can I reasonably accomplish during my time between classes that will contribute to these goals?”
After I define these tasks, I assign an estimated completion time. Here’s a personal example:
- Goal: Finish my lab report!
- Tasks: Create an outline of my report (1 hour). Take notes on research papers (20 minutes per paper). Finish graphing my data (30 minutes). Spend time writing each section (1.5 hours per session).
Next, I think about what to do with my day. I try to keep to the “rule of three,” where I prioritize three big tasks for the day. For me, this is the most realistic number of tasks I can complete.
I like to prioritize based on how much time or effort each task requires and how much value they add to my school life once complete. Anything super valuable and quick gets listed first. After, I start on bigger important projects. If I have time, I work on minor tasks that require less energy.
5. Build momentum and manage procrastination habits
For me, the hardest part is getting started and staying motivated to finish tasks! So, how can we do it?
App notifications always divert my attention. So, I put away distracting devices like my phone or put them on “do not disturb” mode.
I’m a fan of Forest, an app that gamifies productivity and blocks distracting websites. It lets you set a focus timer for your work, and at the end, you grow a healthy, virtual tree as a reward.
The main reason why we procrastinate stems from the association of negative feelings with a task. I acknowledge this association and use tools like Forest to overcome this procrastination. This helps me convince myself that doing work will make life better for my future self. It’s true, after all!
Lastly, I want to share Rory Vaden’s TED Talk, How to Multiply Your Time.
Instead of asking yourself, “What do I need to get done today?,” ask yourself, “What can I do today that will make tomorrow better for me?” This has allowed me to think of tasks less like chores. Instead, I’m empowered by their broader, positive impact.
Hopefully, time management seems less daunting after reading this post. While there’s no one right way to manage your time, I’m confident that you can experiment to find what works for you. Personally, I struggled with staying motivated to finish my tasks in my first year. Sometimes, I didn’t achieve everything on my to-do list because I had an off day. It’s important to forgive yourself when this happens; learn from it, and commit to doing better.
This tip sheet has some really great advice to help you stay motivated this year, so check it out!
Overall, improving your time management skills will benefit you beyond your first year at McMaster, so congrats on starting to build this habit early!
About the Academic Skills Prep Series
Throughout the second half of July, join us for live webinars as we share what it takes to be a university learner and how to advance your skills in time management, note-taking, reading, writing and much more!
Enter for a chance to win
This summer, make sure to follow @MacSSC on Instagram for all of our Academic Skills Prep Series contests! We also have one grand prize to finish the series off right! The grand prize is a $250 gift card to Best Buy, with a second and third prize of $100 and $50.
How to enter: Write a 250–300-word response that refers to at least three webinars, sharing what you found interesting and new in the Academic Skills Prep Series and how it may help you prepare you for your first year of university. Email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59 p.m., August 6, 2021. This contest is only open to incoming first-year students.