To help you master time management as a student, we asked six successful professionals, including Founders and CEOs, to share their most effective techniques and tools. From using automated scheduling tools for time-blocking to improving efficiency with visual references, discover the top six strategies they used to stay organized and meet deadlines effectively.
- Using an Automated Scheduling Tool for Time-Blocking
- Viewing Personal Time as Non-Negotiable Appointments
- Overcoming the Planning Fallacy With Extra Time Allocation
- Practicing the Eisenhower Matrix for Task Prioritization
- Maximizing Productivity During Peak Hours
- Improving Efficiency With Visual References
Using an Automated Scheduling Tool for Time-Blocking
I was really into time-blocking as a student (even still have old screenshots from my time-blocked calendar during some insane exam weeks that I was really proud of!). Time-blocking all my studying and assignments into my calendar helped me navigate stressful exam weeks while knowing when I could add more commitments and when I couldn't.
The time blocks helped a ton, but it was so tedious to set up that I only did it when I really needed it badly, like during exam weeks. I ended up creating a tool with my brother that we used as students to automatically time-block our to-do lists into our calendars.
Now, it's our full-time job. It would find time for all our assignments, and tasks would light up red if they couldn't be scheduled before their deadlines. It was a game changer and effectively took all the stress out of studying because we could just look at our weeks in the app and know we'd hit all our deadlines and have time to spare.
Viewing Personal Time as Non-Negotiable Appointments
When I was balancing both my master's degree and a job, my to-do list would spiral into this overwhelming monster. There were evenings when the sheer amount of tasks on my plate was too much, and I'd just procrastinate, wasting hours I couldn't afford to lose.
It's easy to fall into that trap when you've got a million things pulling you in every direction. At some point, I realized I had to shake things up and get more intentional with my time, or I might fail my important goals.
I started dedicating specific chunks of time in my calendar to each task I had. These were non-negotiable appointments with myself, and the rule was simple: no distractions, just laser focus on the task at hand.
The results were pretty much immediate. I was finally hitting deadlines and making actual progress. Now, as an entrepreneur, I swear by this technique. It's the backbone of my daily routine, ensuring I get stuff done without burning out.
Overcoming the Planning Fallacy With Extra Time Allocation
Though I might not have had the words for it, I quickly learned how much we all fall victim to the planning fallacy, in which we assume we can complete something much faster than we realistically can.
After missing a couple of deadlines early in school, I took a different approach and never missed one again. Whenever I planned out projects and assignments, I would always block 10-20 percent more time than I thought I needed to complete them.
I would always front-load my schedule, too, so if I had three weeks to complete something, I’d do 60% of the work in the first week and aim to finish my work with at least three to four days to spare before the deadline.
Did things always work out according to plan? No, but I always finished my work because I made space for delays to happen without derailing me. And because I had enough of a time cushion, it also meant I could say yes to the social invites and activities I wanted to do because I knew I could easily make up for any missed time.
Practicing the Eisenhower Matrix for Task Prioritization
An effective time-management technique for students is the "Eisenhower Matrix." This tool categorizes tasks into four quadrants based on their urgency/importance.
Quadrant I: Tasks that are both urgent and important, requiring immediate attention and action, such as imminent exams.
Quadrant II: Tasks that are important but not necessarily urgent, like long-term academic goals, etc.
Quadrant III: Tasks that are urgent but not important, often distractions that can be minimized or delegated, such as social media interruptions for students or non-critical emails.
Quadrant IV: Tasks that are neither urgent nor important, representing time-wasters that should be avoided.
By categorizing and prioritizing tasks using this matrix, students can allocate their time and efforts more effectively, ensuring that critical deadlines are met and long-term goals are pursued.
Maximizing Productivity During Peak Hours
Everyone has a time of day when they are most productive. For some people, it's early morning; for others, it's late at night. The best tip is to make the most of that brief window of time. If you're an early bird, for example, don't waste your mornings working out or getting coffee with friends on campus.
Maximize that time and get more bang for your buck from a productivity perspective. This will free up more time in your day overall. Going straight to the library every morning when you get up, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and doing all of your homework from the previous day can make you hyper-efficient.
Then, you could stack your classes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and call it a day after that. By 3 p.m. every day, you are free to do whatever you want, and you know you are getting the most out of your day by blocking off time at the library when your brain is working at full capacity.
Improving Efficiency With Visual References
I have used Post-Its to help organize my day, tasks, and priorities, especially in school. Writing down all of your tasks somewhere visually with the estimated time they will take to accomplish is helpful and gratifying for visual thinkers, as mapping things out can help us be more productive.
Color-coding Post-Its, stacking relevant tasks, and keeping an organized space for them on my wall were my basic methods of organizing myself and my week. When you finish tasks, you get to rip them down and reassess what you need, which is satisfying to do in practice.
The visual references help teach you how long things actually take to complete since you’re scheduling for estimated completion times. Each week, you can take time to adjust and re-establish better guidelines for yourself to be better prepared for the week ahead.
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