Once you’ve done your goal-setting, task-chopping and prioritizing, it’s time to start scheduling.
It’s a good idea to use some form of scheduling tool. A calendar, a to do list or an app – these all work equally well! You have to find what’s right for you.
Create a routine, a habit, of planning your day/week. You can do it on Friday afternoon if that gives you more piece of mind during the weekend. Or you can do it on Monday morning to kick-start your week. It doesn’t matter when you do it, as long as you make it a habit to take 30 minutes from your week to plan what you are going to do next. This will help you save time, energy and nerves in the future, I promise.
Blocking time in your calendar/schedule for both active work and preparation time is important because it helps you to plan and it helps others to see when you are not available for meetings etc. Some suggest that you should block out both proactive blocks and reactive blocks. Proactive work is when you focus on important tasks that you must get done (A tasks or important AND urgent tasks). Reactive work is when you deal with requests and interruptions, such as e-mail and sudden meeting requests. Be flexible and always over-estimate the time needed to complete tasks. Use for example one-hour slots (schedule breaks too) and then use the Pomodoro method to increase focus during those slots.
Analyze how you’ve done and make adjustments accordingly. Be patient and compassionate towards yourself. You will become better at estimating how much time some tasks will take. Academic and creative work is very hard to schedule but your skills will improve with experience.
Reflect on what you spend your time on. What are your time thieves and when are you most likely to procrastinate? Make a plan to tackle these time-management pitfalls. But remember: make small changes! Don’t attempt to fix everything at once. If you do, you will set up yourself to fail. What’s the smallest change you could do to improve your time-management?
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