By ensuring your time management skills are as sharp as possible, you won’t only notice improvements in your academic life. By honing your time management skills, you will also be able to strike a better work/life balance, enjoy more free time, reduce stress and anxiety, and ultimately reduce the risk of experiencing burnout, which can easily harken your time as a university student.
In this article, we will cover why it is crucial for students to incorporate time management techniques into their daily lives, share some helpful time management tips and strategies and point you in the direction of tools you can use to manage your academic workload, social calendar and everything in between.
Why is Time Management Important for Students?
Many university students find it beneficial to organise their days, weeks, and even months to bolster focus, balance, and productivity. Alongside pencilling in your diary when you will need to write your essays and dissertations, attend lectures and seminars, and study for any upcoming exams, it is also vital to find and allocate time towards maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, sticking to a nutritional diet, exercising, and finding time to socialise.
By taking a more strategic approach to your schedule, you will find that you can optimise your time and make each day purposeful – even if you are planning a day of rest! Rest has just as much purpose as tending to the demands undergraduate and postgraduate students face.
If you have ever thought to yourself or expressed something along the lines of “there aren’t enough hours in the day”, you will be surprised to learn just how much of a difference it makes to manage time more effectively.
Similarly, if you regularly feel overwhelmed by your ever-growing to-do list, breaking it up into manageable tasks will help you to have the confidence to tackle everything head-on. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that students who actively and mindfully try to manage their time can become more effective learners and more confident in the process.
The Benefits of Improving Time Management Techniques
1. You will accomplish your goals faster
By taking the time at the end of each day to plan what you will do the next day, you will remove the stress of waking up and deciding what you need to get done on a given day and remove the guilt for not being more productive. By working towards your goals step by step each day, you will reach them far faster than you would if you didn’t take an organised approach to your schedule. In the beginning, this will take some discipline and a period of adjustment; over time, you will gradually start to see the results. Many people believe that motivation is the precursor to success, but motivation isn’t a given, and a disciplined approach will ensure you always stay accountable for your actions.
2. Your Ability to Prioritise will Improve
Organising and prioritising may sound like the same skills, but when you look under their respective hoods, you will see they are worlds apart. Prioritising will allow you to arrange your most essential tasks at the top of the list and work your way through them until you arrive at the less pertinent items on your timetable. Once you have learnt how to determine the relevance of tasks, you can easily convert your objectives into achievable tasks.
3. Reduced Stress Levels
A 2018 study by MentalHealth.Org revealed that six out of every ten 18 – 24-year-olds felt so stressed by a perceived pressure to succeed that they felt unable to cope with the demands put on them. Much more worryingly, 39% of that surveyed age group felt suicidal due to stress, and 29% admitted to self-harming as a coping mechanism. Stress among young adults and higher education students is endemic in the UK. However, by learning time management skills and prioritising the most essential tasks, you will see you have enough time to accomplish the most important tasks.
4. Increased Efficiency
Motivational speakers often remind their audiences that we all have the same 24 hours. What they fail to do in any helpful way is share the tips that led them to increased efficiency with their time. One of the most beneficial side-effects of effective time management techniques is increased focus; once you set your mind on a singular objective, you will be far more likely to stick with the task until it is finished. For example, if you have a 2,000-word essay to write and you know the deadline is looming, if you haven’t set out a timetable on when you would like your first draft ready for editing, you will likely find other ways to distract yourself. Whether that be scrolling through your favourite social media app or doing something productive but not essential, such as rearranging your wardrobe.
Time Management Strategies and Tips
1. Get to Grips with Time Blocking
If it is good enough for Bill Gates and Elon Musk, time blocking can also be a great way for university students to master their schedules. Your lectures and seminars will make up a fair-sized chunk of your weekdays, but creating your own schedule, outside of what your university lays out for you, that you stick to is just as important when it comes to focus and time management. You don’t have to set an intention for how you want to spend every second of your day, but creating a clear schedule of what you want to do from the moment you wake up to when you start to wind down in the evening is a fruitful way of keeping procrastination at bay.
2. Monitor Your Time
If you are keen to understand why is time management important for students as you feel that you don’t have enough time to get through what you need to, it will be highly beneficial for you to sit down and work out how you currently use the 24 hours that are given to you every day. Once you have accounted for sleep, study, attending lectures, socialising, self-care, cooking, cleaning, and commuting, you may be surprised how much time you should technically have. With most smartphones, you can also see how much of a time vacuum certain apps are; the same goes with laptops – you can check how you have been utilising your screen time, which may give you the wake-up call you need to start managing your time correctly.
3. Set Goals
Very few successful people got to where they are today without setting short-term and long-term goals for themselves; for the highly motivated, they are essential. However, A goal is only a result – it isn’t a roadmap to the final objective destination. For example, anyone can say they want to be a millionaire, but without putting the right foundations down to build that success, it is unlikely that it will ever happen. Similarly, for students with a 5,000-word essay in front of them, submitting the paper is the end goal, not the destination. It is important for students to figure out what needs to be done beforehand, including researching for the paper, writing the first draft, editing the finished essay, and submitting it. Once a goal is set, focus on what needs to be achieved and when it needs to be finished to stay on track.
4. Build Momentum, Don’t Bow to Procrastination
Have you ever noticed that the dread, stress, and anxiety you feel when anticipating carrying out a certain task is far worse before you have got stuck into it and started making progress? Procrastination is a very powerful demotivator; it can make you feel overwhelmed at best, and entirely incapable at worst. By carving up bigger tasks into smaller and more manageable daily tasks, you can build the momentum that will help you stay confident and focused while working towards your goal. Every time you have ticked off an item on your to-do list, give yourself credit for it and accept it as an affirmation that you have what it takes to keep going.
5. Beware the Planning Fallacy
The Planning Fallacy is a term used by psychologists to describe how when we are scheduling our day, we can be wildly over-optimistic and end up putting far too much on our plates than what we can stomach. To counter this, always give yourself additional time – no matter how familiar you are with tasks. For example, if a certain task usually takes around an hour to complete, give yourself at least 90 minutes to complete it. This will drastically reduce your stress levels while trying to finish tasks in your allotted time. Our daily lives will always be in the habit of throwing unexpected distractions our way; a time buffer zone will ensure these minor setbacks aren’t the end of the world!
6. Maximise Your Energy Peaks
Contrary to popular belief, night owls are just as good at getting the worm as adage-described early birds. Even though many self-help gurus are out there compelling everyone to get up at the crack of dawn and cram most of their productivity into the morning, a large body of research suggests that not everyone experiences morning energy boosts. Plenty of people feel their energy levels peak later in the day. While it is important to keep as much of a healthy sleep schedule as possible, it is also crucial for students to listen to their bodies and not push themselves when they are experiencing an energy lull.
7. Apply the 90-Minute Rule
Taking more breaks may seem counterproductive, but attempting to do intense work for hours without them is a recipe for burnout and chronic stress. Researchers believe breaks should be taken every 90 minutes, especially if you are staring at a screen while focusing on a task. Even if you don’t set reminders for a break, your body will tell you that you need a break; tell-tale signs include feeling distracted, losing focus, and feeling restless while sitting in the same position.
8. Avoid Multitasking and Distractions
Even if you think you are a great multitasker, by forcing your attention to jump from one task to the next, you are requiring a serious amount of bandwidth from it. Furthermore, many neurosciences have rebuked the myth that the brain can concentrate on more than one thing at once – it is simply impossible! So, if you have used the multitasking myth to keep your phone by your laptop while working or have grown accustomed to watching the TV while you work, it is time to be honest with yourself about your multi-tasking abilities.
Time Management Apps and Planners for Students
If a traditional diary isn’t enough to keep you on an organisational track, plenty of apps are free to download to your smartphone and can be highly beneficial to students looking to improve their time management skills.
Trello is renowned for being one of the best free planner apps for students around. The project management tool is great for giving you a visual overview of everything that needs to be completed.
MyHomework Student Planner may not sound ideal for higher education university students but don’t be fooled by the name. The app comes with a helpful widget tool, which can be utilised if you want reminders for deadlines.
If digital distractions are the main things holding you back from time management efficiency, there are multiple apps that can restrict your access to certain social media sites. Some of the most highly revered ones include StayFocued and Anti-Social.
Building an effective time management strategy won’t happen overnight, and it may be a case of trial and error at first, but by sticking with it, you will be better placed to keep your stress levels minimal and your productivity levels high.