As a college student, as I’m sure tons of students would agree, there is a constant struggle with time management. It is almost impossible to balance all of the things that are put on our plates. Between school, work, sleep, social life, mental health, and physical health, there’s simply too much to juggle. There are times when I have too much on my plate, and I feel overwhelmed, it cripples me to the point where I can’t get anything done. But through many, many painful trials, I have found some approaches that help me stay on task. If only there was a simple answer that made time management simple for everybody. But the truth is, you just have to find what technique works best for you.
Everybody works differently and has different habits. So finding what works best for you is the key. I have found that I absolutely have to make a “To Do List” if I want to stay on top of things. This helps me because I am very forgetful and if I don’t write it down, I will not remember to do it until it is too late. I also love this technique because it is incredibly satisfying to cross things off a list that I accomplished. I have also found that another technique that works for me is to take 5-10 minutes before any task or meeting to visualize and brainstorm what I’m about to do. This helps especially when I have to write a paper, so when I sit down to write, I can just type away and not waste time thinking about what I need to say next. For me, this technique is especially helpful when I have a hard deadline or am pressed with time. Even though I take a little bit of time beforehand, I more than make up for that time because I am focused on the goal and the specific steps I need to take to get there. Visualization is a huge key to success. Jack Nicklaus, who is arguably one of the greatest golfers of all time, said, “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head.” His motto is “Rehearse twice, swing once.”
Another huge key to getting things done is finding the right workspace. Personally, I can’t get anything done unless I am in a quiet space. I have tried so many times to get work done in social settings with friends around, and it just does not work. But I know some people that have to be in a social setting because working in a quiet space makes them go crazy. But I need it to be quiet so I can really dial in and focus. Another technique that may seem weird to a lot of people, is I can’t listen to music with lyrics if I want to get anything done. Depending on the task, I either need silence or instrumental music, because the words of the song will mess me up and throw me off task. But some need to be listening to their favorite band to stay on task.
But perhaps the largest key to productivity for me is unplugging from all unnecessary distractions. This means not having any tabs open in my browser that aren’t directly related to what I am working on. This also means putting my phone on silent somewhere else in the room. Because though there are sometimes when I need my phone to complete the task I’m working on, the vast majority of the time, it is just a distraction. So the key is to find what works best for you and stick with it. But unfortunately, you can’t find out what works without also finding what doesn’t. It is a constant trial and error process. So once you find your methods that work, stick to them so it is easier to manage your schedule. Bad time management can crush you, but good, intentional time management is fundamentally essential if you want to succeed.