I’m an anomaly: I love organizing. You know how Monica on Friends has everything in her house organized precisely and hates when things are out of place? Well, I’m not quite on her level, but I’m close. I love having an organized living space, but I am more particular about organizing something else: My time.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “time is money,” right? This is more true than ever today. Do you feel like there are a million things to do every day, and there never seems to be enough time to do it all? If so, this article is for you. By learning how to plan your time well, you will find that you can easily fit in everything you need to do. This also means learning how to prioritize your life.
So how do you do this? Here are 4 easy steps.
1. Learn How to Prioritize
This is essential. Which is more important: school or work? Your intramural game or the paper that is due in an hour and worth 20% of your grade? Going out with your friends or studying for your test tomorrow morning?
In these examples, your paper and studying are probably more important than you other options. This isn’t always the case. It’s important to learn how to decide what’s more important, and manage your time better so that your paper is already done and you don’t have to let down your friends on your intramural team. There are several different ways that you can prioritize, however they all build off of one straightforward method: The Eisenhower Method. This method teaches you to sort your tasks for each day, week or month, into four boxes: Import and Urgent, Important and Not Urgent, Not Important and Delegate, and Not Important and Delete. You can read more about this method here: http://jamesclear.com/eisenhower-box.
The other useful method is the 80/20 rule. This rule states that we spend 80% of our time working on only 20% of our work, so if you figure out which of your tasks are in the top 20% of what you need to do each day, then you can effectively use your time to accomplish those tasks. To figure out which of your tasks are the most important, think about which ones will have a long-term effect on your life. Which will have the most effect on the things you wish to accomplish? These are the ones that go into the 20% category. You can read more about this here: http://www.time-management-guide.com/prioritizing.html.
You can’t always pick school or work over fun. That’s a recipe for overworking yourself into a major breakdown, so you have to learn when to say yes and when to say no. Maybe if you’ve aced every other test and you’ve already spent a significant amount of time studying for this one, then you should go out with your friends, but maybe if you have barely started writing your paper that is worth 20% of your grade, you should skip your intramural game in favor of getting that done.
How do you actually make yourself compromise on these things? The best way is to remember your long term goals. You’re in school for a reason. What is going to help you more in the long-term – writing your paper and doing well in class or going to your intramural game? The paper is more important in this case. There’s no easy way to learn how to make these decisions if they don’t come easily to you, except to start consciously thinking about what is more important to complete in the long-term. This goes back to the 80/20 rule I described before. In order to compromise, you prioritize and 80% of the time choose to complete the task with the higher priority.
3. Invest in a Planner
This one will save your life: Use a planner to write down everything, including when assignments are due, what your work schedule for each week is, when your club meetings are, when your friends want to go out, and when your favorite TV show is on.
A good planner should have a few lines for you to use to write about each day. Most academic planners include a monthly overview as well as larger spaces for each day. A couple good options can be found on Amazon, such as: http://amzn.to/2grLmTF and http://amzn.to/2g3rP6S. While these are good options, you can also easily find planners like this at your school bookstore or at a store like Target or Walmart.
After you’ve purchased a planner, use it to map out your time every day. I do this every Monday morning. I check online for all of my assignments for the week, write them down on their due dates, write down everything else non-school related I have to do, and then come up with a rough plan of how I will structure my time every single day to get everything done.
How do you figure out how much you can schedule each day without scheduling too much or too little? Start by making a rough estimation of how long each task will take to complete. Then add fifteen to thirty minutes to each task to accommodate for unforeseen extra time you may need. Now that you have time estimates, you can plan your tasks into your day.
4. Be Flexible
Your plan isn’t always going to work the way you want it to. Your professor might add in an extra assignment that you didn’t know about. You may have to cover a shift for someone at work. Maybe you’ll need to go out with friends on a night you weren’t planning to, because it’s someone’s birthday.
Whatever happens, you can pretty much assume that something will change your plan. That’s why it’s a rough draft. You have to be able to adapt to it, and squeeze in some extra time on another day to get things finished. To do this, you should avoid scheduling every hour of your day. Be sure to leave an hour or two open every day to allow for flexibility when unexpected obstacles arise. If you’ve organized your time well, you should find that these unexpected times are not as stressful as they otherwise would be. Plus, if you have a day where everything goes according to plan, then you’ll end up with extra free time. That’s definitely a plus.
It’s time to get over the fear of planning. Being able to organize your time is a necessary skill in life. It’s difficult to get through college without planning anything, and it’s going to be difficult to excel at a job after college if you can’t organize your time.
Finally, if you think organizing is a waste of time, take a moment to think about how much time you’re wasting by not organizing. That’s way more time than learning how to organize will take you.