“Either you run the day, or the day will run you” Jim Rohn
How many times have you stayed up all night to complete an assignment on time? It’s something that many students have done at some point during their study years. But it’s not fun, is it?
How many times have you thought, ‘if only I was more organised’, ‘if I had started the work earlier’, or wished you didn’t get tempted away from your desk to go out with friends, or whatever else might be a welcome distraction at the time.
Sound familiar? Well let’s see if we can identify some of the underlying issues.
One of the most common problems for busy people is procrastination; dictionary definition – ‘the action of delaying or postponing something’. Everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, it’s so easy to think, ‘I need to make a drink before I start this task’, or ‘I need to check Instagram and then I will get on’, and suddenly 2 hours have past! Procrastination is not laziness, so don’t beat yourself up too badly for it, it’s very common, it’s more about self-control/discipline (or should we say, lack of it!), but, it does need to be recognised and tackled, it’s not a very useful trait when you have deadlines to meet and goals to achieve.
This light-hearted video that provides some helpful ways to tackle issues of procrastination:
Feeling overwhelmed, those feelings you get when you have so much to do that you go into paralysis, you can’t think straight, you can’t think of all the things you must do because it feels too overwhelming. Write things down! Write them down as and when they come into your head, trying to hold all those tasks in your head at once is too much, some of those things are small and some of them are big, but they are all in there, all mixed up together, so prioritise the tasks and sort them into urgent and less urgent. This will make you focus more on the big, urgent tasks and to realise that the smaller, less urgent things can wait a little while.
- Break bigger tasks down into multiple small tasks, Mozart famously once said “the shorter way to do many things, is to do one thing at a time”.
- Prioritise your coursework, identify assignments that count more towards your overall grade, and focus on those first. Allow the right amount of time for tasks that count more. Make sure you know what each assignment is worth and allocate time and effort accordingly. If your Dissertation is worth the same marks as another assignment, plan to spend equal amounts of time on each assignment, and stick to the plan.
- Allow yourself breaks, it isn’t productive to work for hours and hours without taking a break, you might feel that you are wasting precious time, but allowing little breaks and rewards for achieving set amounts of work is a great way to become your own task manager. Self-discipline is key, setting your own goals and allowing yourself to stop for short breaks, all takes a good level of discipline. You will be more alert after a break too!
Eliminating distractions is important, if you know you can’t resist checking your phone 500 times a day, then put it on silent and out of view, allow yourself to look at it at set times, when you are taking a break, or when you reach your personal goals.
Getting enough sleep, and regularly, is important to help keep you focused. Try going to sleep and always waking up at the same time every day, even at weekends, this regulates your body-clock and is very good for focus. A good diet also helps to keep your brain fed, along with drinking enough water, and exercising regularly.
There are some great tips here for students and getting control of time management: http://timeman.com/time-management-tips/time-management-tips-for-studentssome might be familiar, but there might be a few that you haven’t heard before, there are some useful resources on the same site, including a Goal Setting template and a Priorities Flow Chart. Using charts, lists, calendars, flow charts and journals can be invaluable when trying to gain control of your life.
Time management is a key professional skill, so you if you can master it while at university you are setting yourself up for greater success in your future career.