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As a young adult in my first full-time job, I'm finding the concept of time management extremely important yet also difficult to practice.
I had a lot on my plate during college. My senior year, I took a full load of classes and worked two jobs while dating and maintaining friendships. I tend to take on too much and spread myself too thin until I'm exhausted and finally realize I need to cut back on some commitments. I've always been that way. I bite off more than I can chew.
I'm still adjusting to working eight hours a day and then finding time after work to do everything I want to do. I live with my parents, so I don't even have to cook dinner for myself. I don't have many household responsibilities, yet I still struggle with managing my time sometimes.
I was told lately (at no surprise to me) that I tend to start a lot of things and not finish them. I think I have more time than I really do, and I'm overly ambitious when I think about how much I can accomplish in a given amount of time. As a result, I came up with a few strategies that help me manage my time better.
1. Make sleep a priority. I don't do this nearly as often as I should, but sleep is crucial to using your time well. When I go to work on little sleep, I come home and nap. I'm sluggish. I hardly accomplish anything except eating dinner and falling asleep while watching TV because I simply don't have the energy to do much else.
When I do get a full night's rest, I am much more productive. Not only do I finish things faster, but I can do more. I don't run out of energy as quickly. I focus better and don't put things off for another time when I'm not as tired.
2. Plan realistically and prioritize. This is also where I fail, and this is also another area where if done well, really helps with time management. I tend to think I can accomplish more than I really can, so I never allow enough time for my projects.
Evaluating your priorities really helps here because you can allot an appropriate amount of time for things that really need to be done. If you have extra time, then you can do some of the smaller things that aren’t quite as important.
3. Take it one thing at a time. I love to make lists when I have a lot of things to do. I tend to start multiple projects at once, and since I’m a multi-tasker, sometimes I actually work better that way. And then sometimes it also comes back to hurt me.
For example, I’m made a lot of Christmas presents this year instead of buying them. I started multiple projects at once, but that means nothing really gets done. Instead of taking them one at a time and finishing what I can, I end up finishing nothing.
I’m often racing against the clock to finish, for example, three knitting projects all at once. If I’d focus on one project at a time, I’d be more productive. I’d see my results faster, which would lessen stress and encourage me to keep at it and stay focused.
These are just a few things that I’ve found help me use my time better. How do you manage your time, and what are some strategies that help you?
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--As a graduate student, I have a fair bit of control over how I use my time. For work, I prioritize by 1) what needs to be started ASAP so I don't have to stay till 9 pm 2) what can be done while the first project runs/incubates and 3) what needs to be done/planned so that I'm up to speed on the other projects I'm working on when the one I'm currently focusing on slows down (I have three projects to keep track of--one I'm almost done with, one I'm currently working on, and one I'm planning. They are in different areas and require different bodies of knowledge). I calibrate how much I attempt to do at work by how tired I am and how much outside pressure there is. There aren't summer and winter breaks in grad school, so burnout (physical or mental) is a real possibility.
I used to try to get a lot of non-work stuff done in the evenings, but I realized it was neither realistic nor sustainable, so I keep it down to grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry once a week each--aka, three nights out of the week are busy with household stuff. The other nights I read up on non-thesis topics, watch TV shows online, attend Bible Study/social activities, or do data analysis from home/go back to the lab after supper. I don't do crafts or have time-consuming hobbies. I do find it challenging to consistently do the non-essential stuff like dusting, cleaning, and balancing my checkbook (my income is highly consistent, and I live well within it, so that's not as bad as it sounds).
--Looking back at my post, I suppose the overarching point is that I find it most productive to only loosely schedule/organize my time. Typically this is accomplished by a short list of priorities which can typically be accomplished in any order. If I try to impose a strict schedule, it's stressful and thus, counterproductive (probably related to my personality type). But different strategies work well for different people.
--One other important time: Try your best to make commitments you can keep and keep your commitments! Don't play the Bigger-Better-Deal Game with your friends. Giving everyone that asks you to do something a "facebook maybe" until the eleventh hour then deciding at the last minute what you actually want to do is for teenagers and scheduling amatures. If you know you're not going to go to something when you're asked then let your no be no. It will make you calendar less crowded, you'll feel less guilty for blowing things off, and you won't get that reputation for being the person who always says they'll come and backs out at the last minute.
Also, be punctual. When people know that you respect their time they will respect YOUR time. If you always show up on time, people will know that if *they* show up on time, you'll be there. If you always show up ten minutes late, they won't feel so bad being late, even when it's critical for you.
Finally, even though you should generally keep your commitments, Don't be afraid to cancel actvitities that don't significantly impact others when you've overbooked yourself. You're not superhuman, you can't do it all. Sometimes the best think you can do for time management is to quit something, especially if you are chronically overbooked. Chances are if you're too overloaded, then at least one of the things you are doing, you're not doing all that well anyway. It's much better to do about four things you are really awesome at, than 10 you can only sort of do.
--Mrs. Ashley, I wish I could buy you a drink for that. I've been trying to schedule a retreat with a handful of friends at a local abbey, and it has been like pulling teeth to get any of them to commit, never mind that they were all over the moon about going. So far, from 8 people it looks like it will be just me and one other friend. I've learned two things from this whole fiasco: I love these people to death, but I'm never scheduling anything like this for them again, and I had better pay attention to my schedule and stop playing the "maybe button" game when someone invites me to something. I feel really bad now for every time I've ever clicked it.
--The most important time management tips are to write everything down that we have to accomplish for the day and then prioritize the tasks. The main reason that people run out of time or do not complete tasks on time is that they are not efficient regarding their tasks at hand.
Everyone can develop time management skills by working on the most critical items first. If we try to follow this way, we don’t get our entire list done, at least we could finish the most important tasks.
For time management, I’ve started using trial verison of Replicon cloud-based software ( http://goo.gl/yGF1mm ) and so far I liked it.
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