Time Management

Planning clocks

The first lesson in time management is that you cannot manage time. Time is finite. You get 168 hours a week to sleep, learn, work out, spend time with friends and family, etc. Successful people do a better job at using their 168 hours a week wisely. They focus on task management - not time management.

For example, imagine two students who both want to do well on an AP exam in May. In September the task-management student creates a study plan that breaks down the information they need to master into weekly goals. Some weeks they are able to chip away at the weekly goal in bits of downtime. However, some weeks either the material is harder or the week is busier and they need to take time from a lower-priority item to get it done. By contrast, the time management student sets aside 30 minutes every Friday afternoon to study for the exam, and tries to never miss a 30-minute session. Studies show that the first student has a better strategy. Early in the school year they should start to be able to predict whether their plan will work to prepare them by the test date. They will be able to come to the week's tasks when they can work most efficiently, and will tend to press through to the end of the task. By contrast, the time-management student may have days when they are tired or distracted, so that the quality of the thirty minutes is uneven. Without a specific amount of work to do each week they may tend to overestimate the amount they have accomplished or underestimate the amount they have left to do. The planning the task-management student does up front will pay off in better test preparation.

Better Time Management

Keep a To-Do List Keep a to-do list. Break down large assignments into short-term and specific tasks. Digital Time Management apps are increasingly popular tools that can be a big help with this. Prioritize your list so that you can do the most important tasks first or when you are at your best. Mark items that can be done in short blocks of otherwise unproductive time. For example, use commuting time to review test notes or the few minutes before practice to review your swimming journal.

Set Goals This will help you prioritize your to-do list. See the goal-setting section to create S.M.A.R.T. goals and then include the steps to achieve your goals in your to-do lists.

Set Boundaries Once you have goals and plans to achieve them you will need to defend your priorities. Parents, friends, teachers and coaches may not agree with your priorities. When conflicts come up, you will need to be firm and that may mean saying no to people or disappointing them. There may be unpleasant consequences. However, trying to please everyone will dilute your time and energy and compromise your dreams.

Stop Time-Wasters Email, texts, and social media are all useful tools that can become time-wasters if you do not manage them. You need to limit not only how much total time you spend on these things, but also the quality of time. When you are fresh and ready to concentrate work on high-priority tasks. Turn electronic media off until you need a break or have some down-time.