With our obsession for productivity, a real 21st century disease (which translates to studying + working + doing sports + having an active social life + taking care of ourselves, food, beauty and sleep and 100+ other things included, and being happy on top of that) time planning is an absolutely crucial ability. I can guess that you clicked on the link hoping to read some miraculous things on time saving which you could apply in your real life and solve all of your problems in an instant. But as for every article with a very promising headline, there are no miraculous answers or hacks to this question. Despite of this, having an overwhelming schedule has taught me to be very disciplined concerning time planning and I wanted to share some of the tips that help me structure and even save big amounts of my time, which, I hope will be useful for you as well.
Number one: fill all the gaps
You know those small pauses that your day is filled with? Five minutes until the next bus… Twenty minutes before another lecture… Ten minutes waiting for your friend in a café… You’d be surprised how all of these “insignificant” minutes add up and what quantities of work it’s possible to do during the day using only these gaps between precisely defined plans (such as work hours or lectures). In past months, I read several books only by using my time in metro, which is no longer than just one hour every day. My mom is laughing at me for always carrying the book or magazine “just in case”, but you never know when you’re going to be stuck somewhere having nothing to do and worrying about wasting your time (waiting for the doctor longer than expected is just one of the examples), so why not always have something useful? Of course, I’m not talking only about studying. You can use these minutes to answer your emails, phone that friend with whom you haven’t talked for ages, search for a recipe for an evening’s meal or anything else… However, be cautious: once you see the benefits of filling all the day with productive work, you can become too obsessed and leave no time for rest, which is an absolutely counterproductive thing.
Number two: prioritize or not prioritize?
Prioritizing is the key in successful time planning. I could bet it’s the top advice for whose who don’t know from where to start, because, obviously, this principle is logical and stress-reducing: you start organizing your work from things which are the most important and which need to be completed the soonest. However, it’s not always the best way to organize the work! Do you sometimes catch yourself thinking that you “feel like doing” the task which is not exactly the number one priority on your list? For example, brainstorming for a project due in two weeks than writing an essay due tomorrow? I’ve noticed that suffering on the task due tomorrow before moving to other things can be very inefficient. Right now, I should actually be doing homework for next week classes, but I’m writing this article instead. I feel that I have many ideas and that I can do it relatively fast and efficiently which might not be the case tomorrow… This article could take me some hours! I’m convinced that sometimes it’s better to switch places of your priorities if you feel that you’re capable of doing something you’re enthusiastic about without sacrificing your main task of the moment, of course.
Number three: know your enemies distractions
Every evening, I prepare a plan of things to do next day. It’s practically impossible to stick to it 100% every day, but it really helps to have a structured and motivated schedule when the amount of work becomes overwhelming. The way you plan your day is really personal, because there are different methods that work for some but are completely demotivating for others. As for me, I start my list with the essential tasks and after them I write a reasonable amount of other things that are not as important but which are possible to accomplish. For me, more is always better than less, so I kind of race with myself in seeing how much I can do in one day (attention: Setting up the to-do list bar really high is not supposed to make you unhappy if you complete only half of the plan, it’s supposed to keep you motivated. I also want to repeat that I’m talking about reasonable amounts of work, unrealistic plans are nothing but counterproductive to your work). The key to keeping up with your productive schedule is to have efficient pauses (which I’ll discuss in next point) and to know your distractions which could reduce your productivity: be it temptation to scroll social media feeds, chat with a friend, check the news, answering emails as soon as you receive them… You should work out to see what kind of activities distract you from concentrating on work and do everything to avoid them. You should also be very disciplined to concentrate on the task you’re doing and not change activities every thirty minutes.
Number four: efficient pauses
Having rest and re-energizing yourself is vital to efficient work. The problem is that sometimes you see that these work-free minutes haven’t helped you at all or even worse: You feel more tired and unwilling to return to work. For a really long time I considered reading books as one of my favorite pastime activities, but as the rhythm of my studies and work accelerated, I noticed that taking a book into my hands seemed to be the worst option. The problem is that all I do for my history studies and for my journalistic job is that I… read and write 100% of my time so reading isn’t the kind of activity that could make me relax anymore. In fact, I want to rest from it. One of the best advice I’ve ever been given to is to choose activities which are completely different in nature to what you do for the most of the day. For example, I found out that watching movies, going out for a walk in the city or doing sports is the best way for me to relax now.
Number five: don’t panic
Usually it’s not the amount of work that makes it all seem impossible, but the stress. Studying and working at the same time or having a lot of multiple projects can seem like riding a bicycle on fire, but from my experience, the biggest amount of time is lost while contemplating on the amount of work rather than just doing it. It’s easy to say, but panicking is the main element to cut off from your daily routine to make everything as smooth as possible. And to keep your emotions and head sane!
There are many other strategies to plan your time but I consider these as my essential ones. Let me know if you have found out any other ways to be productive!