What is Time Management?
Managing time means investing your time to obtain those things you decide you want out of life, including what you want out of school and your job. This definition implies goal-oriented action. It assumes that you know what things are important to you. This concept of managing time assumes that you have clearly focused values about school, your RA position, other work, your social activities, and most important yourself and other people. The payoff of an effective time management program is the ability to get more done and control your life. In other words, what you should be working towards is putting yourself in control of your life and your job instead of your life and job controlling you.
Categories of Time Use
As you consider the things you need to accomplish, try to place them in categories of importance.
Important and Urgent
These are things that must get done, immediately or in the very near future.
Example: Your supervisor needs an assignment by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, the research paper that is due in 2 days, the referral for the student who is involved in a serious crisis, it is April 15 and you haven’t finished your tax return submission.
Important but not Urgent
Attention to this category is what divides effective time managers from ineffective ones.
Most of the really important things in our lives are not urgent. They can be done now or later. In many cases they can be postponed forever, and in too many cases they are. These are the things that we never get around to.
Example: The diet you’ve intended to begin, the annual doctor’s appointment you’ve been talking about scheduling for 3 years, getting to see a counselor about an issue that is bothering you, calling the bank to resolve a problem with your bank account.
All of these things have one thing in common: despite their importance to your health and your well being, they will be postponed indefinitely unless you yourself initiate action. If your ability to get things done is driven by outside influences or other peoples deadlines or priorities, then you will never get around to managing your own priorities.
Urgent but not Important
These are the things that clamor for immediate action, but that we would assign a low priority if we examined them objectively.
Example: Someone asks you to volunteer for a project, that you really are not interested in, but because someone is looking for an immediate answer and you do not know how to gracefully decline, you say yes. These tasks typically have built-in time lines, and because of that they get done, while items that are Imporant but not Urgent, get put on the back burner.
There are many tasks that are marginally worth doing but are neither urgent nor important. They provide a feeling of activity and accomplishment while giving us an excuse for putting off those Important but not Urgent tasks that are far more important.
Example: You decide to work late one Friday night because you have a lot of schoolwork to catch up on. When you sit down at your desk you start organizing the information on your desk. Having done so, you decide that while you are at it, you should just organize your top desk drawer. For the rest of the evening you put together an entire filing system for all of the materials you received one month ago during RA training.
The definition of wasted time is subjective of course.
Ernest Hemingway is quoted as having defined “immoral” as anything that you feel bad about after. This definition may not stand up to theological scrutiny, but it may apply nicely to wasted time.
Example: Television viewing, can be time well spent if we come away feeling that we have been enlightened or entertained. But if, afterward, we feel that the time would have been better spent conversing with friends or family, exercising, or reading a good book, then we can count that time as wasted.
People who scramble madly to get control of their time often look for things in the wasted time category to blame for their inefficiency. Perhaps however, this is not where the problem lies. It lies rather with allocating too much time to things in the Urgent but not Important and Busy Work categories, rather than Important but not Urgent category.
Managing Your Time Effectively
Getting the Job Done
1. When you have a big job to accomplish, divide the job into manageable parts, and conquer the individual parts. This will give you a sense that the job is not too large, and with each task you accomplish you will be motivated to complete the remainder of the job.
2. Understand that at points it is important to finish a job, and at points it is best to stop and come back to it later. If it takes you one hour to finish something that should take 15 minutes, you’ve not used your time wisely.
3. You don’t always have to do things the same. Sometimes trying to do things differently will help you find new and more efficient ways of getting things done.
4. Manage paper carefully. Handle paper as few times as is possible. Look at it and figure out whether you should throw it away or keep it. If you decide to throw it away, do so immediately. If you decide to keep it, put it in a specific place as a reminder that you need to do it. When it is done, file it or throw it a way.
5. Take time the night before to think about what you need to get done the next day.
6. If you’re working on something hard, switch occasionally to a less intense task.
1. Sometimes you need to stop non-productive activities as soon as possible and you need to understand your personality traits. Are you too cautious? Do you talk too much? Are you too friendly? Are you still working on a school assignment at 4:00 a.m. that is due at 10:00 a.m. the following morning?
2. Do your hardest work at the time of the day when you are at your peak.
3. Always consider the commitments you make to others. Don’t volunteer for things that do not interest you and will take up important time. Remember that if you promise to do something, you should do it without needing to be reminded or nagged. Be assertive, and feel comfortable pleasantly stating the word “No” from time to time. You can’t be all things to all people.
Understanding Your Priorities
1. There will always be a battle for priorities, and you need to decide what is of high priority to you and focus in on those things. Balance your academics, personal life and work life so that no area suffers because of another.
2. Remember that crisis and unexpected things will always come up. Build time into your day to account for the fact that this will happen from time to time.
3. Help your supervisor make better use of your time. Keep him or her informed of your work, what is going well and what is not. Don’t ask your supervisor to do work for you that you could do yourself, or to solve problems that you can solve. Talk to your supervisor about time used together and how it can be most efficiently spent.
Look out for Your Well-Being
1. Protect your health. Avoid not getting enough rest, relaxation, sleep and exercise. Watch those all-nighters.
2. Remember the value of time spent relaxing. Enjoy your life, get work done and then play. Sometimes doing nothing or planning nothing is one of the most healthful things you can do.
NOTE: Many of the concepts and ideas in this article have been taken from information compiled by Mary Beth Cooper, Associate University Vice President and River Campus Dean of Students at the University of Rochester, and Brian McAree, Interim Vice President for Students at Ithaca College. This information is presented per the permission of Mary Beth Cooper.