Between working, studying, family commitments and life in general, it can begin to feel like there’s not enough time in the day. If you started studying a course during the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be trying to work out how to fit it all in as life begins to return to normal. Learning some effective time management strategies can help you get the juggle under control.
As well as helping you to fit everything in, time management can create space for success in each area of your life. Using time more productively can reduce the rush and leave you feeling as though there really is more time to fit in your study, work and life commitments. The result? Enhanced study outcomes as well as improved career progression, relationships, and even mental health and wellbeing.
Stop feeling like you’re constantly trying to catch up with these practical tips for achieving a work/life/study balance.
Time management tips for success
Get your priorities in order
Prioritising can be tricky, especially when you’ve got a lot of competing priorities. Instead of just writing a list and ticking things off when they’re done, consider how you can prioritise your tasks. There are many approaches to prioritising. One you could try is the Eisenhower Matrix, which recommends categorising your tasks into four quadrants. 1: Urgent and Important. You should do these first. 2: Important but Less Urgent. You should schedule these. 3: Less Important but Urgent. Delegate these if possible. 4: Less Important and Less Urgent. Think about whether you really need to do these at all! If prioritising within your course is confusing or overwhelming, your trainer will be able to help you.
Learn how you work best
Morning people, night owls – everyone is different. Are you more focused in the morning, afternoon or evening? And while some of us thrive by taking on the day’s biggest challenge first thing, others prefer to save it till last. Get to know how you work best and when you are most efficient to use these times to your advantage.
We’re looking at you, social media! Distractions are everywhere and they can eat away at our time before we’ve even realised. Identify what your Achilles’ heel is when it comes to focusing on getting things done and try to remove it. For many, that could mean putting your smartphone in another room while you’re studying. Maybe you keep finding yourself turning on the television instead of doing essential research. Whatever it is, save it up as a reward for when you’ve completed the day’s tasks.
Create systems and routines
Once you have started tracking how long certain tasks take you, you can begin to create better systems which will help you to get more time out of your day. These could be daily schedules, checklists for certain tasks or flowcharts to remind you of what comes next. Don’t forget to be flexible enough to change it up if it’s not working. For example, if checking emails in the morning is holding you back from getting on to more important tasks, then try setting emails aside until midday.
Make a plan
Good time management requires a bit of forward planning, so try to envision what your day will look like in advance. Allocating specific chunks of time for different tasks will help you to get a clear vision of what will fit where. Allow for travel time, lunch and breaks too.
Take a break
There’s no point sitting at your desk staring at a blank page or re-reading the same sentence over and over. Sometimes perseverance can be a time-waster! Head outside for a walk, have a cup of tea or take five with a game to clear your mind and get back to it with fresh eyes and more motivation!
Seek out support
Whether you need a bit more time, some understanding of personal circumstances, to change things around, or some guidance to get it right, the act of asking for help can stop you from wasting time on stress or plugging away aimlessly. At Practical Outcomes our trainers are there to motivate you and guide you at every stage throughout your course. Available via phone, email, online conference or even in person, they can give you handy resources and individualised support as needed. Also, our Language, Literacy and Numeracy support team will give you access to learning plans that are tailored to your needs.
Use time management tools
There are so many tools you can use to create schedules to help you with managing your time more effectively. Online options can help you track how long you are working on any given task and enable you to clearly see what needs to be done and when.
- RescueTime: With this software you can track your habits, block websites that distract you, set goals and alerts to keep you on track.
- Monday: View your tasks and timelines at a glance, track time spent on each task, use automation tools to make life easier.
- Toggl: Track how long tasks take you across various devices to help you make smarter choices about how you schedule your time.
If apps and software don’t work for you, there are still other ways to manage your time. Tip: use a grey lead pencil or whiteboard marker so you can erase and rewrite as needed – no one needs scribbles everywhere when they’re trying to get organised!
- Use a whiteboard: A trusty whiteboard give you an at a glance reminder of your tasks, assigned days and times and what’s coming up. Update on a weekly or monthly basis.
- Daily to-do list: Many people still swear by a notepad with a handwritten to-do list. You can update it daily, weekly or both to keep on top of everything and carry it in your bag wherever you go.
- Desk calendar or diary: A calendar or diary can be a useful tool in your time management arsenal, enabling you to schedule your tasks in on each specific day of the week, month, year.
Getting the most out of your time
Time management strategies alongside some useful study tips can help you be more productive while undertaking a course and may include things like getting adequate exercise and sleep, eating well and learning how to study with children at home.
Making life easier while still managing to get it all done is achievable. Time management skills can be learned and with a few strategies in place, you can enjoy a study/work/life balance in no time. As a Practical Outcomes learner, if you need support to fit in your course with life’s other commitments, make sure you chat to your trainer.
If you’re interested in studying early childhood education, check out more information about our courses or contact us today!