“Work smarter, not harder” has been a staple adage when it comes to time management, and for good reason. Your productivity isn’t dictated by how much time you have, but rather by how well you use this time.
A key skill when it comes to studying, in particular, is learning how to make the most of the time that's available.
Focus on one task at a time
Multitasking has long been disputed as something of a myth. Trying to work on more than one thing at a time is not only difficult but also leads to a lack of concentration.
For example, if you’re studying for your exams, hopping between different subjects will just confuse you unnecessarily.
Use a visual means of organisation
Being able to check your schedule at a glance is a useful way to make sure you’re still on top of things. Make use of a year planner that you can stick up on your wall. Add important dates and colour code them based on their importance.
Write a to-do list every morning
Even if you’re not sure you’ll be able to finish it, start each day by writing your to-do list. That way, you’ll know exactly what you need to focus on for the day and you can forget about everything else momentarily. Kanban boards are also a great way visual way of keeping track of your to-do list.
Experiment with setting time limits
As part of your to-do list, set each task a time limit. Having a deadline to work towards can make you more focused. If you finish early, you can use the time to go over your work or even give yourself a short break.
Take short breaks between tasks
And speaking of short breaks, incorporating a small gap between tasks can actually make you more productive. This effect is well documented with the Pomodoro Technique, a method of time management where you break up your day into periods of time interspersed with short breaks.
Get enough sleep
While it’s not always easy to get a full eight hours every night, a lack of sleep affects your ability to concentrate. There’s little point in trying to complete tasks on your to-do list when you’re not concentrating properly.
Find what helps you focus
Some people prefer complete silence while others like to listen to classical music. Some even prefer the background noise in a coffee shop.
Whatever your preference, identify what environment you find it the easiest to concentrate in and try to replicate it whenever you sit down to do some work.
Incorporate leisure time into your routine
Routine is one of the most important aspects of time management but it doesn’t apply just to your studies. Incorporate everything you need to achieve during the day into your schedule, including cooking, exercise and going out with friends.
Make sure you have all the information you need
Pay attention to communication from your lecturers or department head. Make sure you’re aware of when exams have been scheduled and add them to your year planner.
You don’t want to be caught unawares by a change in the schedule because you didn’t read an important email.
Create a comfortable workspace
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a desk but having a space that’s comfortable, clean and distraction free will help you concentrate and make you more eager to get stuck into your daily tasks.
Keep your study materials well-organised
Even the books and files you’re no longer using need to be kept around for a while, just in case you need to reference them. Create a colour-coded filing system for yourself so that you can easily find the information you need.
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