Time management

Good time management is about being able to do the things you want to do in the time you have available, and being able to prioritise when time is scarce.

Te Whakatakoto Mahere

Na Maui i here te Ra kia ata haere, kia oti pai ai nga mea i whakaritea mo te tangata. Ahakoa tamia ana e te nui o nga mahi, ko te whakatakoto mahere mo ia ra te tikanga. Kei pa mai he aitua, me hanga huarahi ano hei whai mau.

Why people manage time poorly

Poor time management is often due to underlying beliefs.

  • “I like leaving things ‘til the last minute because I work best under pressure.”
  • “I work best when I am inspired.”

Do you really? These two very common beliefs are catch-cries of the procrastinator - someone who habitually puts off doing things until their back is against the wall. Good work needs time - for preparation and research, and upon completion to assess what you’ve done and improve on it.

  • "There are no limits."

This is a perfectionist talking, and is a common attitude which stops people from getting work done. For example, you can easily get so involved in perfecting a project that there is little or no time left for other important work.

This attitude is also seen in people who believe they can and should work around the clock to get things done. There are always limits to what you can do. You are not superhuman, and there are only 24 hours in a day. Good work requires good 'down time’ as well, to replenish your resources.

  • "I try to keep up with my work, but people keep expecting things from me. It's just one thing after another."

Trying to be all things to all people often means you badly short-change yourself. Be clear about your own priorities. It’s okay to put your own needs first and simply say 'No'.

  • "I'm not naturally organised. No-one in my family is, so how can I possibly be?"

Skills in time management are not hereditary, but we do pick up good and bad behaviour from those we live with. The good news is habits can be changed.

  • "I would work to a plan, but I hate rigid timetables."

If this is you, plan a more flexible timetable; one that works for you, and that allows for things to take longer than expected as well as unexpected interruptions. Keep a realistic overview and keep in control of your situation.

Effective time management

To manage your time well often requires a change in the way you think about and approach things. This is never easy. The first and most important thing is to be clear about your need to change.

You can read entire books on time management, but you won't change your behaviour if you don't really want to. Writing lists and creating timetables is no good if you don't use them. So:

  • Stop and assess your situation
  • Be clear about what you want to achieve
  • Then take definite steps to achieve those goals.

The key to managing your time is planning. First plan your whole year, then your expectations for Trimester 1.

Make sure you take all your needs into account—deadlines, social and work commitments, and breaks.

  • Break your study commitments for the term into small achievable steps. It is vital these steps are realistic and achievable or you'll always be running to catch up.
  • Break these steps into a daily (and/or weekly) lists of tasks that you can tick off once completed. The smaller the steps, the better.
  • Prioritise each of these steps as either high, medium or low priority. Concentrate on the high priorities first; don't get bogged down in the low. Review your priorities regularly.
  • Some things will take longer than you expect. Have a contingency plan ready. Only adjust the flexible things in your life (such as when you have dinner or exercise), not the fixed things (like attending a lecture, sports practice, or paid work).

Helpful hints

  • Use pockets of spare time. Ten minutes is enough to review some notes or brainstorm ideas.
  • Work out which time of day you function best, and use that time as productively as you can.
  • Quality of study time is often at least as important as quantity. Early morning is often a good time to work - you are refreshed and no-one is about to distract you.
  • Write your study goals on a card and stick them on a wall near your work space. In busy times it helps to be reminded of what you need to do next!
  • When planning, bear in mind your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you're easily distracted, try to find solutions.  If you're distracted by your phone, turn it off and put it out of sight.  If people distract you, establish non-interruption times - close your door, put a sign on it, and be firm about interruptions: say 'No' or 'Can we meet up later?'
  • Your workspace can work against productivity. Sit away from others and with your back to foot traffic or the view. Keep your workspace uncluttered and work-oriented.