Students across the country will face new challenges when allocating their time this fall. Many Keiser University students are combining learning on campus with virtual classes, work, or getting their own children back-to-school in a new way. Learning how to be productive in unfamiliar territory will give you an advantage when navigating a new schedule.
Keiser University Associate Vice President of Student Services Jacqueline Boneri shares some of the time management tips that helped her achieve success. Boneri is also a wife and mom of three young children. She says most of her inspiration for the list came from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
1. Plan Ahead
Keep a calendar that every member of the household can see. A calendar might include school schedules, meal planning, house cleaning, work shifts, etc. You can also send invites and reminders that show up on Google or Outlook calendars. This will keep everyone on the same page.
2. Color Code
This can be done in several different ways. Choose one that makes sense for you and will make your life easier. For example, each person in your household would be designated a color. When you write a task in their designated color then they will know who is responsible for completing it. You can also use colors to represent school subjects, work shifts, or chores. For younger children, you could use images on charts instead of words.
3. Plan Daily
Write down your To Do List or enter it into an app such as Google Keep. Be realistic about the items that need to be accomplished each day. Once you check your appointments and meetings, determine the number of hours remaining and then list a reasonable number of tasks to be completed. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day. Take a few minutes in the morning to plan your day or do it before the end of the previous day.
After you set a realistic list of daily tasks, it’s time to prioritize. Prioritizing allows you to determine the value, which determines the order of the items on your list. When you are under strict time constraints consider prioritizing by deadlines.
5. Think Big Rocks vs Little Rocks analogy by Stephen Covey.
Big rocks represent your top three goals for the day. Once you complete the big rocks, all the other little rocks will fall naturally into the schedule. So much more can be accomplished in a day than you realize.
6. Work with the End in Mind
Review your assignments and projects. Then work backwards, breaking it down into feasible tasks to complete your projects. This is so helpful when unexpected things arise. You can tend to those situations and still stay on task without feeling overwhelmed or worrying about missing a deadline because you are staying ahead of the game. Procrastination is your enemy.
7. Block Scheduling
Block out times in your schedule. Give yourself mini breaks of no more than 15 minutes to refocus. Block out times on for lunch, dinner, and studying. When fitting in quality time, remember family time can happen around the breakfast, lunch and the dinner table, during bath time, and bedtime. If you are giving your children your undivided attention, that is time well spent with the kiddos.
8. Batch Similar Tasks
Batching tasks can be accomplished in different ways. You can batch tasks by location. You can also group tasks that require low mental energy for a time that you are less productive. An example might be checking emails at the end of your workday. You could also batch similar tasks together to avoid wasting time switching back and forth.
9. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
S – Specific Get answers using specific ‘w’ questions: who, what, when, where, why. An example is ‘Who needs to be involved in the project?’
M – Measurable How will I know if I reached the goal? Find a way to measure progress.
A – Attainable Am I able to reach this goal within the allotted time and resources?
R – Relevant Do I have everything I need to achieve the goal? Does it fit within my other needs or with my family’s goals?
T – Timely What is my deadline for achieving the goal? What should I have completed two weeks from now or two months from now?
10. Minimize Distractions
Turn off email notifications and any phone notifications. Stay away from social media and close web browsers. If you can’t find a quiet spot, try wearing earplugs to minimize noise along with headphones which, may have others thinking twice before starting unnecessary conversations. Don’t multitask, instead use the power of focus.
Lastly, take action. If you were reading this while procrastinating, make it worth your while. Implement at least some of the strategies to help you be productive. Remember, going to school is a short-term sacrifice that produces long-term gains. When balancing family, work and school, don’t feel guilty if you need to study or take a moment for yourself. Completing your degree will be worth it.