Monday, August 21, 2006

Getting the most out of your time

In talking to some of my friends, I’ve found that many of them want to manage their time more effectively. But some may ask: Why would you want to get the most out of your time? Well…
  • It makes you feel more productive (You’ll lose that blah/useless feeling.)
  • You can get more done in a day than you thought possible. This is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
  • It will make you rich! Let me explain: In a study of millionaires to see what differentiated them from other people, they found something interesting. It wasn’t what they did from 9-5 that united them, but from 5 onwards… In their own time. If you use this time effectively, then you will have one more characteristic in common with millionaires.
The number one most effective tool is goal setting. I will be writing a post describing this in even more detail, but I have already written one describing the benefits and a course of action: Setting Goals to Achieve More. With a goal, your tasks tend to gravitate towards accomplishing those goals: using your time more effectively.

However, once you get into the intricacies of goal achievement, some tips regarding time management can go a long way.

Time management techniques

To Do Lists & Agendas
You have to allocate your time and priorities in order to maximize your efficiency. In making a list you can easily see what you need to accomplish and what you have already accomplished. By prioritizing your tasks, you can ensure that you are focusing your effort and time on the most important things in your life. I would recommend a numbering/lettering system: ABC or 123. You know those times when you have to start a paper, but you decide to rearrange your pencils then dust your origami collection? Or something along those lines… The point is that these tasks are not necessary. Stick to your most important tasks. Remember not to confuse movement with accomplishment.

Give yourself a limited (but realistic) amount of time to perform a task, and only work during that period. You may have noticed that you work harder once there is a sense of immediacy with your task. For example: You have an essay due in 8 hours and you don’t even have a title. Necessity and fear drive you to complete the task. Timeboxing works in a similar way, but hopefully more than hours before an assignment is due.

Triage (said like “tree-age” -- ‘age’ as in massage)
In emergency medical care this refers to treating the most urgent patients while limiting resources away from those in better condition. In this context, it means you should spend your time on necessary actions and not on silly, useless garbage. Is there stuff in your life that is just sucking away your time without real benefit? Drop it like it’s hot.
  • Magazines you aren’t reading: Garbage.
  • Games you aren’t don’t actually like, but just play because you are bored: Window.
  • MSN / AOL Messenger: Log-off.
  • Food lying around your desk: Refrigerate or put in cupboard.
* By the way, food lying around your desk is not a good idea for two reasons. It is a huge distraction and it will make you fat. It will enable you to eat more frequently, and you may begin to associate boredom with food. Uh oh.

No more useless time
Waiting for the bus? Have time before class? Read something useful. Or listen to something to something motivational or educational. There are a lot of podcasts out there (Podcast Directory [new window]). By the way, if you don’t have an MP3 player, I would recommend getting one. They are getting pretty dirty cheap, or you could just ask around for an even cheaper option.

Don’t get too crazy with this time-management, remember the learning/working curve. While it depends on the person, if you work for too long, eventually you will reach a point where you are not learning/working that effectively. It is then that you should take a break. A real break, not just a washroom break. For example, you can:
  • Go for a walk
    • I like walking after or even during studying because it seems to help solidify facts in my brain. I’ve heard from a few sources that by engaging other parts of your brain while or right after studying it enhances your learning. While I don’t know how true this is, everyone could always use a nice relaxing walk.
  • Eat some fruit.
    • Vitamins, sweetness and attractive packaging: Much like a great woman, fruit will keep you energized and satisfied. May I recommend peaches and some raspberries?
With all these tips I must leave a caveat: It is all well and good to read these tips and feel empowered by them, but only by putting them into practice, will you begin to see the real benefits of managing your time more effectively. So remember, your time is as precious as you are. Treat it with the respect it deserves and you will be well rewarded.

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)

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