For many of us, the busy nature of our daily lives requires close and careful budgeting of our time if we want to get tasks done, meet deadlines, and still have any time for ourselves. Many of us struggle to manage our time efficiently and get everything done. Here are my 4 steps to effective time management.
Step 1: Know how you spend your time
In order to budget our time, we have to first know how we are spending it. Just like the first step to creating a financial budget is tracking how we spend our money, the first step to creating a time budget is tracking how we spend our time.
Create a log to record what activities you’re doing on a 15 minute or 30 minute basis for at least a week. After you’ve done this for a week or two, go back and reflect on how you’re truly spending your time. You may find some surprising results.
If you want to get really detailed with it, there are tools you can use to track how you spend your time online, as computer time can be one of the most productive or most wasteful activities in our lives.
Now, once we know how we spend our time, we need to evaluate how we want to spend our time. The way I prefer to do this is by using a prioritized to-do list.
Step 2: Prioritize how you want to spend your time
Here’s my method: first write down everything you would like to get done within a week, day, or even in the next hour, in no particular order of importance. By doing this, you can clearly see a layout of each thing you need or want to get done. I even like to include little things like “eat a healthy dinner” on my to-do list to make sure that small ways of taking care of myself and staying healthy don’t slip through the cracks when I’m overwhelmed by other tasks. Once you have it all laid out, go through and rate the tasks by both importance and time sensitivity.
Once we identify the most important ways we need to spend our time, the next step is to create a schedule. Many people end the process at the prioritized to do list–but how will you know if and when you can get it all done if you don’t find a time for each thing?
Step 3: Create a schedule
Here’s how I go about creating a schedule: first, assign time allotments to each activity. Be honest with yourself and evaluate how much time it will take you to complete each task. Don’t be too optimistic here–schedule yourself a little more time than you think you will need because everything takes longer than you think it will.
Once you’ve assigned time allotments to each activity, you’re ready to begin scheduling. It is helpful to use some kind of organizational tool for this, whether that be the calendar on your iphone, another scheduling app or program, or good old pencil and paper scheduling in a planner. When you’re building your schedule remember two things: Firstly, be honest with your abilities and when you’ll be able to get good work done. Schedule the most rigorous activities at the times when you think you’ll have the most energy. Secondly, don’t over-schedule yourself. Remember that throughout your tightly scheduled day you will need time to do human things like eat healthy meals, sleep, and even be social! There is nothing wrong with scheduling in non-school or work related activities like going out with friends or calling your mom. These are important things too and they need to fit in somewhere.
Step 4: Stick to your schedule
The final step to excellent time management is sticking to your schedule. This is where self-discipline comes in. Just like it takes self discipline to stick to a financial budget, it takes self discipline to stick to a time budget. This can look like avoiding small distractions, or setting yourself reminders on your phone to switch tasks in order to stay on schedule. It also requires avoiding procrastination and facing your packed day head on. One thing that can help me do this is making sure I have some accountability around the activities I have to do.
Time management can be one of the biggest challenges of a busy student life, and many students struggle with it every day. Though these 4 steps require effort and discipline, if followed they may help you gain control over your time and meet your goals each day.
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.