“I simply don’t have the time,” was a phrase I had prepared on the tip of my tongue anytime I found myself: going weeks without exercising, ignoring my personal development goals or justifying my inability to communicate with family and friends on a regular basis. This was a phrase that rolled off my tongue oftentimes without thought. I made this declaration without actually looking into my schedule because I just knew without a shadow of a doubt that if I didn’t have work to do, I certainly had a series that I needed to complete on Netflix, a social gathering I needed to attend or memes that I needed to review in my social media inbox. Three weeks ago however, the concept of insufficient time came to a screeching halt. The COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the nation and in response, schools and many businesses transitioned to a work from home format as a tenet of the new social distancing framework many states have now instituted for its residents. Three weeks ago I had trips, birthday celebrations and numerous in-person meetings cemented on my calendar, but, over the past three weeks, I’ve seen each event canceled or pushed out with no new date in sight. This has left me with additional time on my hands. This time has allowed me to come to terms with how I was misusing my time in the past, and it’s time that I want to take ownership of to create healthier time management habits for the future. So now that you’re reading this, and you have this newfound time too, are you willing to take this journey in creating better time management skills? “I simply don’t have the time,” just won’t cut it anymore.
How Much Time are We Wasting?
One hundred and sixty-eight (168) hours; this is the amount of time that we have in one week. It admittedly does not feel like we have this much time on our hands and sure, once we throw in the time spent at school or work or both, that puts a dent in this number. However, if we deduct the typical 40-hour work week and make the assumption that law students are putting in similar hours for their studies, that still leaves us with a whopping, 128 hours remaining. Ok ok, I’ll be fair, we still need to account for the commute time from home to each destination and we still need to account for time spent sleeping, but even when we generously allot 2 hours per work day to commuting and 8 hours per day to sleeping, that still leaves us with 62 hours unaccounted for. So what are we doing with this time? Where does it all go? This additional time gives us roughly 8 more hours in each day to be productive, so why is it that at the end of each day we still feel like we are spinning our wheels and unable to get everything done? Well this is simply because we are not managing our time efficiently. We don’t realize how many hours we lose mindlessly scrolling social media or prioritizing the next binge-worthy show. Therefore, if we want to take control of this additional time, we need to implement time management habits that can boost our productivity and efficiency.
So How Do We Improve?
1. Track Your Time
The first step I would recommend is to track your time. I recognize that many students have varying schedules which may include juggling a full time or part time job with their law school studies or even childcare which has increased drastically during the quarantine. Tracking your time will allow you to see how many unaccounted hours you have. It may not be as much as 62, but you may be surprised at how sizable this number is, which can enable you to make changes in utilizing this time better. So, use the next week to simply continue with your current schedule and actively track how you are using each hour. When you wake up in the morning, write down how many hours you have spent sleeping. When your virtual classes are done for the day, write down how long they took and when you are done with your class preparation, note how many hours you completed. At the end of the week, you will be able to average your productivity hours and deduct that from the 168 hours we have in a week. The resulting number is the unaccounted time that you can improve on going forward.
2. Create a New Schedule
The next step I would recommend, is to create a new schedule to improve on your time usage. Schedule how long you will sleep each night, how long your classes will take each day, how long you will take to prepare for each class and even your breaks. Allot time for exercise, facetiming with friends and family and even Netflix. Having these breaks to look forward to can be an incentive to be more efficient with your time.
3. Repeat Until It Becomes Habit
The next step would be to actively utilize your new schedule in the most productive way and continue until it becomes habit. This means using your schedule free of distractions that will throw you off course. It may be necessary to download apps such as the Freedom App to block sites that may distract you. It may also be helpful to use apps such as Trello to track the milestones achieved within your schedule or apps such as Better Habits to stay consistent on your course. This won’t be easy, especially with limited oversight in quarantine. However, the longer we stay on course, these new tactics will inevitably become habit. It may take longer than 21 days for this to become second nature, but hey, we definitely have the time now.
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