The Best Strategies for Time Management


  • To-do lists.  When I do my grocery shopping with the shopping list, I usually find in and out of the grocery store way more quickly. When I don’t bring my grocery list though, I am spending more time in the store running back and forth between the aisles trying to remember what I needed to buy, and often I forget to buy one or two things. 

Time management for students works pretty much in the same way. When we are trying to remember all the things that we need to do, the chances that we will forget to do something crucial are big. Our mind is trying to remember all the things, but because of the distractions, we fail. So, to free the mind of all the distractions, we need to do a “brain dump”. Get it out of your head, make your to-do list, and put it on the piece of paper or in the notes section of the phone. Hence, you can concentrate on doing the tasks, rather than remembering them. 


  • Rule of three. To-do list is a powerful time management tool if used correctly.  What if we litter our list with meaningless tasks and then we feel accomplished when we cross something off, but in reality, we are not getting around to any of the major tasks on that list.  Another time management technique that might help is called “The rule of three”. The concept is introduced by the author J.D. Meier’s fantastic book on agile time management, Getting Results in Agile Way.   First, write the three things you want to accomplish this week. Then write three things you want to achieve today and repeat this daily. The daily to-do list will help to work towards achieving the weekly goals. This simple rule helps with working much more effectively. 


  • Another time management technique that I found very effective is making your to-do list actionable. Instead of writing something like ‘salon’, even though I know what I meant when I wrote it down, I try to add an action word.  So, instead of writing ‘salon’, I write ‘call salon’ or ‘make the appointment’. Adding the verb makes it easier for the mind to visualize the process of doing it. It increases the chances that the task will be completed. When it comes to larger tasks, like study, try breaking it out into smaller tasks to make it more manageable. For example, what pages do you need to read? What chapter do you need to study?


  • Not too much, not too little. Scheduling too little to complete the task is more likely makes you feel stressed if it’s not finished on time.  But scheduling too much time can work against you as well. There is the concept called Parkinson’s law, which states –work expands to fill the time available for its completion. It means that if you give yourself a week to complete an hour task, then the task will increase in complexity and will fill that week.  So, if you give yourself one hour to work on the project, it will take you about an hour. But if you give yourself four hours, it might take you about four hours. By assigning the right amount of time to a task, not too much, not too little, we gain more time. 


  • Prioritize wisely. Once you’ve set your task to complete, it’s time to prioritize them. It’s very important to distinguish what tasks are important and what tasks can clutter your to-do list.  Stephen Covey, the co-author of First Things First, introduced the concept of prioritizing to-do list based on their urgency. He suggested evaluating the list and placing each task into one of the quadrants. 


The Time Management Matrix

First, focus your energy on completing your most urgent and most important things (quadrant I) before moving on to less time-sensitive items. 


Turn off your social media. When it comes to time management, my downfall is continuously checking my phone. It is difficult to fight this habit, but easy to moderate.  For example, when I’ve accomplished a major task from my to-do list, I reward myself with social media distraction for about 5-10 minutes before returning to work. Setting a timer helps not to get lost in a trance of scrolling. If you feel that procrastination happens subconsciously, it is a good idea to set your phone to airplane mode while you are working on the task, until it’s done. 


Time management is all about working smarter, not harder. Instead of working yourself out, try to bring awareness and see if the tasks can be done in a simpler, more effective way.