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The aim of managing your time is to spend time doing the things that help you achieve your goals and the things that you personally prioritise and value.
Time management is straightforward - but it takes a bit of effort. This webpage aims to help you prepare the ground for effective time management and then devise a workable system for yourself which meets your needs.
Before you begin to organise your time, you need to think in a structured way:
Identify what is important to you: friends? family? dependants? paid work? getting a good degree? socialising? your health? Rank them in order from 1-10. This will help you prioritise the time you give to things you most value and things which will help you achieve your goals. Then you can allocate a realistic amount of time to each.
Student A is enjoying his first year.
He has a lot of friends and a great social life. But this doesn't leave much time for work. He is anxious and guilty about this, and to avoid these feelings he spends even more time going out. Looking at his priorities helps A recognise that although his friends are important to him he also wants a good degree. Prioritising enables him to plan the amount of time he spends on work. He can now socialise without feeling guilty.
Try to be realistic and definite about them. Identify what needs to be done, when, how, who by? Major goals often need to be divided up into several steps which can be redefined as short-term goals.
Student B is a perfectionist.
She works all the time as she finds it hard to be realistic about how much she has to do. Her goals are vaguely defined as ‘I should work harder’ or ‘I must do better.’ Because she feels that nothing she does is good enough, B doesn't know when to stop, so she ends up feeling overwhelmed. Identifying her goals enables B to feel more in control of her time: ‘I want to get a first – what do I need to do to achieve one?’ is more specific than ‘I must work harder.’ Being more realistic enables B to build in time to relax and she can work more effectively.
A systematic approach will help you identify your strengths and help you identify where improvements can be made. Start by keeping a diary and include notes on:
Student C leaves everything to the last minute.
For C this is an attempt to deal with anxiety about his work since it gives him no time to agonize about whether it is good enough. However putting things off is actually very stressful, and C encounters difficulties over more complex, long term projects or if a last minute crisis occurs. Using a more systematic approach helps C feel more in control and, as a result, more able to deal constructively with his anxieties about his work.
Identifying how you spend your time can help you see if you use it productively. List the things you have to do, such as lectures, paid work, child care arrangements etc. Once you have established these fixtures, note other activities you want to include, such as visits to the gym, breaks, meetings, study time and time with friends. Are you realistic about what you can fit in? Are you studying at the best time for you? Do you spend time worrying rather than tackling things?
Every day Student D means to get up at 8.00am and start work, but other things always seem more important.
The longer she puts it off, the more huge and unmanageable her assignment seems. When D stops to look, it is clear how much time she wastes. She also recognises that she actually works better at night. Restructuring her day so that she fits in other things in the morning leaves the evening free to study.
Different systems work for different people but if you want the best out of yourself in the time you have available, try these suggestions:
Defining what is important to you is crucial because good time management is spending time achieving your goals:
Reviewing the way you spend time may have revealed time wasted on tasks which were low on your list of priorities. Ideally less time should be allocated to those and more time to those items higher up.
Here are some tips to help you get on with what matters to you:
Try to remember: the aim of managing your time is to spend time doing the things that help you achieve your goals and the things that you personally prioritise and value.
Brookes students can see a doctor at the Medical Centre on the Headington Campus.
If you are not registered with the Medical Centre, you should make an appointment with your own doctor.