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What are some time management strategies to increase productivity?

This question was asked by Sofia from Baltimore. She's a senior in high school, and she's hoping to learn strategies to prepare for the rigorous course load of college next fall. #time-management #scheduling #multi-tasking #task-management

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Hi Sofia. One of the key time management strategies I use is to identify when I feel most focused and product, and block that time out in my day for your most difficult tasks. For me, this is very early in the morning. Other people may be night owls, or feel most productive in mid-morning. Keep a running list of those tasks that need your focused attention and then make sure you honor the time you've set aside to address them!

Last updated Nov 12 '15 at 16:44

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Hi Sofia,

This question is not only relevant to the large workload you will receive during college, but is an invaluable skill that will carry forward to your professional life as well. Here are some tips I use now in my professional life that I wish I had used in college:

1) Check your email in batches. This can apply to many things, but allowing yourself to spend an adequate amount of time on a task or project is much more productive than breaking it up into smaller spurts of time. Email (or social media, etc.) is one of the most distracting things in the workplace (and at school), but it is necessary to stay up to date on tasks and correspondence that comes through the medium. Unless you know your professor or project group will be emailing you something at a certain time, check your email at specific times each day (I check mine only once a day after lunch for example). Make the schedule that works best for you, and you can use this for other activities too

2) Make a list of 5 things. The first item will be one that you enjoy (such as calling your best friend to catch up). The next three will be your top priorities for the day, with the middle item being the most time consuming. The last item on the list will be another thing you enjoy (maybe reading an industry article related to your field of study, so if you are a business major, reading a section of the Wall Street Journal for example).

3) Create a project plan. You will have lots of assignments that are less time consuming in nature (homework assignments for example), but you will also have projects, and yes, even group projects that will span weeks or even an entire semester. Make a plan for completing these and work on them a little each day or week (depending on the timeframe). This will ensure you won't get burned out by completing the entire project in a 48 hour no sleep marathon (trust me I've seen this done, and the success rate was not great). Also, this is a crucial time management tool for group projects. Along with an agreed upon timeline that the group should create together, assigning group responsibilities and frequent check ins with the group to ensure things are running smoothly are highly recommended from personal experience! 4) Color coding never hurts! I am a visual person, and keeping classes color coded really helped when you have so many different things going on. I had a different color notebook, pens and binder (I don't know if students still use these in the modern classroom) for each class as well as various clubs I was involved in. I also created a color coded class schedule!

Enjoy school and best of luck!

Last updated Dec 23 '15 at 11:10

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Hi Sofia,

Few things that has helped in managing time better and be productive are as follows:

  1. Prioritize Work: Before the start of the day, make a list of tasks that need your immediate attention as unimportant tasks can consume much of your precious time. Some tasks need to be completed on that day only while other unimportant tasks could be carried forward to next day. In short, prioritize your tasks to focus on those that are more important.

  2. Avoid Procrastination: Procrastination is one of the things that badly affect the productivity. It can result is wasting essential time and energy. It should be avoided at all costs. It could be a major problem in both your career and your personal life.

  3. Schedule Tasks: Carry a planner or notebook with you and list all the tasks that come to your mind. Make a simple ‘To Do’ list before the start of the day, prioritize the tasks, and make sure that they are attainable. To better manage your time management skills, you may think of making 3 lists: work, home, and personal.

  4. Avoid Stress: Stress often occurs when we accept more work than our ability. The result is that our body starts feeling tired which can affect our productivity. Please make sure to leave some time for relaxation.

  5. Set up Deadlines: When you have a task at hand, set a realistic deadline and stick to it. Try to set a deadline few days before the task so that you can complete all those tasks that may get in the way. Challenge yourself and meet the deadline. Reward yourself for meeting a difficult challenge.

  6. Avoid Multitasking: Most of us feel that multitasking is an efficient way of getting things done but the truth is that we do better when we focus and concentrate on one thing. Multitasking hampers productivity and should be avoided to improve time management skills.

  7. Start Early: Most of the successful men and women have one thing in common. They start their day early as it gives them time to sit, think, and plan their day. When you get up early, you are more calm, creative, and clear-headed. As the day progresses, your energy levels starts going down which affects your productivity and you don’t perform as well.

  8. Take Some Breaks: Whenever you find yourself for 10-15 minutes, take a break. Too much stress can take toll on your body and affect your productivity. Take a walk, listen to some music or do some quick stretches. The best idea is to take off from work and spend time with your friends and family.

Hope this helps. All the best.

Last updated Jul 29 '16 at 09:55

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Sofia, wanting to be organized and prepped for the chances hitting you as you enter college is a great idea. For a lot of students, it can be quite a change from their high school experience.

Most colleges will encourage the use of an organizer and calendar to carry with you daily. You can also download a version on your laptop or tablet from the college's site. I liked in my day, and my sons found later, a paper version was handy to have for quick entries and noting assignments. They would then take those notes and transfer to their online versions for further organization and planning. They could look at expectations, what was already due, projects that were pending and could plan out how to get everything accomplished on a timely basis.

You will usually get a handout or online list at the start of each course from the instructor with the timeline of projects/tests and any reading assignments on Day one of the class. Enter those to your calendar as well and if you are using an online version, set up alerts or reminders for items you want to not forget.

You hear the stories of all-nighters to finish papers or cram for tests, but though not to say there may not be long nights or that one test you have to keep studying for, my best advice is to just stay on top of assignments and try to work on papers or reading assignments daily. Putting off something you don't like, or you feel you can "get to" in college is not the best approach. For a lot of students, the difference in grading structures can be a surprise too. Standards can be tougher and whipping something up quickly won't give you the best results. I also recommend scheduling studying time in your calendar. Plan a time each day for courses based on when the classes meet. Keep to this to stay on top of reading, review notes, peck away at a paper assignment. If you keep to that, even if nothing BIG or a test is pending, you'll feel less hassled.

Keep folders or binders for each class to capture handouts so you aren't searching through stacks or one folder trying to find items. Each class should have it's own notebook or online folder to keep notes together for easy access. Save Save Save when keeping your info online and transcribe notes you take right in class that evening or no later than the next day. It is a handy way to re-learn what was discussed plus keeps you timely and your notes clean and ready to be used for test studying.

Hope some of this helped. Good luck!

Last updated Oct 22 '15 at 08:22

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To add to the previous answer, you might find it useful to put aside some time on the weekend (I did this on Sundays) to get through work for the week. I would set aside 4 or so hours on Sundays to make flashcards, finish problem sets, work on my papers, etc. to ensure I wasn't rushing around during the week and to ensure I would get enough sleep every night.

Last updated Oct 22 '15 at 15:51

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