October 1, 2014

The Life: Study hard and enjoy life - time management

This is the first part of a little series called 'study hard and enjoy life', this episode focuses on time management which I think is key to bring study and a enjoyable life in line.
I graduated from school succesfully in 2011 and just finished my B.A. with a good grade about a month a go. Although I've always been quite good at what I've studied I never could go without good structured time management. And even though you will have to sacrifice some spare time you will be able to enjoy your life, meet friends and keep doing what you love most. So here are my 'top 5 tips on time management'.

Get to know yourself better. Take some time and brainstorm about your ability to manage time and activities. Are you a punctual person? Do you 'need' the pressure of time to make your work a big success? Why do you have difficulties scheduling your studies? Do you procrastinate a lot? How long can you study before you need a short break? Consider your answers whilst scheduling and try to avoid scenarios that might trigger procrastination, chaos and exhaustion. The better you know yourself, the better you will be studying and the more time you will have for social and fun activities.

Plan ages in advance. You should start planning your study the minute you get to know due dates, test dates and other deadlines. Sometimes things don't go as planned and you need to reschedule, so the more time left the better. I like to mark certain dates in iCal and even set an alarm in advance. Colour-coding different subjects might help to keep track.

To-Do lists are your best friend. I always have a monthly, weekly and (almost always) daily to do list (either on my phone, in my notebook or just a piece of paper). This helps you to keep on track with activities and deadlines and you will be able to prioritise certain things. Depending on the subject you should prioritise by urgency or duration. If you don't get to do all things on your to do list it's not going to be the end of the world. But ticking off the things you've accomplished that day, week and/or month is one of the best feelings.

Make a studyplan. This includes planning in advance and to-do lists. Schedule activities realisticly. You won't be sitting at your desk for 12 hours a day without a break. Plan a small break every 45 minutes and a bigger break after every 2 hours. This way you will be more focused and relaxed. During your break you should drink, eat a bit and get up and outside. Open your windows to get some fresh air into your learning environment. The most important thing though is to schedule buffer days. My study plan always stops at least 2 days before my due date. This way I don't get to nervous if I don't follow my plan as strictly as I should or if something crops up. And if my plan works out well I will have an extra revision and relaxation day in the end.

Enjoy life! This is even more important than scheduling buffer days. I always make sure that I don't study longer then 7pm. After that I will make myself a nice dinner and then have a chat with friends, go to my local pub, watch a movie or just relax at home. I know a lot of students that just start studying to late and will sit at the library from 8am til midnight. And they all won't get better results. Sure sometimes I will continue studying as well, but not because it's so urgent, but because I'm in a good working flow and know that I will have an additional buffer day in the end. Also really try to get the best out of your study breaks. Ask fellow students if they want to grab a coffee as well or read an article in your favourite magazine. 

Do you have any tips on time management? And do you use a paper planner or apps to stay organized?

Lots of Love