It’s 1am: you’re sitting slumped at your computer with saucer-sized eyes that are trying to concentrate on a too-bright screen. You have five windows open, including internet research, word documents, and lecture notes. You reread the convoluted assessment question again and still don’t understand it. You’ve sent your lecturer and tutor a dozen or so emails, and have even tried contacting some people from your class – but no one has replied. Why won’t they help you? Maybe it’s because you’ve left your assessment to the last minute again, and everyone else is sleeping while you’re pulling an all-nighter trying to get it done the night before it’s due.
I have only stayed up late (10pm) stressing over finishing an assessment the night before it’s due once. Yes, once. In Year 10 Math. And it wasn’t because of procrastination – I had simply forgotten. It made me feel sick, so I never did it again.
I can fairly say that my excellent time management skills were born from that night. (By the way, I managed to get the assessment done and received a pretty high mark on it.)
Now, I always have my assessment done at least a few days before it’s due, sometimes even a few weeks. How do I do it? I manage my time well.
I give myself deadlines, and I stick to them, which is probably the most important part. It’s all well and good to set yourself a schedule for a day of work, but you’ve wasted your time planning if you start late, take too long on some sections, or simply “don’t feel like” doing others. I still sometimes fall into the trap of not doing something purely because I don’t feel like it: I’ll skip a task I’ve set myself by promising I’ll “do it another day”. And that day never comes, because I don’t write it on another days to do list.
I’ve been giving one particular assessment my best attempt at a cold shoulder this semester: an event operations portfolio. Basically, you choose an idea from the list your lecturer provides and create an event. Simple, right? Not so much. The event operations portfolio is the equivalent of 3,000 words. I say equivalent because there are a lot of figures involved: budget tables, communications charts, site maps and the like. It’s quite daunting when you try to wrap your head around it.
The lecturer does provide a lot of structure: she and her colleagues wrote a textbook specifically for this unit (each chapter covers each week); they set a schedule on Blackboard (uni communication website) telling you what you should be up to each week; and they even provide templates for all the nitty gritty stuff, like GANTT charts and contracts.
But I just didn’t warm to the task. Don’t get me wrong, the first few weeks of semester I did what I should have, and I even laid out and structured the skeleton for my portfolio… that was never filled in. Until today. I’m at the halfway point in the semester and having last week finished the group assessment for this subject, I decided I needed to bite the bullet. So yesterday and today were long days of work (that wasn’t as boring or taxing as I’d first thought) and I’ve now successfully caught myself up. And even done a bit extra that I don’t even think we were meant to include, just so I can understand the task better.
Over the last two years of uni, I’ve fine-tuned my time management skills. Some of my tips to enhance yours are:
- set yourself manageable goals and stick to them;
- set yourself a break/s and stick to it/them;
- break up monotonous or long tasks (e.g. “Authors” in the picture above);
- allow yourself some leisure time to do something you enjoy (e.g. “Blog” in the picture above); and
- in the case of a multi-day break, work on the first day/s and play on the last day/s.
Manageable goals are key to completing tasks. I would have problems completing the task “finish as much of portfolio as possible” for several reasons, but mainly because I wouldn’t have known what to do and when to do it. Specificity is key here.
Breaks a very important. Try different numbers and different lengths of breaks to work out what suits you best. I work best with a single one-hour break, but you might work better with several 20-minute breaks.
I find breaking up draining tasks the best way to get them done: if I stay too long on something monotonous, I can’t concentrate properly on my next task, and I don’t feel like doing any more work.
Right now, I’m blogging. I’ve already done about three hours of uni work and I’m taking my scheduled break before lunch so I can unwind and relax properly while I eat.
Whenever I have a multi-day break, especially over weekends, and I know I have to get stuff done before the start of the next week, I will plan the bulk of my work on the first day/s so I can relax on the last day/s. I’ve tried doing it the other way around before, and I can never come back from a relaxing day and do a full day of work – this is Monday’s whole philosophy.
I hope I’ve stimulated your work-juices and you’re now all pumped up to start planning your eight-hour day of work… or at least I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how to manage your time better, so you don’t have to stay up tonight and finish that assessment piece that’s due tomorrow.
Until next time