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Building Time Management Skills

Tools and Workshops

Effective Time Management

You need to manage time effectively if you're going to be successful. All other things being held constant, better time management skills can improve your grades, help you keep stress in check, and help you be competitive in the career you undertake following your university education.

Goal Setting

What are your goals? Really, what are your goals? It might help to divide your goals into time frames (immediate goals, short-mid-term goals, long-range goals) but you don't absolutely have to do so for the exercise to be useful. And, you don't have to have firm answers to those gripping questions about what you want to be or do when you're done at university to make this work; your goals are likely to shift and change over time anyway. All you need to do right now is think of a handful of goals to get started. Write down a list of goals now before reading further.

Take a look at your list of goals. How many of the tasks do you intend to do today contribute to accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself? Are you actively working on these goals? Are you putting any of them off for a later time? What would you have to change in your life to make it possible to work on these goals?

Setting SMART Goals

SMART stands for Specific - Manageable - Attainable - Realistic - Time based. These are the criteria that guides you when setting personal and professional goals

Sub-dividing Goals into Manageable Pieces

Once you have a set of goals, it is useful to decompose the goals into manageable steps or sub-goals. Decomposing your goals makes it possible to tackle them one small step at a time and to reduce procrastination. Consider for instance the goal of obtaining your degree. This goal can be broken down into four sub-goals. Each sub-goal is the successful completion of one year of your program. These sub-goals can be further broken down into individual courses within each year. The courses can be broken down into tests, exams, term papers and such within the course, or into the 13 weeks of classes in each term. Each week can be further subdivided into days, and each day can be thought of in terms of the hours and minutes you'll spend in your classes and doing homework for today. While it may seem challenging to take in the whole scope of that convergent goal, thinking of your goals in this way helps to reinforce the idea that there is a connected path linking what actions you take today and the successful completion of your goals. Seeing these connections can help you monitor your own progress and detect whether you are on track or not. Take some time now to think through the goals you've set and to break them down into their smaller constituent parts.

Procrastination

You're not alone. Up to 40% of university students experience procrastination as a problem. Also, students tended to mass their practice (that is, do most of the work in marathon sessions) near academic deadlines and failed to make appropriate use of various study aids and supports at appropriate times (i.e., earlier in the term). But why do you procrastinate on tasks related to goals you want to achieve? Procrastination often emerges as a means of distancing oneself from stressful activities. People allocate more time to the judged-easy task than to judged-difficult tasks. Dealing with the underlying stressful aspects of the activities can assist in reducing the extent of procrastination. Here's one practical application. If you're overwhelmed by the volume of work on your to-do list, you might benefit from making a "one-item list": re-write the top item from your list at the top of a blank page and work the task to completion, then repeat.

Motivation

Sometimes you just don't feel motivated to do your school work. It might help to realize that for many people motivation isn't a prerequisite to action…it is a result of it! Try working for a short time and see if you can "get into it." If your motivation problem seems more substantial, it might help to realize that when you aren't motivated to do school work, you aren't actually out of motivation… you're just motivated to do something else.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that helps you breakdown working time into smaller intervals that include regular short breaks.

Additional Resources

ResourceDescription
Blank Weekly Schedule

Time Tracking (.doc)
Worksheet for planning your weekly tasks

Worksheet for identifying where you time goes.
Does Your use of Time Reflect Your Priorities? (.doc)Worksheet for aligning your schedule with your priorities.
Course Requirements Outline (.doc)Worksheet for mapping out course requirements.
Term Planner (.doc)Worksheet for planning out a semester.
Study Task Breakdown for Exams (.doc)Worksheet for planning am exam study schedule.
To Do List (.doc) Worksheet for creating a to do list.
Time Management ModuleSPARK: Student Papers & Academic Research Kit
Managing Your TimeLearning Skills Workshop
Staying Motivated Working from HomeLearning Skills Workshop