Hello! Before we get into today’s post, the first of my Morning Coffee series, I just wanted to say thank you for all the views and support this past month! I actually decided to purchase a domain – so goodbye to catherineandcranberries.wordpress.com, and welcome to catherineandcranberries.com!
Morning Coffee is a new series that I’m starting on my blog as an excuse for long, rambly chats about all sorts of topics. Buckle up, today we’re talking about time (mis)management and how to work on improving it, even just a little bit.
After spending a whole year doing half my assignments well in advance, and the other half at unearthly hours of the morning just before the hand-in time, I think I now have some authority on the topic of dealing with time, especially at university. I am in no way good at time management, but I have managed to hand in pretty much everything on time. Pretty much.
During primary school and high school, it was a lot easier to really maintain a proper routine. Unfortunately, the university day doesn’t finish at 2:45pm every day with three hours to do homework before dinner. My parents always made sure that I did my homework as soon as I came home, and it quickly became a habit. It didn’t necessarily work every time, especially as the workload increased, but most of the time I had everything under control. Now, it’s completely different – I have classes at all different times of day, sometimes with an hour or two in between, and finish at 5:00pm most days.
One: Aim for ten hours of work for each class
My university suggests spending ten hours per week on each course, including the time spent in lectures. I actually made little colour coded checklists for every week so that I can mark off every hour I spend on each class. I’ve made a much prettier version of this checklist that you can download here. You can download it from my Google Drive, print it out and use it to help you keep track of your time (all you need is four highlighters and a pen). I found it especially helpful for taking note of which classes I didn’t spend as much time on, and how my time was distributed. This really helped me because I was able to make sure that I was dedicating time to all of my classes. Ten hours may seem like a lot, but for me, at least three of those hours were spent in lectures, and another hour in a tutorial, leaving five or six hours minimum for working on assignments and essays. Obviously some weeks you’re going to have to spend more than ten hours on a particular class, but I think it was really helpful having a minimum number of hours to aim for.
Two: Do difficult tasks first
I know that my first instinct was to always focus on easier tasks, under the premise of getting them out of the way. Over this year, I realised that this wasn’t the best use of my time, as I left larger tasks for last, and didn’t always have enough time to complete them to the best of my ability. For instance, I had two tutorials on a Friday and would often have two essays due as well – one in the morning and one mid-afternoon. Completing the tutorials first meant that I rushed finalising my essays. Realistically, the tutorials can probably be done at the last minute if necessary, because they aren’t as heavily weighted in the scheme of things. By doing the essays first, even though they are larger and more daunting tasks, you complete the more important tasks first and have more time to spend on them. Granted, I didn’t always do this myself (sometimes you just want to complete a small task so that you feel like you accomplished something and then go to bed).
Three: Try to establish a routine
I always find this to be much easier during exams. I sleep in a little, complete my usual morning routine, then get to the library to study until lunch. Back to the library for a couple of hours after lunch, then a sneaky trip to the pool if the weather was good (which it was for most of the exam period), then dinner, then back to the library. Maintaining a particular structure to my day meant that studying in the library became habitual, and didn’t feel out of place in my daily routine. I didn’t manage to establish a proper daily routine during term time, however, I did make daily and weekly checklists for tasks so that I knew what I had to achieve every day. My main goal for next year is to have a real everyday routine so that I am as efficient with my time as I was in high school. Things come up though, and it’s impossible to stick to the same routine all the time. We’re only human, and some days you need more time off, or you have to dedicate your free time to a passion project and do something for yourself. If your work isn’t affected by taking some time off, then I don’t see why you can’t.
Four: Sleep is important
It is so easy to stay up working or watching series until the early hours of the morning. I use this website to work out my bedtime or wake up time on a day to day basis. If you know me, you’ll know that I never shut up about the sleep cycles, and this website is where I got it from. Basically, it works on the principle of sleeping for one and a half hour cycles and getting five or six cycles total. Even if I’m not able to sleep for nine hours, I always make sure that I set my alarm based on this, as it made me feel more awake and refreshed in the morning. I don’t know if it actually works or if I’ve just spent the whole year convincing myself that it does, but I stand by my support for the sleep cycles! It’s almost impossible to have a valuable and productive day if you haven’t had enough sleep, and this is probably the most important tip on this list. If you have enough sleep, you will be more productive and make considerably better use of your time. Plus, naps take up a lot of time in the afternoon. (I’m definitely just bitter because I was not born with the ability to nap in daylight.)
Five: Don’t leave tasks to the last minute
I am the queen of making this mistake, and it’s probably the only thing I regret about this year. The long and the short of it is that you should really start tasks as soon as they are assigned. By the time the due date rolls around, you’ve got four other assignments to do and then it all becomes a bit much. Do your work on time, so that you don’t have to write 2000 words five hours before the essay is due (true story, I speak from experience).
These are not just tips that I’ve picked up this past year, but also things I have to still work on myself. No one is perfect, but I know that I can work a bit harder, and I can definitely work smarter this coming year.
Let me know if you enjoy posts like this, and if you’d like to see more? If you have any suggestions for more Morning Coffee posts, tell me about them in the comments. Share your own time tips too!