A big source of stress for many people is having too much to do and not enough time. Since you can't increase the resource (i.e., you can't increase the amount of hours in a day), stress-related time management strategies require that you reduce the demands (i.e., modify the things that you do with your limited time).
An effective approach to time management can be summarized in the saying:
First, do the right things. Then, do those things right.
Effective time management starts by identifying your values (the right things).
A value is something that is important to you. Good health, meaningful friendships, adventure, education and independence are examples of values. You should be spending most of your time doing things that are important to you: things that are meaningful.
To identify your values, answer the following questions:
- What inspires me and makes me feel alive?
- When have I felt truly satisfied? What was I doing?
- If money were no object, what would I do?
- What am I doing when I lose track of time?
- What would make my life more satisfying?
- How do I define success?
- What do I need in my life to feel whole and fulfilled?
- What would I like to say about myself at the end of my life? What would I like others to say?
Mindtools has a six-step guide to defiing your values that includes a list of common values.
Once you are spending time in meaningful activities that you value, examine how well you are using your time. If necessary, modify your approach. Some strategies to be effective with your time include:
Be realistic: People underestimate how much time an activity will take. It helps to add a buffer. If you think it will take 30 minutes to get to an appointment, plan so that you have 50 minutes to get there, giving yourself a 20-minute buffer.
Plan out daily activities: The most popular way to plan activities is to use an agenda. Think about the most efficient way to complete activities. For example, run errands in an order that minimizes travel time.
Use a "to-do" list: Prioritize each item on your list and aim to complete the most pressing items first. Learn more about to-do lists on the Mindtools website. There are plenty of to-do list templates available for download, including these. If you prefer a digital to-do list, the todoist app helps you organize and prioritize your tasks and projects.
Delegate: You don't need to do everything yourself. If possible, delegate tasks to others who should be doing the work, are willing to do it or are able to do it well.
Take advantage of "wasted" time: For example, catch up on reading while waiting at the doctor's office or while riding the bus or metro.
Manage interruptions and distractions: Focus on one task at a time. Interruptions can break momentum. Some ways to manage interruptions are reading your e-mail only a few times a day, closing the door to your room and turning off your phone when studying. Kathryn McKinnon provides additional ideas. Modern technology offers many ways to be distracted (e.g., social media, video gaming, gambling, online porn, online auctions or shopping, texting or smartphone use). If you believe your technology use is problematic (signs and symptoms of problematic technology use), the professionals at Counselling and Psychological Services can help. Help for employees of Concordia is available through the Employee Assistance Program.
Build organizational skills: Being well-organized can save a lot of time. Some things to try:
- Create an efficient system for filing and retrieving documents
- Lay out your clothes the night before
- Prepare your lunch for the next day
10 Steps to Organization at College offers additiional ideas.
Some people procrastinate: they delay doing important things until the last minute. This leads to stress from time pressures, late fees, missed opportunities and more. Helpful resources for understanding and overcoming procrastination include 10 things to know about procrastination, the workbook Put Off Procrastinating and how to stop procrastinating from Mindtools. Additionally, the Simon Fraser University Library has assembled a list of resources on dealing with procrastination.
If you think that procrastination is affecting your life in a negative way and you need professional help to overcome it, consult Concordia's Counselling and Psychological Services. Concordia employees can consult the Employee Assistance Program.
- The Student Success Centre at Concordia offers several resoruces related to time management including workshops, one-one-one support from learning specialists and online handouts
- Resources on effective time management at university from Simon Fraser University Library
- Time Management from MindTools (this resource is geared to the workplace, but there is plenty of helpful information that can be adapted to your situation)