Focus on the things that matter and stop spending time where it isn’t getting results.
The most impactful time management strategy I have used is to seriously question everything. As we have talked about previously, using a solid calendar system and to-do list is like a brain dump. Anytime you think of something you want to do, put it on your calendar or to-do list. This frees your brain up for more important work (like studying for your online course).
But here is the key to remaining productive in college (and life): thinking of something to do doesn’t mean you should do it.
Most adults are pretty good when the idea is a bad one, like swimming in shark-infested waters or letting your 5-year-old get a tattoo. No-brainer, right? The thought passes through your brain and right back out.
Other times we think about doing a really good thing, like volunteering or learning to play an instrument. It may be a worthwhile thing to do, but it just doesn’t fit your current priorities. This is especially true when you are in college and working. Those are two major responsibilities, and when you add family to the mix, there is not a lot of time leftover. If you want to bring your best self to your priorities, you have to be very critical of where you spend your time.
we have to say goodbye or No
It is OK to say goodbye to an idea or commitment or no to a request.
It is never a comfortable thing to do initially, but I find it helpful to be really clear about why I am saying no. Am I saying no to something because I don’t want to do it, or am I really saying no in order to say yes to something else?
If your friend asks you to referee a little league baseball game, it might sound like something you want and should do. But will making the game mean that you have to skip your study session for the evening? Is the baseball game a higher priority than your college degree?
It feels different when you think of it this way, right?
Saying No is a time management strategy
I have always used my to-do list as an easy way to keep up with household errands. I set recurring dates so I don’t have to worry about how long it has been since I did something, like dust. This system served me really well for many years, but last year I found my to-do list was feeling overwhelming. It seemed like every day had more things to do than I could accomplish. (This is a process that I highly
So I did a review of where I was spending my time and energy. A lot of my time was used on cleaning tasks, so I asked myself what would happen if I let them go. Instead of dusting every Friday, what if I just dusted when I noticed the house looked dusty? I have no doubt that many of you do this already, but I’m total Type-A and this was a revolutionary idea!
I decided to do it and let dusting go, along with a few other cleaning errands. It has been AWESOME! I feel more in charge of my days and my time, and it honestly doesn’t bother me to realize one day that the house is dusty; I just dust it when it needs it.
The point of this example is not to showcase my dusty house (which is true right now), but to get you thinking about the things you have been doing and why you are doing them.
If you feel like you can’t accomplish all of the things you need to be doing, or should be doing, sit down with your list for a minute. If you can’t get in an hour of study each day, evaluate where your time is going. Pull out your priorities and compare your calendar and to-do list with your priorities. When I did this, I realized that having a dust-free house didn’t align with any of my priorities. Goodbye Swiffer!
What are you hanging on to that does fit your current priorities?
It is hard to say goodbye to things. If you find you need to let go of a commitment, but are having trouble, try reframing your thinking. Can you say goodbye to organizing your child’s school play in order to say hello to the college degree you are working towards? This doesn’t mean you can’t organize the play next year, but does it fit your priorities right now?
To make this time management strategy easier, create a list of “someday” ideas. These are things you want to do someday but aren’t committing to today. In a way, you can say yes to doing something by adding it to the list while also saying no to doing it right now.
Finally, check in with yourself and see if you are telling yourself any of these lies about time.
Try It Yourself: 15-minute Challenge
- Pull out your calendar and to-do list for the week and map out where you have been spending your time. How much goes to work, family, school, fun, errands, etc.
- Does your time match your priorities?
- If not, where can you step back to make time for your priorities and improve your time management strategy?