By Matt Loux
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University
Time management is a major struggle for many students. My students say they struggle with finishing assignments, studying, working, spending time with family and having time for themselves. But it is possible to not only manage your time, but also to feel more confident that you are spreading your time wisely among all of life’s events.
Using a Calendar App for Time Management
I can more efficiently plan my day, week, month and semester with a calendar app. There are many calendar apps on the market, so you can choose the one that works best for you. I personally use Fantastical 2 because it offers a calendar, tasks, reminders, multiple views and many other features that work well together.
I suggest an app that allows you to schedule events in 15-minute increments. I schedule all assignment due dates for the entire semester with phone and email reminders 24 hours and 1 hour prior to the due date.
I also schedule work task due dates, family events, doctor appointments and personal items that are due for completion. It takes some time getting used to this type of planning, but planning every hour of the day keeps me on track and allows me to schedule new events more easily.
Creating a Task List
To accomplish tasks during the day or in a week, I create a weekly and daily task list so I can see at a glance what I plan to accomplish. My task list prioritizes tasks according to their urgency. My prioritization system consists of the following:
- T: Top Priority (urgent and important)
- A: Action after priority (urgent and not important)
- S: Secondary task (not urgent but important)
- K: Know but not important (not urgent and not important)
I amend the tasks when different tasks occur or tasks move from one category to the next. This system gives me a starting point and direction of travel as I navigate my daily and weekly lists.
If some tasks are voluminous, I break those tasks into small components to better manage them. By prioritizing the tasks, the process is similar to setting goals and deadlines to achieving success.
By incorporating calendar appointments for my time, determining priorities and creating task lists, it’s easier to see how much time I spend on tasks and how much time I waste on non-valuable tasks. This system includes gathering all the information for items that are due, analyzing the information and putting an organized system in place to more effectively manage my time and increase my productivity.
Add a Timer for Precise Time Management
Once I have allotted time for particular tasks, I find the use of a timer beneficial. The Pomodoro timer app breaks up my work into 25-minute increments. Once the 25-minute timer goes off, I take a five-minute break and then start the timer again.
By taking breaks in this manner, I reduce boredom and it’s easier for me to retain information. It also helps me reevaluate what I am accomplishing.
Avoiding Distractions That Waste Time
When I’m working, I turn off technology distractions such as cell phones, social media, reminders and text messages. CNN reported that teens spend about nine hours a day using media outside school or work. CNN also reported that about 60% of teens text and more than 75% listen to music while doing schoolwork.
Almost two-thirds of students say watching television or texting does not impact their studying. More than 50% of students do not believe social media use affects their studying and retention.
A study at Stanford University found a big difference in cognitive control and the capacity to process information between heavy and light media multi-taskers. This study shows that those who multi-task do not have as much cognitive control as those who focus on individual tasks. Other benefits include:
- Eliminating the habit of multi-tasking
- Focusing on one task
- Accomplishing more because you have a sense of urgency with the time
- Reducing perfectionism by always trying to improve different projects
- Increasing concentration
- Reducing stress by working on only one task
The Rewards of Smarter Time Management
As someone who has to balance work, family, school and everything life throws at me, I have spent years trying to manage it all. Along the way, I have learned many lessons that have allowed me to spend quality time on each aspect of my life. If you adopt proper time management strategies as I did, you will stay more focused in school, at work and while spending time with your family and friends.
About the Author
Matt Loux has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and has a background in fraud and criminal investigation, as well as hospital, school and network security. Matt has researched and studied law enforcement and security best practices for the past 10 years.