I’m a very goal-oriented person. I love progress bars and checklists because I feel accomplished after seeing a completion percentage go up a few points or getting to scribble something off of a to-do list. If you were to follow my Goodreads page, you would see that I meticulously keep up with my reading progress in each novel that I read, and every year I set a goal of reading 52 books.

I’m always looking for ways to streamline my time management so that I can spend more time on personal projects and relaxing. It’s not about finishing every task or assignment as quickly as possible; it’s about allocating the proper amount of time for a particular task and no more. It’s about being efficient, which is one of my favorite words. 

My time management goals this semester are about finding balance between my schoolwork, my online class, marching band, my leadership duties at the OU Wesley, and time for myself. It sounds like a lot, and it can be very stressful if I don’t do something that was discussed in this article: The Psychology of Checklists. It says that it’s important to set small, manageable goals to work your way to accomplishing the overall goal. So instead of saying “I’m going to finish my online course by dead week” and then frantically working to make that goal, it’s far less stressful to say “I’m going to do X amount of extra credit work each week.”

One way that I set small goals is by using a to-do list in an Excel document. There, I input every task that I need to accomplish, from doing laundry to finishing a set of readings to having coffee with a friend. I set the due date, and I prioritize each item on the list from 1-3, with 1 being “This needs to be done today” and 3 being “It needs to be done, but there’s no rush.” Then, I work down the list, and every time I complete a task, I enter the date it was completed and filter the table so that I only see the incomplete tasks. This works for me better than a physical planner or a written to-do list because it’s much more fluid, and I can pull it up on any device. 

I also read this article called 14 Time Management Tips for Creatives. As a creative, I wanted to see if it had any ideas I could add to my time management habits. Turns out, I already do many of the things on this list! One of my favorites is starting with the tasks you don’t like or find difficult and finishing with tasks that are easier or enjoyable. This keeps me from procrastinating on big, scary projects and helps motivate me to finish them so I can get to the tasks I like.

I am also a huge proponent of healthy breaks, as mentioned in the article. My brain works like a sprinter. I can get a lot of work done in short bursts of 30-50 minutes, but then I shut down. I need to switch tasks, walk around, or eat a snack before I can be productive again. I really liked switching tasks in high school, especially for difficult English reading. For example, I would read the required text for 20 minutes, then I would read a “for-fun” novel for 20 minutes. Sometimes I could even fit a third item into the circuit, like math homework. This meant I was getting my homework done with meaningful understanding, giving my brain a break often, and working on my personal goals all at the same time! The article warns away from multitasking, and perhaps it would count this strategy as such. However, I actually found it easier to focus more fully on each thing in my circuit because my brain was always fresh after a topic switch.

Something that the article discussed that I have not actually tried–but would like to–is keeping track of how I spend my time in detail and using that data to better structure my time. I’ve done something similar with food, by tracking what I eat and determining what things I need to cut out and what I need to add, but I hadn’t thought of doing it with time. It would be interesting to find out just how much time I waste scrolling through Facebook or how I can adjust my morning routine to get more sleep.

Most of what I know about time management comes from my college band director, who gives us a time management seminar every year. I was a freshman last year, and my mind was blown by how much I needed to get done and how unstructured college schedules were. By implementing his advice, I was able to have a much better grasp on my overarching goals and how small steps could help me achieve them. I never had to pull an all-nighter last year, and I never forgot to do an assignment because I tracked and managed my time wisely. I’d like to continue to do that, and to continue to find ways to balance the many facets of my life.

Image 1: Black and gold clock face. Source – Pexels

Image 2: Robin Sharma time management quote. Source – BK on Flickr