Photo Credit: Sajal Mohsin, The Mike Photographer
Tips on how to effectively strategize for the future
Tannaaz Zaraineh, The Mike Staff Writer
Time, as we’ve all collectively concluded, is a construct. And for many of us, we take that statement a tad too far. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has run into some difficulties in the past when it came to managing time and being called out for it.
So, if this rings any bells for you, I suggest you continue reading my top tips for focusing and staying on task. As a person who also struggles, I’ve used these tricks to keep myself organized. I find that planning ahead alleviates stress and premature panic. Having daily visuals in front of me is the most effective way to plan out my week or my time, and I also think it’s a good kick-starter to getting me in the mood to begin my work.
- Use a planner!
I personally don’t like agenda books. Usually, if I carry one around, I’ll forget it was there in the first place. They don’t scream at me that they’re important, most are either too small or too heavy, and I hate the idea of flipping around just to find a quick note. So, I don’t bother! I like having a simple weekly desk pad planner that’s by my side. I use different pens to show the importance of each event or assignment, then I highlight or draw a star so they catch my eye every time I look over. That way, I can’t ignore it! I can be very preoccupied at times.
- Use an online calendar.
Sometimes, if I need to look at the entire month, I will add some dates to the calendar on my phone or computer, and frequently check it to make sure I won’t miss the deadline. For me, this only works when I have multiple events around the same time. Usually, I use this method around exam time. Being able to see them laid out helps to figure out the best approach to studying and how to organize my time overall more effectively. I also know people who can vouch for Google Calendar as a convenient tool. You can create a colour-coded schedule if you’d like an online mix of this and the above idea. You can also use it offline, but it won’t update on other devices until you’re online again. I like to use my calendar alongside my planner, and check up on it once in a while to make sure I’m not neglecting any important upcoming assignments.
- Set reminders.
I find that the problem with this, at least in my case, is that once the reminder goes off, I forget about the task again. If you’re like me but prefer the idea of setting reminders, try incorporating this with another method.
- Make friends with people who are always on time.
I find that knowing people who are dedicated to having structure and doing anything in their life on time motivates me to do the same. I think, it’s so cool they’re able to do that, I wish I could be that way. Then I try to apply that to myself. Sometimes, certain people have a few hidden unique tricks up their sleeves that they’ll tell you about. And sometimes, they work!
- Take breaks!
This requires you to know how much work you have beforehand (planner!), and you can then assess how much extra time you have in between to give much-needed breaks. Make sure they’re short though. Short breaks are good so that you don’t lose your initial focus, and they allow you to clear your brain or help you if you start getting into a rut. If you have a knack for not being able to get back on track because of your lack of sense of time, this is when setting reminders helps.
- Set small goals.
This tip coincides with the one above. I remember my mom telling me this while I was doing an insufferable amount of reading. When you first know how much you have to do elsewhere, you can break down what you’re doing into smaller chunks. The first hour, for example, you make notes for as many pages as you can. Say you do fifteen out of those thirty pages. If you know you can spare twenty minutes beforehand, great! Take a break and then get back to finish it up. Or, you can replace the break with a reward of your choosing.
- Make sure you set a time limit.
Have you noticed so far that most of these tips work together? With this one, start by setting time limits for each task. If it sounds difficult, you can first test it by timing yourself per assignment. You can get a rough idea of how much time you put into your work, then adjust accordingly. After some time of regularly being aware of how long certain tasks take, you can get an idea of how much time you need to complete them. You’ll get into a pattern. For this term, I have an asynchronous class every Thursday. Based on all my other weekly assignments and the approximate time it takes for completion, I always make sure that I get those lectures out of the way by Friday night. This also gives me a little extra time over the weekend to do any activities I normally enjoy.
- Background noise or pure silence.
Depending on what I’m working on, music I’ve listened to before or instrumental songs keep me focused. The music often helps in reducing unwanted thoughts. On the other hand, sometimes I can’t have any distractions. If you can, find a spot that has the least amount of noise or consider noise-cancelling headphones. Remove usual distractions from your workplace for maximum results. I recommend trying both to see which works best for you.
I know it’s difficult to stop procrastinating. Even I’ve fallen victim to procrastinating, especially nowadays. But I also know that I don’t want to face the consequences of doing that. I’m sure nobody does, and if you do or have in the past, it’s a learning experience that you can hopefully jump back from. To avoid the trap, try the above steps for a bit and encourage yourself to make it a habit. After some time, you’ll get the ball rolling and you’ll be able to lessen the amount of time you procrastinate. And even if you do for a short time, either do something worthwhile or count it as part of your break time while working. Finding motivation can be difficult, but having an end goal in mind helps you out. Remember, as soon as you start your work, it’s much easier to get into a rhythm.
I hope these tips give you some inspiration. Use these as you wish, and see what works best for you because there’s no one size fits all.