Fans of the Rio Olympics 2016 may know that time is an extremely important concept in sport. One millisecond can already change the material of the medal one holds in their hands, one second can already alter the national anthem that is broadcasted throughout the sports hall and one minute is sufficient to change one’s entire life course.
Yet, without being an Olympian, time remains an essential deciding factor of your success. Everyone has 24 hours per day, but why are some people more successful? It may be because of genetic factors, or it may merely be how they organise their time more effectively than others. So do you want to know how to organise your time so that you can beat the you from yesterday? Let’s not waste time and learn more about the methods of organising your it!
Prioritisation usually is the first concept that pops into mind when talking about time management. However, there are a lot of methods to achieve this. It is important all methods, so I will only talk about the most common two ways.
Priority matrix – quadrant method
Features: Organising tasks based on importance and urgency.
How to use it:
(1) Download a priority matrix from google pictures. Print it out.
(1) Download a priority matrix app (often costly)
(1) Draw a large square inside your daily planner page, then divide the square into four smaller boxes. Now, label the top left corner as Critical and Immediate, the top right as Critical but not Immediate, the bottom left as Not Critical but Immediate, and finally the bottom right as Uncategorised.
(2) Separate your tasks into those labels, or some other labels. e.g Urgent and Important, Urgent but not Important, Not Urgent but Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important.
- Hard to place tasks that are urgent or important, but only to an extent, into discrete boxes.
List, list and list
Don’t like quadrants? What about lists?
Features: a master list, a weekly list, and a to-do list.
How to use it:
- Write a master list which details all the tasks that you have to do. A process that is extremely mundane, but important. (Can include anything from feeding your dog to revising your UKCAT or BMAT)
- Create a weekly list that delineates the things you have to do that week, bearing in mind any deadlines or test dates.
- Make a to-do list which lists what you should do today. E.g. Revising for a test for tomorrow
- It could get into the danger of being too detailed or too brief. Some people may even write “going to the toilet” in their master list, which may be crucial but unnecessary in this case. On the contrary, some may forget some events to be put into the master list.
I am sure all of us have procrastinated before. It is perfectly natural, because the brain wants to avoid unpleasant emotions as long as possible. A similar concept to why we might eat chocolate when stressed.
But if it’s normal, how can we limit its devastating consequences?
Here, I will describe my favourite one:
Remember our favourite cooking tomato?
Features: cooking tomato timer and a loud shrieking ringing sound.
How to use it:
- Decide a task to work on. (Choosing which task to do depends on its priority. Refer to the prioritisation section.)
- Break down your time into approximately 25 minute intervals. During this time, be focused and don’t check any social media or messages. If you have an urge to procrastinate, write it down and continue working.
- Take a short break of 5 minutes when timer rings.
- Repeat the process for 3 times, then take a longer break for 10-15 minutes.
- It may not work in the library due to the loud ring of the pomodoro. Moreover, if you get interrupted (maybe you need the loo urgently), it may disrupt this flow and cause agitation for pomodoros, because a pomodoro does not have a stop button. So instead you can use the same idea but just replacing the tomato timer with the latest, fashionable Apple timer (i.e. on your iPhone)
In reality, they are just variations of the theme. More importantly, it is to recognise that you are procrastinating and why you are doing so.
- Is it due to a lack of motivation? Maybe think of a little reward after you finish that piece of boring homework? Alternatively, punish yourself for procrastinating? For example, tell yourself “I can’t nap unless I finish this.” (Although bearing in mind, positive reinforcement tends to trump negative reinforcement and sticks more)
- Or is it because you lack concentration? Try to focus on one task at a time using the pomodoro technique.
- Or is it because of a noisy and messy working environment? Spice up the location! Library, home, Starbucks… Wherever suits you best!
Use the right strategies to combat it. If you succeed, you have to remember to reward yourself! Make a cup of tea, go to the gym, eat some chocolate or catch some Pokemon!
Einstein might say, time is an illusion. You might once have said, time is a waste when spent on revising. However, I think time should be our friend. Embrace it, treasure it, and use it effectively!