Everyone talks about this important skill that every student should master—called time management—but do any of us have more time in the day than anyone else? Is it time itself that you’re actually managing?
Think about it: Do top athletes, entertainers, or even high-achieving scientists have more than 168 hours in their week?
Not even Albert Einstein could manipulate spacetime!
The secret is that the skill you need to improve isn’t how to manage your time—it’s how to manage your priorities and your energy. Now that we’ve redefined what “time management” really is, start taking action with these three steps:
Identify Your Priorities
One of my students had a well-honed skill that he cultivated by investing a lot of his time at his desk. The problem was that his homework wasn’t on his desk at the same time, but his video games were. He became a high-achieving gamer and low-achieving student.
Can you tell what was going on with his priorities? When we started working together, I had him do a values exercise to get clear on what his priorities really were. If you have a priority on getting into college, look at the actions you’re doing throughout your week. Are you playing games, goofing off on Tumblr, or doing that extra credit assignment?
The best way to gain clarity on your priorities is by writing your goals and intentions. Write your goals for the semester in SMART goal format and set your intentions for studying when you get home.
Prioritize on what is most important to you!
If doing well in school and learning is important, then that’s a top priority for you. If impressing your friends is more important, then notice the actions that you’re doing instead of studying.
Follow Your Schedule
I always ask students if they have a paper agenda or calendar on their phone. Some students have both plus a family calendar on the fridge. If you have three different calendars, which one are you following when it comes to your study time?
First, use only one calendar. If your family has a central calendar, I highly recommend unifying all your calendars using Google Calendar or iCal for Macs. If you tend to miss appointments or double-book yourself, going to a single calendar is an easy way to simplify your life.
Second, schedule your study time in short bursts. Aim for 50 minute blocks followed by short breaks of about 5 minutes. Use a watch or timer to track your time. If you measure it, you manage it.
Breaks are very important because you need to give your brain time to digest what you’ve learned and start storing things into memory. Research shows that the neurotransmitters associated with memory need to actually regenerate after about 45 to 50 minutes.
When you take a break, physically move around. Not only will this increase blood flow but it will help all your cells integrate what you’ve learned. Plenty of research in psychology and neuroscience tells us that physical activity—even walking—helps us better integrate what we have learned into our unconscious minds. The unconscious is where all our behaviors, habits, and memory reside so get up and move after you learn something.
Reward Yourself at the Right Time
Finally, reward yourself after you complete a task. The key is that you must do this after you get some work done—not before!
I had a terrible habit for years of procrastinating on what I needed to study by first doing something fun in an effort to energize myself. Instead, I was actually exhausting myself by doing the fun activity before I had earned it. It just pushed the homework even later until I didn’t even want to start.
Decide on what you will do to reward yourself for your good work. Schedule it just like everything else and stick to your schedule. After you finish your essay draft, watch that YouTube video or eat something you love.
Give yourself credit for exerting effort as you had scheduled. Unconsciously, this will reinforce the new habit that you’re installing which is a habit of doing what you intend to do.
Try these actions and share what’s been most helpful for you. If you’re slowly getting the results you want, contact us to see how high-performance one-on-one coaching will help you remove your speed limiter!