How to Manage Your Time

Does this sound familiar?

Your friends are going to a movie. You want to go but you have homework to finish.   It's the night before a big test. You have just started to study. You have many hours of reading ahead.

Does it seem like you never have enough time and wonder where all your time goes? Do you know someone who usually gets work done before it is due? Maybe they use their time well. You can learn how to spend your time wisely, too. These steps may help you find that you have more time than you think!

How are you really spending your time?

For one week write down how you spend ALL your time sleeping, eating, doing homework, watching television, talking to friends. Be honest. Don't change any of your normal habits during this week. At the end of the week, ask yourself questions about how you use your time.

Are you happy with how you spend your time?  How much time do you spend on unnecessary things, such as watching TV or going to the mall?  Is there wasted time? How much time during the week did you spend on needless errands or daydreaming? If you spent two hours at your desk one night, how much of that time did you really use to study?   Did you have enough time for homework and school activities? Do you need to schedule more time for these?

Plan by the semester

Write down major due dates on your calendar. Keep your calendar where you will see and use it often.

Estimate how long it will take to do each project. Mark the dates to start each project on your calendar. Allow yourself more time than you think you will really need.

Set short-term and long-term goals.

- Short-term goals may be Read chapter 7 by Thursday, or Decide on a topic for history paper by the 1st.

- Long-term goals may be Have term paper done by April 8th, or Finish reading textbook by May 20th.

Plan small rewards for yourself when you reach these goals. You might call a friend or go to a movie.

Make a master schedule. Your master schedule should include the following activities and any others you may have.

- ALL required school activities
- work schedule
- after-school activities
- blank spaces for unknown activities

A master schedule can help you keep track of all the things that you need to do. If you know what you have to do and when you need to do it, you can prepare better to meet deadlines.

Plan by the week

Plan when to do all your tasks for the week. Schedule time to study for tests, read your textbooks, write papers, go to work, be at meetings.  Leave enough time for your chores and household duties. Don't plan to do so many things that you don't have time to eat and sleep! Remember, if you don't get enough rest, you won't be able to do the things you have planned.

Look at the WHOLE week.

Schedule small blocks of time each day to study, instead of one large block during the week.

Finish at least one task in each study block.

Plan each day

Make a "to do" list the night before or first thing in the morning. If you write down what you need to do, your mind will be free to study. You won't worry and spend time thinking about what you have to do next.

See how well your new schedule works--

Use it for a few weeks, then ask yourself some questions. Are you getting your schoolwork done on time? Are you getting more things done? Do you feel you have control of your time?

YES? Then your new schedule is working well.

NO? Then you should look at your schedule to see how it can be
improved. Some of these things may help you.

Cut out wasted time. Use more time for whatever needs it. Leave time for fun, too. Don't stop talking with your friends or listening to music. Just make sure you aren't spending all your time on fun and relaxation and leaving yourself short on time for other important things.

Prioritize. Decide. What things MUST get done? What things can wait until you have time? Do the things that HAVE to be done. Don't worry about the rest. When you have time, do the things that can wait!

Organize a long assignment. Look at it. How long might it take you to finish? Divide it into sections. These will be the different tasks that are pieces of finishing the assignment. List and organize how these tasks fit together. This list is the map that will guide you through the assignment. Breaking the big task into smaller ones makes it easier to manage. The smaller tasks might be to outline, gather reference material, read reference material, write rough drafts of each of the 5 sections, etc. Look at the smaller tasks. Estimate how long you will need to complete each of them. Break the tasks down until they are small enough that you feel you know about how long it will take to complete them. Then fit them into your schedule.

Are you trying to do too much? Be realistic about what you can do before you make a commitment. It is fun and satisfying to be busy, but remember that there is only one of you! It is better to do a few things well than lots of things badly!

How do you figure out what to do first? Look at your priority list. Analyze the work you have to do. Save the easiest task for last, when you are tired. Then start and finish a task that is fairly easy. This will give you that warm satisfaction of getting something DONE! Now, while you are fresh, attack the task that seems most difficult. When it is done, work your way through the next most difficult and on down to the easiest.

Follow your schedule closely. Even a well-planned schedule can't help you if you don't follow it. Or, you may need to work on the schedule until it fits your life. If you plan your time wisely, you can get things done on time and have time to relax, too.

It is very important to manage your time wisely. As you get older, you will have more responsibilities. You will find it easier to succeed if you learn to budget your time well.