Ade reached the bus stop just in time, just as the bus arrived. “Why does mum always nag anyway?” he smirked. “At least I always manage to catch the last possible bus apart from the few odd times when… Oh dear!” He was suddenly jolted out of his smug triumphant mood as he remembered that he left his coursework at home. Even though he had managed to complete it at 2am, he was so tired at the end and had forgotten to put it in his bag. “Oh no, I’ve got to go back home to get it as the deadline is today! I’m definitely going to be very late for school and will have to serve detention at the end of the day. What is that thing mum constantly mutters about being scattered and my lack of time management skills, huh?”
Does the above scenario or similar play out in your life often? Do you find yourself constantly rushing from one thing to another, finishing late or not finishing at all? Yet, some people seem to get things done effortlessly and on time? Could it be that they have more than 24 hours in their day? Since we know that’s a ridiculous proposition, it must be something else. Clearly, such people have mastered the art of effective time management. Guess what? So can you.
Why do students need time management skills?
Managing your time effectively has a lot of benefits, it therefore makes sense to develop in this area whilst you’re a student. Some of the advantages are highlighted below:
It increases employability
If you do a quick scan of open roles on any job site, you will find that effective time management is almost always a required soft skill. This is because employers need people who can get things done well and before the deadline. It is therefore no surprise that young people seeking internships, apprenticeships or graduate roles are routinely tested for this skill.
It's a transferrable skill
If you are successful at managing your time effectively as a student, you will most likely do this well in other areas of your life. University admissions officers and employers know this which is why you’d have an edge over other candidates if you can demonstrate prowess in this area.
Stress levels are reduced
Those who manage their time well are more in control since they are less likely to run around helter-skelter. This means you have fewer surprises and crises emanating from urgent deadlines. Interestingly, students who invest time upfront, planning and prioritising, are the ones who end up with time to spare.
The most important things get done
Managing your time effectively means that you actively avoid being derailed. This translates into undivided focus on the things that matter most, leading to success in coursework, exams, job applications and other key areas of your life.
Not being stressed and getting the most important things done on time are great confidence boosters. You effectively are on a roll, creating a cycle of success as you free up time to handle bigger and better things. Have you noticed that students who have got a handle on their studies are the ones more inclined to take on leadership opportunities in school?
How can students improve their time management skills?
There are a number of ways to get better in this area. Central to this is being organised. The better organised you are, the more effective you become. Here are seven steps you can take to become more organised and improve your time management skills.
Understand the time quadrants
If you don’t know how you spend your time, how can you effectively manage it? In Sean Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, he describes the time quadrants. Generally, everything you do falls into one of the four quadrants. Highly effective students ensure that they do the most important things first. They don’t wait till the day before exams to start studying. As a result they end up being more in control.
Identify your priorities
A key step in becoming successful is to have a vision and know where you’re headed. Without knowing what matters how can you prioritise the most important things? In Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog, he says “People who take a long view of their lives and careers always seem to make much better decisions about their time and activities than people who give very little thought to the future.”
For you to get the things in Quadrant 2 done, you need to know what belongs in Quadrant 2. For example you aren’t likely to prioritise your search for an internship if you haven’t thought of any potential careers. Knowing where you’re going is therefore crucial if you are going to achieve anything worthy of note.
Have a plan
As the saying goes, a vision without a plan is just an empty dream. Students who manage their time effectively use planners, diaries and such tools to make their dreams become a reality. A well laid out plan keeps you in check as it reminds you of what you’re meant to be doing. It ensures you minimise the risk of wasting your time doing the wrong things. For instance, you tackle your coursework which is due in 3 weeks bit by bit from now so you don’t end up stressed the day before the deadline.
Make the most of your most productive time
Students who manage their time effectively recognise when they are most productive and tackle the most difficult tasks at that time of the day. Typically the activities in Quadrant 2 are harder therefore get them done when you’re at your peak. Research shows that you are more productive when you tackle the hardest things first. The trick is to break such difficult tasks done into smaller chunks so you can tackle them step by step. With each step you complete, you feel a sense of achievement and that spurs you on to tackle the next one.
Say NO to distractions
No matter how well you’ve planned your day, distractions will come your way. However students with effective time management skills know how to stop themselves from being derailed. If you’re going to manage your time well, you will need the discipline and the tools to keep you on track. You can for example switch off the notifications on your smart phone when you are about to study or write that essay.
Clutter is a time thief that will cause you to waste a lot of time. If you do not have a specific place to keep each thing, you will spend time you don’t have, searching for 'missing items'. Don’t allow your filing to pile up. Have a filing style that works for you and make sure each document goes into the right folder as soon as you’ve finished working on it. Don’t drop things all around your bedroom. Not only do you waste time sifting through the mess to find things, the clutter leads to added stress. Students who have mastered the management of their time tend to use folders effectively so it’s easy to retrieve their work whenever they need it. You can be that student!
Get guidance from an expert
Quite often even though you have an idea of what to do, you need an expert to hold your hand and show you the ropes. This is something we can help you with. Our Soft Skills Workshops are designed to support you in this area. During our workshops we go through a goal setting exercise and you will leave with a plan that you can begin to act upon right away. To know more about the next workshop, click here.
Let me know in the comments below which tips resonate with you the most and how you plan to implement them.