"There is a time for everything," Thomas Edison once said.
Sure, easy for him to say. He was the poster boy for productivity. But things have certainly changed since Edison’s time. Our daily distractions have doubled, even tripled in the past 100 years. Text messages, emails and screeching calls of “Mom!” seem to follow you wherever you go. You have an official second job running “Dad’s Taxi Service” to soccer practices, music lessons and play dates. Your boss expects an update on the latest project - and it’s 2 a.m. Then, your paper is due tomorrow, and there’s a test next week, but you have to share that hilarious Facebook post with your cousin in Oklahoma first…
Most often, our curiosity gets the better of us and our addiction to technology doesn’t help. The more we have to do, the more we seem to procrastinate. So how can we overcome these ever-increasing distractions if our willpower and focus are lost somewhere on the Internet?
While it’s impossible to truly get everything done, you can accomplish most things by planning well and streamlining your efforts. Perfect the art of multitasking by using these seven time management hacks to find the extra time you need to spend it with the ones that matter.
1. Record yourself reading your notes or study guides.
Play back the recording during your daily commute or while out for a jog. If your material is available online, you can use a text-to-speech program to get your reading done. NaturalReader offers a free program that allows you to convert MS Word, webpages, PDF files and emails into spoken words and can also convert any text into audio files for your CD player or iPod.
2. Block any distractions.
How many times have you attempted to work on your assignments, only to be distracted by Facebook or email? Five minutes can easily turn into an hour, diverting your focus from completing your tasks until, suddenly; you have no time left at all. If you have work to do, and your social media self-control is lacking, try using tools that block distracting sites, or ones that remind you that you need to focus. If you find yourself unable to focus, try using Productivity Owl, a free extension for Google’s Chrome browser (which you can download here, also for free) that blocks websites, closes productivity-wasting webpages and, if you’ve earned it, allows you to take breaks.
3. Set aside a space soley for schoolwork.
You know that having a dedicated space for schoolwork can do wonders for your focus, but so can having a master binder. Use a large, 3-ring binder with dividers to organize all your papers in one place, and separate them by term, course or whatever works for you. If you plan on traveling with your schoolwork, perhaps for a business trip or a study session at the local Starbucks, grabbing a single binder as you head out the door is a lot easier than gathering a mess of papers, folders and notebooks.
4. Spend your time wisely.
Coordinating all of your commitments is never easy, but it is possible to combine some of them to make your responsibilities easier. Next time you have a test or exam, ask your kids to help you study. You can create questions on index cards and have them quiz you; turn it into a game, like Jeopardy. By including them in your school life, your kids will feel important while also allowing for quality family time.
5. Create a master schedule.
Keep a concise schedule that includes the entire family’s commitments – that means your exam dates, your spouse’s business functions, the kids’ extracurricular activities, etc. That way, you won’t be surprised about any upcoming due dates or deadlines, and you can schedule your time accordingly when any conflicts do arise.
6. Combine your resources.
Instead of taking hours to create a study guide, engage your classmates to each contribute a section of a study guide. Combine everyone’s efforts together to create one massive study guide and cut down on the work and time usually spent by one person.
7. Break down your to-do list everyday.
Make a short to-do list every day that contains 3 or 4 things on it so it is workable. Include items that you dread, as well as things you look forward to do. If a task seems too large, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example a task like “write paper” can seem daunting, but “write outline” is much easier (and quicker) to accomplish.
What time management strategies work for you? Share it in the comments to help out fellow students!
Written by Thomas Edison State University