Time management skills are not hard to learn, and they do not require much in the way of equipment in order to master them. However, there are a few tools every student will need in order to be able to manage his or her time wisely. The most important tool is a daily planner. If you are worried about having to spend money, set your mind at ease. It is not necessary to spend even a dollar on a daily planner, thanks to the wonders of the internet. There are a number of effective free tools that you can take advantage of. Some daily planner options do cost a little bit of money, but these planners have extra features. You certainly might want to use one of these if you can afford it, but doing so is not necessary at all.
There are three kinds of daily planners: paper, electronic, and online. Each of these has certain advantages, but the most important factor is choosing a format you like so that you will be more likely to use it. Some people prefer the old-fashioned paper kind. The most famous brand is Franklin Covey; they are very good, but fairly expensive. You can find an adequate unbranded version at your local discount store for just a few dollars. Electronic planners are found on PDAs (personal digital assistants) or, more commonly these days, as applications on smart phones. Online, you have several versions to choose from. Free ones include Toodledo, Remember The Milk, Treepad, Gmail Calendar, and many more. Achieve Planner is not free, but it has a lot of features, and you can get a free trial. Some online planners are also available as downloadable apps for smart phones.
It does not matter what kind of daily planner you use; what matters is that you actually use it and use it every day. Everything starts with your daily planner; it will be the backbone of your time management and productivity. Everything you need to do should be listed in your planner, and you must be diligent about setting aside adequate time for everything you need or want to accomplish. In fact, one of the great things about using a daily planner religiously is that it will force you to prioritize. There is only so much time in a day, and when you actually see your daily activities laid out in print, it will become clear that you must make choices about what is important. You cannot do everything you want to do; to put it more precisely, you cannot do everything you want to do as often as you want to. You should definitely make plans for socializing and similar activities, but most of the time they should be planned, not spontaneous events. Always doing things on the spur of the moment sounds fun, but in reality it can wreck your college career. Think of your daily planner as your conscience, and let your conscience be your guide. By planning your daily schedule, you will get far more accomplished, and you will stay on track with your goals. By doing that, you will have plenty of time left to set aside in your planner for having fun.
Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
Elsewhere we have discussed the paramount importance of using a daily planner to map out your daily schedule. It cannot be stressed enough how important keeping a daily planner is for you to be a successful student. Of course, the whole purpose of using a daily calendar is to give you a schedule and a plan to accomplish all the tasks you need to complete on a given day. The planner cannot force you to stick to the plan, and if you start falling behind, it becomes very difficult to catch up. One way many people get off track is that they do not maintain a regular sleep routine, and this is one of the surest ways to fail when it comes to high school or college.
It is perfectly natural to want to sleep in on weekends or on days when you do not have an early class. Done in moderation, sleeping in is not a problem. Unfortunately, for many high school and college students, their idea of sleeping in does not mean sleeping an extra hour past their normal wake up time. Instead, it often means sleeping till 11 in the morning or noon, or even later, especially on the weekends. This is a recipe for disaster. A person might be able to get away with it a few times (but even then it will take a real toll on mental alertness), but trying to do that sort of thing repeatedly is very hard on both the body and the mind.
If you normally go to bed at 11:00 in the evening and get up at 7:00 in the morning but do not go to bed until 4:00 in the morning and sleep till noon on the weekends, your body (and your brain) will be completely out of sync come Monday morning. You might be able to get out of bed at 7:00 a.m. and make it to your classes, but you are not going to be functioning at anywhere near one hundred percent. You will not be alert, and you will be fighting off sleep all day. There is no way you can learn to the best of your ability under those conditions. In addition to being bad for your education, it is also terrible for your health. Our bodies simply were not intended to deal with extremely irregular schedules like that. So do not try to fight your body. Stick to essentially the same sleep schedule as often as possible. Sleeping in an extra hour or so on the weekends is fine, but staying out all night on the weekends and then trying to recover on Monday and Tuesday will not work. A regular, consistent sleep schedule is an important part of time management.
Another Useful Tool-A Timer
In high school and college, you will constantly have deadlines to meet. Likewise, most jobs will require you to meet deadlines on a regular basis. Having deadlines helps spur us on to be more productive; as we see the time allowed for completion waning, we tend to focus more and redouble our efforts, which typically allows us to remain on schedule. You should take advantage of the same principle by adding a timer to your arsenal of time management tools. A timer can greatly increase your productivity, and the cost is zero to very little.
Many people have stopwatch functions on their watch or cell phone, but in many cases these do not have a countdown feature, which is a key element of the timer you are looking for. If you have a watch or phone with a countdown timer, that is great. If not, there are several websites online that have the feature. You can find any number of others by doing an Internet search. They are all pretty much the same, although some can take a while to load. You simply input your desired length of time, click Start, and when the time has elapsed an alarm will sound. Many of the sites let you choose from several different alarm sounds. If you want an actual timer to carry with you at all times, you can get a small digital timer for a couple of dollars at your local discount store.
Most of the time, you will use your timer for studying. Set aside a certain amount of time for algebra, and then move on to American history, then to statistics, etc. Got a paper you need to write but you have been putting it off? Set the timer for an hour and see how much you can get done. You will find all kinds of uses for your timer once you get in the habit of using it. Spending too much time on Facebook? Set the timer for 15 minutes, and when it sounds, log off. Want to get faster at cleaning your room or bathroom? Try using the timer, and every time you tackle the job give yourself one less minute or just see how much time you can shave off the task. For example, if there is phone call you need to make that could last longer than you have time for, use the time. You will be amazed at how much more productive you have become.