5 steps to mastering time management
Sometimes a simple to-do list doesn’t cut it. Juggling multiple deadlines and priorities at once demands careful coordination, especially for those who balance school, career and family. With a few clear-cut steps, though, anyone can master time management.
Dr. Tracy Barton-Rouse, an instructor in the University of Phoenix Higher Education Administration doctoral program and the director of academic affairs at the University of Phoenix Columbus Ohio Campus, frequently counsels students on time management. Here, the most effective planning tips she gathered during more than 30 years of teaching at several universities:
Analyze your time.
Before rearranging your schedule, assess how you currently spend your time. Barton-Rouse suggests using a weekly calendar. “To figure out where your time is going, keep track of your activities during the week by putting them down in a calendar; then color-code them. At the end of your week, you’ll have a visual depiction of how you’ve spent your time.” Get out your highlighters — the results may surprise you.
Determine if your actions contribute to your goals.
We sometimes get sidetracked doing things such as surfing the Internet or puttering around the garden. “Is everything you’re doing moving you toward the goals you want to accomplish?” Barton-Rouse asks. “If not, then identify the things that you are doing that are not taking you where you want to go.”
Find and break your time barriers.
“After analyzing where you spend your time, it’s important to identify the barriers that keep you from managing your time,” Barton-Rouse says.
For instance, do you regularly spend more time than you’ve allotted for a particular activity? Or do you often get caught up in an activity that you didn’t schedule? Once you’ve pinpointed these stumbling blocks, you can determine how (or whether) to build them into your schedule.
Delegate some work.
Face it: We’re not always indispensable in every area of our lives. We all have tasks that someone else can take on. “Many of my students are parents,” Barton-Rouse notes. “I recommend that they get everyone on board to help Mom or Dad finish that degree because it benefits the entire family.”
Each child should do assigned chores and take on some household responsibility. If you’re single, consider arranging some time-saving help, such as hiring a part-time housekeeper.
Prioritize your chores.
Prioritizing goes beyond listing your tasks in order of importance. It also includes deciding which activities you can postpone or even jettison. “Spending time with your family and study time are priorities, but the laundry can wait,” Barton-Rouse says. “Sometimes you just have to let things go.”