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Time Management in Spring 2020

By Matt Gonzalez

Hand holding an hour glass with most of the sand at the top
Photo by Who’s Denilo ? on Unsplash

It is no secret that COVID-19 has changed how we live our lives. With this change came the requirement of adjusting the ways in which we manage our day-to-day responsibilities. While it seems like this new lifestyle comes with more free time, without the structural reminders of our responsibilities it can sometimes be more difficult to hold ourselves accountable. One of the habits that many people are finding difficulty in altering is their time management strategy. This post will go over the basics with the hope that you can apply some of this to your own life.

Make a List

There is no getting around it. Time management is an active process which requires your personal investment to be successful. The first step in an effective time management strategy is to become intimately aware of all that needs to be done and by when. My assumption is that you are reading this as a student from WVU, so it makes sense that academic success is on the forefront of your mind, but please also remember that your academics make up only a part of your life. What are other areas that require your attention? School, employment, family, exercise, self-care, bills, and basic needs are just some of the areas of you might be trying to manage.

It is helpful to list each individual, discrete objective that needs to be completed. The time frame in which you organize this list depends on your own personal preference. Too short of a time period (e.g. a day) and you may not be able to plan ahead. Too long of a time period (e.g. a month) and you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the number of tasks that need your attention over the course of a month. You might find that planning a week out meets a suitable middle ground for you.

One last thought, remember to list both tasks with due dates as well as things that you need to do to keep on top of class material that do not have due dates. For example, there is no due date associated with studying for an exam, but few would argue that studying is not a task that needs to be completed.

Priorities and Planning

After we have our list, we need to prioritize. Prioritization is where our personal motivational tendencies meet the reality of time. Being a student comes prepackaged nicely with due dates listed on our syllabi, so use those to start your prioritization process. One thing to remember is that due dates are a reflection of the absolute last moment that a professor/instructor will accept an assignment/test/exam. Too often we forget completing a task in advance is an option that will help alleviate stress.

Another thing to consider is your personal motivational and productivity style. Some people work better in the morning and others late at night. Some people can work all day, but their analytical capabilities slow in the evening. Some people require no motivation whatsoever to get started on their work and others need a little help to get going. What do you know about your own motivation and productivity styles? Throughout this process, remember to be true to yourself; what works for others might not necessarily work for you.

Our list and our priorities come together to make a plan. Again, this will vary from person to person, but many people find it helpful to make a small plan every day. In this strategy, take a series of prioritized tasks off the weekly list, make those the goals of the day, and cross off on both lists as you complete each task. Planning this way might look something like this:

Classes divided into a grid - class names in a row at the top, and each class's assignments listed below that as a to do list

Tips for Success

Even the most well thought out time management plan will be rendered useless if you don’t actively engage in the process of completing the work. Here are some brief tips that might help your productivity:

  1. People are creatures of habit. During this time, you might find that you are more productive if you develop a repetitive routine. Furthermore, engage in the activities that help send a message to yourself that you are getting prepared for work such as: waking up at a predetermined time every day, taking a shower, getting dressed, and attending to personal grooming habits.
  2. If you are someone who needs a little help getting started, it might help to start your to-do list with a simple and discrete task to build some momentum such as sending an email. Even a small sense of accomplishment can provide you with a psychological energy boost!
  3. Take small bites off your lists each day; you would be surprised what sustained moderate effort can accomplish! If I told you that you needed to complete 150 tasks by the end of the month, that would be a little overwhelming. If I told you that you only needed to do five things a day, then it is probably much less overwhelming even though it is asking the same amount of work of you!
  4. You need to take an honest look at yourself and your habits. What are the things that distract you? Is it your phone? Are you like me, a procrasta-cleaner? Does Netflix monopolize your free time? Whatever it is, you need to identify it and think of strategies to control the ways in which you interact with your distraction when your focus should be on completing your daily tasks
  5. Forgive yourself for any slips that you might make. Remember, we are all going through a historic disruption in our society; it makes sense that you might be struggling. Every day do your best to work through your list. Celebrate your successes and learn from your missteps. Don’t aim for perfect; aim for better! 

I hope that this post has helped you think of some ways to better get a handle of the time that you have in order to finish out the semester. Good luck!

Meet the author

Matt Gonzalez

Matt is a third year Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology doctoral student, as well as a student in the Counseling M.A. program. He is currently a graduate teaching assistant in CPASS and a master’s practicum trainee at the Carruth Center where he provides supervised counseling to students at the university.

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