Intentional time-management tips

Written by Emily Hill Tuesday 01 June 2021
Students often juggle multiple projects for many modules at once, making an intimidating to-do list – so here are timely tips
Young student studying in the library

Sometimes time disappears into a vortex and you find you have so much to do, you can’t get anything done. Luckily, by calming down and prioritising your to-do list, you may find there’s far more of it than you think...

“The secret sauce in time management is undoubtedly being intentional,” claim leadership development experts Martin Boroson and Carmel Moore, the co-directors of One Moment Company. “It is remarkable to us how many meetings and projects are begun without that being clear, causing untold stress, frustration, exhaustion, and failure. This is easily corrected by simply pausing at the beginning of a project, at the beginning of your day, or at various points throughout your day to get very clear about your intention. Why are you doing this?”

Such laser focus may seem at odds with the life of a student, but such a strategy worked for Martha Woodman, a student of Classics and Ancient History, who released her debut novel Divine last Saturday, which she managed to complete while recovering from Long Covid and sitting her A-Levels last year. “At the beginning of each day, I set aside some time to schedule my commitments in order of priority and plan for the week ahead on Sunday evening," she explains. "I have found that writing to-do lists like this in neat, aesthetically pleasing planners can help focus the mind on the tasks ahead... Without these scheduling methods, I would inevitably forget essential tasks. But perhaps most importantly, when I am looking to manage my time effectively, I switch off my phone to ensure there are no distractions.”

Personally, I spent my teenage years doodling and daydreaming; not everyone is such a natural – some of us need help. So Liz Sebag-Montefiore, Director of 10Eighty, suggests “finding out where your time really goes and then use The Eisenhower Matrix to understand urgency and importance. This exercise will help you to work out what's critical and help you prioritise.”

When it comes to studying for exams and cramming for interviews, it’s important to organise exactly what you need to know, argues Michele Don Durbin, SVP of Marketing at Evernote. “Think about all the information related to your studies or project that you need. Can you see it all at a glance, or is it spread out over multiple apps, websites, files, and scraps of paper? Ideally you want to keep everything together as much as possible so you don’t have to switch between countless sources... Also, don’t let yourself be distracted by social media: Do you really need an alert every time someone you follow posts a cat video?”

Together our experts have reached a consensus on the five top tips for time management:

1. Learn how to carve out “me time” – if you’re sleep-deprived and overly stressed, your output will be worse than if you’d have a chilled TLC night before studying during the day

2. Become comfortable in saying “no” to tasks you can’t manage, which may mean cancelling social plans to study for a deadline

3. Try and avoid procrastination – the sooner you start, the sooner it’s finished

4. Minimise distractions – try noise-cancelling headphones and putting your phone out of sight to help you concentrate on one task at a time

5. Make a plan at the start of the week (which can be tweaked as the days go by) and block out what you'll do and when; even if you don’t stick to it, it can help you visualise how much time needs to be spent where

“Managing your time effectively can be a tricky balancing act, but these tips should help you walk the line,” Michele Don Durbin concludes. “Focus on what matters, plan with priorities in mind, don’t let small stuff sap your attention—and get ready to enjoy some hard-earned free time.”

You may be interested in joining CMI’s Future Leaders membership community for young people – a group of diverse, ambitious and emerging professionals who are proactively looking to get ahead in their career. Find out more here.

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