How to Manage Time and Set Priorities

Good time management means identifying what's most important.

The 3 rules of effective time management

  1. Don't create impossible situations.
  2. Define priorities.
  3. Avoid distractions.

Don't create impossible situations.

  • Make time your friend, not your enemy.
  • Use time to create success, not failure.
  • Identify your first priority classes and do whatever it takes to succeed.
  • Usually plan on two hours studying for every one hour of class.
  • Drop 2nd priority classes or reduce work hours if necessary.

Define your priorities using the three-list method.

  • Weekly List #1 - The Weekly Calendar.
    Create a weekly calendar. Make it your basic time budgeting guide. List your courses, work, study time, recreation, meals, TV, relaxation, etc. Plan to study 1st priority classes when you work best. Be flexible, adapt your schedule to changing needs. Keep your schedule handy and refer to it often. If it doesn't work, change it.
  • Daily List #2 - The Daily "Things to Do."
    Write down all the things (not on your calendar) that you want to do today . Note homework due or tests to take or subjects you want to emphasize. include shopping, personal calls, etc. This list is a reminder. Use it to set priorities and to reduce decision-making and worry. If time is tight, move items to your long-term list. Rewrite this list each morning. Use visualization to help you focus on what to do.
  • Monthly List #3 - Goals and Other Things.
    This can be one or two lists, a weekly list and/or a monthly list. Put down your goals and things you have to do. What do you want to accomplish over the next month? What do you need to buy? Use this list to keep track of all your commitments. If you're worried about something, put it on this list. The purpose of this list is to develop long-term goals and to free your mind to concentrate on today.

What not to do.

Don't work when frustrated or angry; put feelings on a list and calm down. Don't worry or feel guilty; put problems on a list, unwind and plan for today. Don't look back and regret past actions; put them on a list, relax and look ahead. Don't get sick and blow your schedule; think positive, eat, sleep and exercise.

Distractions: How to handle distractions.

Do you get sidetracked by TV, telephone, friends, sports, boredom, daydreaming? Do you procrastinate? The best way to not do something is to avoid it. Find a place to study where there is no TV or telephone. Try a library or study hall.

The most productive three minutes you'll ever spend.

Preview and review. Before lecture, preview the book. After lecture, review your notes. When you have three spare minutes, review your summary sheets.

From How to Be a Successful Student, Donald Martin, c 1988.

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