Time management can become a prevalent issue when the semester is coming to a close. There is no doubt that it is extremely difficult to manage homework, studying, working, having a social life, seeing family, playing sports, and other activities that you are engaged in. Time management is tremendously important during the end of each semester due to all of the final projects and upcoming exams. Stress can increase during this time and your availability to complete all of your tasks can decrease. One suggestion to mitigate this lack of time is to create an activity log that can be used to find where you spend most of your time and what you are doing there.
It is not uncommon to be unaware of how much time is spent being unproductive in times when productivity is of the utmost importance. I’m looking at you, social media surfers (including myself)! A time log can assist you in identifying times of the day in which you are most energetic and ready to work along with times that are low energy and less productive. Understanding this can guide the organization of your tasks, getting big items completed during high energy times and completing low energy tasks during other times.
While self-care is extremely important, and so is taking breaks, during high volume times such as the end of the semester it is beneficial to make purposeful use of your time. A general guide for what to note in your activity log is: day and time, a description of the activity you are engaging in, how you feel, the duration that the task takes you, and your perceived value – high, medium, low, or none. It is important to note each time you make a change in activity, what it is, the time of the change, and whether you feel lethargic, energetic, motivated, and so on. An example of a high value task could be studying, whereas being on social media could be none. The best line of reference is “How did this task contribute to reaching my goals?”
Once you have an idea of the ways you spend your time, it is time to begin analyzing the activity log. Take note of what times of the day you are most energetic and productive, when and how long you take breaks, and the value of the work that you conduct each day. Then comes the task of boosting productivity based on this analysis. These actions can include: elimination or delegation, scheduling tasks based on energy levels, reducing the amount of times you switch tasks, and reducing the amount of time spent on tasks with little to no value.
Eliminate or delegate: When it comes to tasks that do not need to be completed by you, delegate. If you are doing a group project, make sure the work load is evenly distributed. If there are tasks at work that are not a part of your role, delegate the tasks. This is also an opportunity to get rid of excess time spent on social media or watching television.
High motivation times: Paying attention to your activity and energy levels throughout the day can lead to more productive scheduling of tasks. If you are most productive in the morning, it would be beneficial to schedule time to work on big projects or papers in the morning, and work on less taxing assignments later in the day. During low energy times it could be beneficial to schedule time for reading, returning emails, or completing tasks that do not get you toward your goal in such a large way.
Minimizing switching tasks: Switching between tasks leads to an adjustment period that can create reduced productivity in needing to adapt to each task. It may be beneficial to schedule each task for one class at the same time, then moving on to the next set of tasks. This also includes reducing the amount of times you check your phone or social media while completing a task. We are all guilty of taking breaks to check Facebook or Instagram, but that can lead to a reduction in productivity and an increase in the amount of time it takes to complete the task at hand.
Reduction in low value tasks: When you spend less time in line at Dunkin or Starbucks, less time on social media, and less time watching television, there is more time to be productive. Spending an overwhelming amount of time on low value tasks can be a sign of procrastination, which is the enemy of getting tasks done.
The end of a semester is always an intense time with a great deal of tasks to complete and activities to manage. While it’s important to practice self-care, it is also important to learn how to become more productive when the time is called for. This is a skill that can be applied to school, work, and other aspects of life in order to keep your productivity level high. It is also an important piece of introspection to understand when you are most productive, least productive, and what you spend most of your time doing.
Jessica Brokenshire, BSW, MSW Candidate