As is true when anyone gets older, you have to take on new responsibilities, new challenges, and learn to conquer new obstacles as they come along. You may have had a decent routine in grade school when your list of responsibilities couldn’t fill a post-it note. However, now that your to-do’s could easily fill novel, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re managing your time wisely. Without a plan to stick to, things can end up falling through the cracks.
I’ve had to learn the hard way that I can no longer use the schedule of “work, study, play” that I had when I was in college. Now I have to worry about paying bills, getting my apartment in order, meeting last-minute deadlines, and somehow finding time to squeeze in some exercise and reconnecting with friends.
I had many of the same requirements while in school, but when 60 hours of week are devoted to commuting, my full-time job, and a part-time job just to help pay the bills, I find I had even less time to complete them all.
After a few months working full-time, I got home after a particularly long day, sat on my floor and cried. I had put on weight. I felt rushed, disheveled, and I was so scatterbrained that I was always worrying I’d forgotten something. I was constantly working but felt as if I was getting nothing done. I was exhausted, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
After gathering myself together (and a brief second sobbing session after noticing how dirty my carpet was), I realized I needed a different way to go about the day. Rather than let my responsibilities control me, I needed to put myself in the driver’s seat.
The 5 steps to effective time management
What I found was that properly managing my time helped me tackle tasks far easier than when I was going about my day without a plan. After doing a little research on how I could best utilize my time, I came across a piece published by The University of Oregon’s Holden Leadership Center. The Center says that there are 5 steps to effective time management, which they call, “The Big Five.” They’re listed as:
Following the steps is easy. First, list out the tasks that you want to complete. Then think about how much time you want to devote to each one. Next, organize the tasks based on how you want to complete them. Do you want to have them completed throughout the week, or on a daily basis?
For the next step, prioritize your list based on what the most important tasks are to complete, that way if you’re running short on time at any point, you can rework the schedule to get the most important things done first. Obviously work came first for me, then I set aside 45 minutes each day for self-health things, such as fitting in a workout to help with my energy, or preparing some meals for the week to save time when I got home and was too tired to cook.
Complete your time management setup by finalizing them on your schedule.
To carry out your new time management plan, one great piece of advice I’ve come across is to use your smartphone to your advantage. I mean, many of us use it to communicate, listen to music and podcasts, and watch movies and TV shows… the list goes on. So why not time management, right? In a guest post on Verizon, blogger Danyelle Little notes that there five particularly helpful apps out there that any young professional should have on his or her phone. I have grown especially fond of Evernote because, like Little writes, “It’s like an assistant that keeps you organized and well running” by keeping track of to-do lists, outlines, and everything else you’d need. You can get the app here.
Personally, I’m a very visual person, and I found it beneficial to keep an activities log, listing the time duration for each entry. It’s a similar concept that I use to keep track of my health and fitness routine. As Live Strong explains, writing down which foods you eat leads to tangible evidence and accountability.
The same is true for time management. While you might have a list of tasks you need to do at a certain time, I know it’s all too easy to ignore an alert when one pops up on my phone, reminding me to do something I’ve been dreading. If you keep a time log of what you’re actually completing, it can serve as a physical evidence of the distribution of your time.
While you can’t plan for everything, being organized will help you make the most out of the time that you have. Stick with it. Soon you’ll find yourself being more efficient and capable of relaxing more when you know your to-do list is all checked off!
Article Contributed by Sara Upton
Sara Upton is a recent college graduate and blogger. She lives in Knoxville, TN, with her boyfriend, Ben, and their dog, Ned.