Time management is a very important skill you need in your life. It is important to make your life easier. It helps to accomplish different tasks/goals during the day.
I remember when I first started graduate school. I was overwhelming with different tasks and things I had to finish every day such as studying, taking care of my family, dealing with my homesickness, and responding to tens of emails every day.
At that time, I did not have the skills of time management. It is because I was an undergraduate student. I did not have the same responsibilities as I had in my graduate school in the USA.
So, I spent many years reading and understanding how I can accomplish more tasks during the day in a small effort and short time. As a result, I am going to share with you my top time management tips that may be helpful for you based on my experience.
1- Understand where do you spend your time
To start time management, it is important to understand where do you spend your time. It helps to find the space to finish important tasks first. For example, you may realize that you spend 4 hours/day playing games or checking your social media accounts. By realizing that, you will be able to use some of these 4 hours to finish other tasks such as replaying your school emails.
To start tracking your time, take a pace of paper and pen. For a week, start recording every activity you do include its period of time. This is important for the second tip for time management.
2- Understand the differences between important, urgent, not important, and not urgent.
After you list everything you do for a week, start generating a to-do-list. It helps to give a clear idea of which tasks should be done first. For example, in your to-do-list for today, you have an assignment due date (tomorrow), call your friend, and going to Starbucks for drinking coffee.
So, the assignment is important and urgent. The phone call is important, but it is not urgent. going for coffee is not urgent or important. In this example, you realize the tasks that need to be done first in the following order:
- First, the important and urgent
- The important but not urgent
- The urgent but not important
- Then not important, not urgent.
In my experience with time management, it is important for me to have a to-do-list. It does not have to be a paper. if you like to keep your to-do-list in a small paper in your pocket, Do it. For me, I prefer to have on my cellphone. Most smartphones have a default app for reminders. They can be used as a to-do-list. However, you can use other available free to-do-list apps such as Microsoft To-do-list website and app.
4- Less than 2 minutes rule
I asked my labmate a question. How do you finish lab work, teaching assistance, and reply to all emails before the end of the day? He gave me a gold answer that is simple and effective. He said, “Finish everything that takes less than 2 minutes first”. For example, many emails do not need more than 1 minute for replaying. Start with finishing them. Some phone calls need less than 1 minute. For example, to ask your classmate about homework. Finish these calls first quickly. It is because postponing small tasks will build more small tasks during the day. At the end of the day, you will find yourself did not finish many of these small tasks.
That includes your tasks as a Teaching assistance. I follow my lab mate rule. I did enter the grade after every section I did teach. In this way, I do not need to spend my weekend grading. One of the TAs was setting after 5 PM every Friday grading for a full week that he did not. You do not want to spend your weekend at work.
At the end, I know there is a lot of other tips you may hear from others. I tried to share some from my own experience. If you have a better tip, please share it in the comment. In this way, I can educate my self as others.