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Time management for students: strategies and tips to build your focus

https://blog.rescuetime.com/time-management-for-students/

blog.rescuetime.com

Time management for students: strategies and tips to build your focus
Time management for students (and everyone else) is about being purposeful, taking control of what time you do have and optimizing it for focus.

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Being purposeful with your day

Being purposeful with your day

Time management is about taking control of the time you do have available and using it optimally for productivity while creating balance.

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How to plan your day

Much advice about time management is about creating a to-do list, reminding you what you want to do. However, it's more important to use a schedule, which tells you when you're going to do it.

  • Create "bookends" for each day. Consider your morning and evening routines, then "block" in time for your most important tasks. For example, a 2-hour writing-block every morning after breakfast.
  • Set aside time for your most important projects. The object is to be purposeful about what and when you're going to do something.
  • Schedule in breaks. A schedule has to be realistic. That means including time for breaks, food, exercise, social time, and other "non-school" tasks that keep you happy.

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Be aware of how you’re spending your time

To build a better time management system, you need to know what you currently spend your time on. You need to know where you're losing time to the wrong things.

To track your time, spend a few days writing a "time log" to track how you spend your day.

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Proper goals help you measure your progress

Goals work great to get you motivated to do your work, but they don't tell you how you're going to achieve your goals.

Ask yourself what you can do every day that will help you achieve your ultimate goal. If you need to write a 4,000 word essay by the end of the month, set a daily goal of writing 500 words. If you can make consistent progress, you'll hit your goal sooner.

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Break large projects into small, actionable tasks

Decide what the smallest, most doable next step is. Then list all the next steps with a deadline for each.

It's easy to procrastinate when a project feels overwhelming. Part of proper goal-setting is to be able to break larger goals down into daily tasks. Focus on making progress, not just on the end result.

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Counteract the Planning Fallacy

When you start to schedule your tasks, you may be too optimistic about how much you can get done. You may take on too much work or get stressed when tasks take longer than you expected.

To counteract the Planning Fallacy:

  • Work in a buffer into your schedule.
  • If the task is familiar, give yourself 1 - 1.5 times you think it will take.
  • If it is new, give yourself double the time you think it will take.

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Navigate your circadian rhythm

This means that you should do your most important work when you have the most energy and scheduling passive activities when you're more naturally low.

We all have moments in the day where we feel naturally more alert and energetic and other times where we lack energy. It is known as the Circadian Rhythm - a 24-hour internal clock that cycles between alertness and sleepiness. Every person's rhythm is slightly different, but the majority follow a similar pattern.

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Take breaks at the right time

When you start to feel this way, take a break.

  • Disconnect from what you're working on.
  • Give your eyes a break. After every 20-minutes of work, stare at something at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds.
  • Get outdoors if you can. The natural light and fresh air will give you energy.
  • Refuel with food high in protein to boost your energy.

The best way to maintain productivity is to take regular breaks. Our minds naturally crave breaks after every 90 minutes of intense work. Your body may signal it needs a break by becoming hungry, sleepy, fidgeting, or losing focus.

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Procrastination is inevitable, but it does not have to rule your day

To get over those initial feelings related to procrastination:

  • Follow the 5-minute rule. Tell yourself you're only going to do 5-minutes of work on a project. This is usually enough to get you motivated.
  • Block distracting websites when you start working or at specific times of the day, so you don't get side-tracked.

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Optimize your study time for Flow

When you have a crammed schedule, it's tempting to think you can multitask. But studies find that focusing on a single task can be 500% more productive.

If you find it hard to focus on just one thing:

  • Remove distractions, including your phone.
  • Start small and set a timer.
  • Take a break between each session.

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The Pomodoro Method

Rather than trying to work flat-out, break down your day into a series of work-sprints with a short rest period after each session.

Set a timer for 25 min and focus exclusively on your work for that time, take a 5 min break, and repeat.

Some people find that taking a 5 min break destroys their flow. But it does help to break long complex tasks into a series on manageable sprints.

The 2-minute rule

The 2-minute rule is a strategy for quickly assessing and taking action on small tasks so they don’t take up too much mental energy.

Ask yourself if a task is going to take you 2 minutes or less. If so, just do it.

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William Penn

"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst".

William Penn

Time anxiety

Time anxiety is the feeling that you have not done enough to meet your goals or that you're not using the time you do have effectively.

Time anxiety is more than feeling overwhelmed at times - it haunts your days and causes you to procrastinate on essential tasks.

Your relationship with time changes

The irony is the more we focus on the limited time we do have, the more restricted our time feels.

Time had little impact on us as children. We used to spend our days with mostly unstructured games and learning. As we became teenagers, time started to gain importance. As adults, time becomes an essential and scarce resource that we have to attempt to control.

Building Mental Resilience By Using Indifference

Building Mental Resilience By Using Indifference

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Don’t Do Stuff That’s Stressing You Out

Working on high-priority tasks can be hard, but it is even harder to stop working on them. One needs a weekly or monthly review and reassessment to check what is important to us and deprioritize certain tasks which are no longer serving one’s best interests.

There are various mental biases like the sunk cost fallacy, the completion bias, or the Zeigarnik effect that our brains can experience, making it hard to deprioritize certain tasks.

How To Deprioritize Tasks

  1. Set a limit on the time one has to work on a certain task, creating friction using intervals.
  2. Create a NOT TO DO list of the things you won’t do at all.
  3. Review your priorities on a weekly basis, asking yourself if the task is still important.
  4. Take out the impactful parts of the important tasks and do those first.
  5. Ask someone about how they feel about the prioritization of the tasks.