Stress and time management are two big challenges when assessments are drawing near and life is busy or difficult, so ABE ambassador and previous Top Paper winner Selveena Parmanum has written this blog to share some tools and techniques to help you stay in control and on top of your studies (and life in general) #ABEway. If you're an ABE member, don't forget the ABE Edge course, Effective Time Management, will further help you hone your time management to perfection.
Effective time management will make you more productive in your daily life and also help you accomplish your life goals. Amidst the challenging times brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic you may be wondering how to develop the best time management strategies to help you organise your days and excel in your studies. Below are some tips that will boost your efficiency for study success:
Defining your study goals will give you a better vision of what you want to accomplish and enable you to measure your progress accordingly. Set SMART goals for your studies.
Decide what you exactly want to do and how you intend to do it. For example, I will go through my study guide and identify what needs to be covered and plan how I will complete the work.
How will you track your progress to know if you have achieved your goal? For example, I will finish four sections of a particular module by Friday.
Is the goal you set achievable? It is important to be realistic in the goal you set so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by what you are targeting.
Is your goal in alignment with your overall objectives and study plan? For example, the task I am planning to cover is based on the requirements of my assignments or on what is recommended in my course.
This means giving your goal a realistic deadline. Deadlines bring about adherence to the flow of work and avoid confusion.
Having short daily goals are essential for the successful achievement of long term goals, such as graduation and career. Daily goals will bring a level of control and help you prioritise your day. They help you see that you are making progress and this will help you maintain your motivation.
Prioritisation and Organisation:
If you want to succeed with good grades, it’s fundamental to understand how you are spending your time and set your priorities. An effective way to organise your work is to follow a timetable and create a master schedule or a project plan. You can use an online calendar, academic diary with time blocks or create your own format to ensure the best learning practice. When it comes to your assignments, it’s advisable to start early so that you can find enough time to edit or amend where necessary at a later stage and it means you can complete your assignments before you start your timed open-book exams.
Learning how to prioritise your time means you can make the best use of your effort and energy. The best way to start planning your time is to break ‘big tasks’ into more granular level tasks and rate them according to their importance and due date. The Eisenhower Matrix can help you have a clear framework of what needs to be done in an orderly manner.
An example would be like this:
IMPORTANT - URGENT: DO
IMPORTANT - NOT URGENT: SCHEDULE
NOT IMPORTANT: DELEGATE
NOT IMPORTANT: ELIMINATE
Avoid multi-tasking and reduce distractions
Multi-tasking can mean different things, like tackling two modules at the same time, switching back and forth between tasks. These situations can dilute your concentration and affect your performance. When you focus on one task at a time, you are more likely to be more productive.
The environment where you study has a huge impact on your level of concentration. A potential study location would be one where you have a good atmosphere with proper lighting and a comfortable temperature away from all disturbances. Distractions can come in many shapes. Internal distractions are our own thoughts and emotion and external would be noise, TV, people and mobile phones to mention a few. Put your phone on silent mode and turn off notifications from your laptop. One way to overcome the problem of distraction for TV or watching movies would be to make this a reward after you complete your targeted work schedule. It’s also important to use mobile apps or the internet sensibly.
Follow a daily routine
When facing unexpected challenges and disruption things may seem out of control and we find it difficult to keep up with our daily routine. Yet, making an effort to keep this up is a ‘must’ if you want your day to be productive. Keep your morning routine the same as you would if you were attending the office or school. Identify what time works best for you to concentrate when your energy level is good.
Manage your stress
Our daily responsibilities can sometimes involve huge challenges that cause us to feel stressed and overwhelmed. We are often increasingly anxious as assessments draw near. Try the four A’s of Stress Management techniques: Avoid, Alter, Accept, Adapt.
Stress Management Strategy 1: Avoid unnecessary stress
Stress Management Strategy 2: Alter the situation
Stress Management Strategy 3: Adapt to the stressor
Stress Management Strategy 4: Accept the things you cannot change
Managing stress is not an easy process but if you take control of it, your life will thank you.
Your well-being matters
When times are tough, the mental and physical pressure that we put on ourselves can be detrimental to overall well-being. When preparing for assessments, it is imperative to remain flexible. It’s ok not to complete all that you schedule on a particular evening, if it proves too much finish it on the next day. Take enough break intervals during your work to avoid burnout.
When your body is under stress, you find it difficult to stay focused and concentrate on what you are doing. Physical activity is a great stress reliever as exercise makes you feel good and releases endorphins. Choices could include walking, dancing, cycling and coupled with mindfulness techniques can help to get you to a better place. Another key point is to avoid perfectionism. Work according to your own pace and do not overload yourself.
Another factor that impacts directly our work is our diet and sleep hygiene. Very often when we have a tight deadline, we find ourselves missing sleep. We should try to practice good sleep hygiene such as going to bed at a regular time and putting your phone down at night as the blue light filter can interrupt your circadian rhythm. Eating nutritiously will improve your mental health and enhance your cognitive skills. Rewarding yourself for your accomplishments brings out positive emotions helping you to perform better.
Nothing comes easy in life. Everything comes with a sacrifice. If you aim for success, you have to work hard for it. Do not let fear decide your fate. Embrace the challenges, keep faith in your abilities as the difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
“The key to time management is to see the value of every moment” ~ Menachem Mendel Schneerson