Article by Jenna Schulz, 4th Year MPT/PhD Candidate
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After 8 years of pursuing post-secondary education at Western, one thing I've learned for certain is the importance of good time management skills. It was a long process, and I struggled with it for most of my undergrad. University can be overwhelming, and the best way to stay on top of things is by managing your time wisely and knowing when to turn off and call it a day.
1. Use a Planner or Online Calendar
Make sure to put EVERYTHING on there (i.e. classes, meetings, practices, work). You can even block off time strictly for studying, hanging with friends, grocery shopping or for cooking to ensure you are taking the time to make a healthy and delicious meal! I use Google Calendar, and I have a bunch of different calendars in one (i.e. one for PT classes, one for PhD work/meetings, one for XC/T&F, one for work, etc.) which help keep me organized.
2. Write To-Do Lists
I start my day by writing a list of things I would like to or need to accomplish during the day, which helps keep me accountable. For example, reading a certain number of pages for a specific class, or getting a certain amount of data analysis or writing done for a paper. Or even things like "make pasta for dinner" (pro tip: meal planning also helps with time management skills because you can grocery shop accordingly and prep ahead of time). It is so satisfying, and you feel so accomplished to check these things off as you move through your list!
3. Limit Social Media Time
Okay, this one is difficult, and I am a huge culprit for scrolling aimlessly through all social media platforms. I have found this even more difficult in a work-from-home setting. I like to give myself little goals (i.e. if you get through this paper/chapter, you can have some social times), and try to limit the amount of scrolling I do to 5ish minutes. You can even go so far as setting a timer on your phone to bring your attention back.
4. Establish a Routine
I am such a routine-based person, and this really helps me organize my day. I love to start my day by making a coffee and breakfast and enjoying it on my balcony (if the weather is nice) before starting my day. Also, if I know I have daily practices at the same time, then I need to accomplish my tasks beforehand. This helps hold me accountable and gives me motivation to work through my to-do list. Consistently going to bed and waking up around the same time also helps you get into a routine and be well rested and ready to take on the day!
5. Take Breaks
I can't stress this one enough. Breaks are necessary for our mental and physical health. They help "reset" your body, so you are ready to do work again. Throughout the day, I like to take little breaks once an hour to either just walk around a bit, stretch, grab a snack etc., but I step away from my computer. I also take larger breaks during the day to go for my run/workout (helps get the endorphins going and circulates blood to your brain), cook dinner, and enjoy my dinner NOT in front of my computer. Exercise is so important for our health, even if it's a brisk walk, it's important to move every day.
6. Learn When to TURN OFF
Again, this is very difficult to do, and I often find myself feeling "on call" and guilty if I am not doing schoolwork during all waking hours of the day. Here are a few things I like to do;
- If I finish a task later in the day (closer to dinner time), I try not to start a new one.
- I try not to answer emails late in the evening, usually a response can wait until the morning.
- Make plans with friends (even virtually) so I physically cannot do any more work for the day (or on the weekend).
- I try to stick to a fairly "normal" schedule, and outside the hours of that schedule, I try my best not to get caught up doing work.
Be kind to yourself and do your best! Change is incremental, so try to appreciate the little time management wins that add up to a more productive and balanced lifestyle. Good luck!
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