If you’re like most people working toward your degree online, your education is only one of the things you’re juggling: There’s your job, not to mention your family that needs attention. Working out on occasion is helpful for your health, and, if you can squeeze it in, a social life is nice, too.
The challenge is finding enough hours in the day to do it all. Time management is a nice concept, but why does it seem to work better in theory than as part of a daily routine?
Fixing the problem starts with understanding the mistakes you’re making. Once that’s done, you’ll be better positioned to improve as you de-stress your life. Here are five to work on correcting.
- When everything comes first: the dangers of not prioritizing. It’s one thing to devise a to-do list. It’s another to put it in order. With all the pressures we’re under, it’s too easy to jump from task to task or put off the most important things because they take focus that can be hard to muster. To establish your priorities, weigh which items on your list are urgent and which are not as important and move the urgent stuff to the top.
- Tracking time. If you don’t know how effectively or efficiently you’re using your time, it’s difficult to eliminate the distractions that are squeezing it. Try tracking what you do during the course of a day for two weeks as a way to gain insight into your time wasters. Pencil and paper are fine, plus there are digital tools to help. With solid data as a guide, you’ll be better able to address the issues.
- The early bird. … There’s a lot of truth to that old homily, but it’s too easy to get a late start on the day when you’re burning the candle at both ends. The really great business leaders are early risers because it helps them get a jump on the day with exercise and breakfast, preparing them to tackle the most important tasks of the day.
- Being busy versus productive. The “busy-ness” trap is a bad and reactive habit. When you work on the last-in and loudest projects, you’re avoiding (or ignoring) your priorities for the day. Make decisions early in the day about your priorities and follow them.
- No rest for the weary. Working straight through, nonstop, until all the tasks are done, is a good way to burn out. A 2011 study by the University of Illinois found performance dropped among participants who focused on one assignment for 50 minutes without a diversion. Your time will be managed far better if you take periodic breaks to refresh – a walk, perhaps, or even a brief meditation break will help. Find the right balance in taking a breather and you’ll get more done (and better) during the day.
Common sense goes a long way, of course, as you juggle your time to get everything done. By avoiding the obvious and less obvious traps you’ll make it all easier on yourself in the long run as you strive for success.