I will soon to be entering my fourth year of university. So far, my school experience has been successful, largely due to me being able to overcome my proclivity to procrastinate. Time management is, unfortunately, not one of my natural strong suits. Since I know I am naturally not skilled at this, I have focused a lot of my efforts into developing strategies that work for me to keep on top of my school work, exams, and life. So if you’re a procrastinator like me there’s still hope – lots of it. Here are 5 successful strategies I’ve used to help me manage time and be successful.
This is probably the hardest thing to do as someone who is inclined to procrastination. However, if you can plan when things need to be completed, it is much easier to keep on top of the work you need to do. The easiest way to do this is simply to create a calendar of what needs to get done at the start of a term. There are online planners, book planners, whiteboard calendars, and more that can help you keep track of assignments and deadlines. If planning out the whole term is too much for you (after all you’re likely to put off making a calendar too), go week by week. Every Sunday night, think through what you might have due that week to make sure you don’t miss anything. This has worked well for me in the past.
Make To-Do lists
This is a daily thing for me. I’m not good at managing a large schedule and if I try and hold all the things I need to do in my head I will inevitably forget them. However, by making a to-do list at the start of the day, I can then use the headspace I was trying to remember the list with to be more productive. Also, it is really satisfying to cross something off a list and helps motivate me to keep going when I can see that the end of the list is close. Knowing how much I need to get done in a day helps me budget time so I can take breaks when I need them.
This is one of the most important time management skills you can learn in university. The amount of readings and work you will need to do will, inevitably, be more than can be done in the deadlines you are given. This is when prioritization becomes a key skill. Some things you need to do will have strict deadlines such as papers, assignments and tests, others might have softer deadlines though such as readings. Being able to discern what you need to focus your efforts on and what can be done later is an important skill. My basic rule of thumb is that the more something is worth, the higher priority and effort it gets. A midterm or paper worth 30% should be prioritized over a reading that is not worth any marks directly, and while ideally you do both, it’s unfortunately not always an option.
Be ready to slog
Even though we all try and manage our time as efficiently as we can, if you’re a procrastinator you’re inevitably going to slip up and leave something to the last minute (this is a common occurrence for me). However, I find the deadline of a project to be one of the biggest motivators for me. I always treat a deadline as final and never take late penalties. When things get tough you have to be willing to pull the all-nighter it might take to get things done. This is obviously, not the ideal situation, but sometimes it’s necessary and you need to be prepared for it. Taking late deductions is almost never a good idea, if you’ve put off the assignment this long giving yourself the extra day won’t usually help; you’ll just have to scramble to finish it then too. If you can slog through though, hopefully you won’t lose marks and the quality of work will be almost the same.
Be easy on yourself
This is the final element of managing your time as a procrastinator; don’t beat yourself up when you leave something to the last minute. Keeping a positive attitude towards your work makes the work better and being too hard on yourself will only stress you out and make you less likely to want to work. So take breaks when you need them, work when you feel inspired, plan as much as you can but ultimately, go easy on yourself. University is a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t burn yourself out early on, take time to make friends, and try new things! Ultimately, time management is something you’ll get better at so learn from your mistakes, experiment with different strategies, and find what works for you.