Are you juggling multiple tasks?
Do you feel you do not have enough time to get things done? Often we think we need time management, but in fact, it’s about managing our priorities. Understanding what are our main tasks help us to decide how we use our time. It is also about looking after ourselves so that we can maintain our energy level to work effectively, and to derive a sense of satisfaction from completing a task.
Sometimes, prioritising which tasks or commitments we need to focus on can be challenging, particularly when we have several pieces of work due by the same date. One way of identifying our priorities is to make explicit the criteria we use to decide the level of importance of each task relative to each other. For example, we may consider the deadline, the degree of difficulty of the work, and how much time we estimate it will require. Sometimes, we may not factor in unexpected events that can interrupt our plans. So, creating a flexible timetable allows us to manage the pressure as it gives us some space to deal with mistakes, or to review more complex tasks.
Strategies to get things done
Visualise the tasks: identify the steps.
When we think about the large pieces of work (e.g. essay, dissertation, report), we perceive them as much larger and more challenging to do as we cannot see the steps that we need to take to get it done.
Breaking down the task into smaller steps helps to identify what is required, what resources we need, and how much time we may need to complete it. Next, make notes of what you think is needed, identify if there are things you do not know and decide who you can consult to clarify the task. By focusing on one step at a time, it is easier to get started and make progress with the task.
Create a flexible schedule
A flexible timetable allows us to be better prepared to deal with unexpected events. It will also make it more manageable to deal with several deadlines and a variety of commitments. It helps us to deal with situations and have time to work on our priorities (Bandura, 1997).
A flexible plan is better than make a strict plan for every hour of the day, as this can become very stressful. Create blocks of work time followed by breaks to allow time to restore energy, as well as create the opportunity to move and stretch our body to release tension from looking at screens.
Making a written plan provides us with a clear picture of what we need to do. It frees up working memory capacity, and it reduces tension caused by repetitive thoughts about how much we have to do. Also, it can serve as a way to track our progress.
Preparing and planning is an effective strategy that can help to manage the pressure when we have a lot to do (Cottrell, 2015).
Adopt an optimistic attitude
An optimistic attitude, where our focus is on our ability to manage challenges and having the hope that with our efforts we will be able to get things done, enables us to maintain motivation necessary to take action.
Developing a flexible mindset enables us to focus on our capacity to learn (Dweck, 2017). In this approach, mistakes are considered part of the learning process. By reflecting on them, we can identify what we need to do differently to improve our work.
Bandura, A/ (1997) Self-Efficacy. The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
Cottrell, S. (2015) Skills for success. Personal development and employability. (3rd Ed.) London: Palgrave, Macmillan Education.
Dweck, C. (2017) Mindset. Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Updated edition. New York: Ballantine Books.