Do you often feel like 24 hours just aren't enough? Have you ended up skipping meals because you simply because there wasn't enough time to eat? Time is something that we all grapple to keep up with and feel it slipping through our hands just when we need it the most.
At the end of the day, we often end up wondering where our time really went, and what we've achieved in the course of the day, even if we felt like we were really busy for the most part. The first step to managing your time, then, is to understand how you've been spending it. It would be a good idea to chalk out a schedule of the week that went by — we often end up underestimating the time we spend in front of the television, on the phone, playing games and the likes. It's therefore important to identify time wasters, and prioritise tasks based on their importance.
To be a good manager of
time, you need to be a good planner. A time-table typically can be a
great roadmap to help you along your journey to success. While we all
do set time-tables, there are common mistakes we all end up making in
the process. Rather than setting a fixed schedule for the full month,
time-tables work best for short durations. A better approach would
therefore be to make a time-table only for the next couple of days, so
that you then have the flexibility of adjusting them in the coming
days, depending on their workability. If you aren't able to accomplish
enough during the first few days, you can always adjust your schedule
in the coming days to ensure you put in more hours or work. A flexible
timetable is always the way to go, in order to avoid disappointment
de-motivation. Another common mistake is not factoring in contingency
time. There might be an emergency at home or a friend in crisis or
maybe you fall ill. An overly rigid schedule will not allow you the
space to deal with these kinds of uncontrollable factors. Always be
prepared for the unexpected and keep some spare unstructured time for
While preparing your time-table, make a schedule that you would enjoy following. This includes making space for your favourite TV show and a recreational activity. Also include an outdoor physical activity and time to meet friends. Structuring your work around these activities might make it a easier for you to stick to your schedule. And most importantly, be realistic! Do not underestimate the work you have to do, and at the same time, don't overestimate your own ability. A good way to get a realistic estimate of the time required is to note down not just the time you've scheduled for a certain activity, but also how much time you actually spend doing it - be it recreational or related to your work. Doing so over a period of time will give you a realistic idea of your pace, and also insight into where you're once again wasting your time.
When it comes to studying, it's not merely the number of hours put in that count, but rather, the effectiveness of your study methods that count. To ensure that you are able to maximise your levels of concentration, it's important to study in a distraction-free zone - this would entail studying on a clutter-free desk, with minimal noise and with the mobile phone kept far away. It's also a good idea to study in bouts of 45 minutes, with short 5-10 minute breaks in between. Break tasks down into small and achievable targets to sustain your motivation.
People experiencing a
shortage of time often tend to multi-task in order to best utilise the
limited amount of time in hand. However, increasingly it's been found
that multitasking doesn't help in a time crunch. What it increases is
your stress, and the likelihood of you making mistakes. Rather than
juggling too many things, focus on one task at a time and then move on
to the next.
Students often claim that last-minute preparation is the most effective; that they perform best under pressure. While it is true that the right amount of stress can in fact enhance one's performance, last=minute preparation is still a bad idea. Lots can go wrong when you leave things for the last minute - you or someone around you may fall ill, the nerves might get the better of you, or you may just have underestimate the work you need to put in and may therefore simply not have enough time left to finish it all. We all have a tendency to procrastinate and a tendency to find excuses not to do our work at that particular moment. Be aware of the excuses you make, find ways of overcoming these self-defeating patterns and get down to work in time.
The skill to manage time comes in handy not just while studying a vast course, but while attempting the test paper as well. It's all too common to come across students who knew the answers but were unable to complete the paper due to a lack of time. It's here that it's necessary for students to understand that there is no such thing as a "lengthy paper". Examiners expect students to only write as much as is necessary based on the marks allotted to a particular question. Divide your time based on the weightage a question holds, make it a habit to distinguish between how much you need to write in a two-mark question and a four mark question. In other words it's time to become cost effective with your time.
The writer is Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, New Delhi
Tips for exams
n Identify testable material: Review course outlines and make a list of material to be covered for each exam. Speak to teachers if clarification is needed.
n Assess your situation: Do you have a good understanding of the testable material? Are you caught up on the readings and other course responsibilities? List any outstanding tasks for each course.
n Realistically determine of time for studying: Use a day planner or a weekly schedule to help you determine your available time. If applicable, plan time for end-of-term assignments and allocate time to prepare for and attend remaining classes. Identify time for catching up on course work and studying.
n Make studying a priority: During exams, decrease socialising but don't cut back on sleep, meals, and exercise — these contribute to quality study time.
n Prioritise among and within courses: Identify your course and content priorities. You may decide that it's best to spend more of your study time on the courses that are required for your program than on electives. Also, certain parts of courses may warrant more time than others if they are considered especially important or if they have not yet been tested.
n Be strategic with shortcuts: If you don't have enough time to prepare fully and have to omit material, try to minimise the damage. For example, if you have good lecture notes for a chapter that you haven't read, you may skip reading that chapter and instead cover the required readings that the professor did not cover in class.
n Set a reasonable schedule: Be realistic. Don't plan to spend 16 hours a day studying. Determine how many study hours are reasonable in a productive work day. Identify blocks of time for studying and allocate time for meals, exercise, and sleep.
Practice good time management in the exam: Consider how many
questions you need to answer, how heavily they're weighted, and how
much time is available, and then develop a plan. For example, for
three equally weighted essay questions in three hours you may want to
allocate approximately 45 minutes per answer, with some time at the
start to read over the exam and some time at the end to revise. For a
multiple-choice or true/false exam, monitor time periodically to
assess whether you're on schedule. If you're spending too much time on
a question, attempt an answer and flag the question; come back to it
later if there's time.