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CJBS Database Guide: Time Management

The CJBS Database Guide is to help learners navigate business and financial databases offered by the Information and Library Services.

Tracking time

If you want to get the most out of managing your time, first try one of these apps to see how you spend it.

Planners

There are so many tools out there, you just need to find the right one for you.

To-Do Lists

The number of to-do list apps can be overwhelming. Here are four that we think you might like. We also have a helpful blogpost: Be more productive.

Need to focus

Scheduling breaks throughout the day is important. If you are struggling to focus, try the Pomodoro method

What is time management?

We did some reading on this topic and from what we can gather, time management is a bit of a misnomer. As many sources point out, time is a finite thing and try as we might, we can't add more hours to the day. What time management is, is a way for us to control how we spend our time. Most people agree that the better we manage our time, the more productive, less stressed, and all around happier we are. This isn't going to be achieved overnight, it does take practice. In this section, we will provide you with some tips, strategies, and tools to help you manage your time.

Where to start

The first place to start is to see how you already spend your time. This can be especially important if your routine has been disrupted (your suddenly stuck at home for instance or you're returning to university). Take a week or two and record how you spend your time. Include everyday tasks like classes and sleep. Once you have finished, review the log to see:

Stop watch

  • Where did you spend most of your time? E.g. how much time did you spend watching cat videos?
  • How long did it take you to perform certain tasks? E.g. how long did it take to read a ten page article?
  • What is your most productive time of day? E.g. are you a morning person, or do you work best at night?
  • Did you accomplish everything on your to-do list? E.g. do you need to dedicate more time to research and less on writing?

To-Do Lists and Planners

Trying to remember everything you need to do will only end in misery. Writing things down helps to free up your mind to think about the bigger things. Keeping a to-do list and/or a planner will help alleviate stress. There are so many tools out there that it can make your head spin. Decide what works best for you whether it be paper and pen or an app.

Breaking down your to-do lists into manageable chunks will help decrease stress and keep you on target. Time management specialists (there is such a thing!) say to aim for SMART:

  • S - specific
  • M - measurable
  • A - achievable
  • R - realistic
  • T - timely

Instead of writing 'finish reading', try breaking it down by reading. This way you have a better idea of how long it will take you and the task doesn't seem so overwhelming. If it helps, have two to-do lists. One for larger goals and the second a daily to-do list. Review your list first thing in the morning and last thing at night to prepare for the next day.

What comes first?

Knowing how to prioritise is a skill you often see listed on job applications. Again, there are many methods out there to help you prioritize your tasks. One of the best known methods is the Eisenhower Method or Covey's Time Management Grid (from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

"What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important." Dwight D. Eisenhower

The grid is divided into four squares:

  • Top left: Urgent and important - e.g. deadlines
  • Top right: Not urgent and important - e.g. planning, projects
  • Bottom left: Urgent and not important - e.g. interruptions and meetings
  • Bottom right: Not urgent and not important - e.g. cyberloafing

Most people tend to focus on the urgent and important tasks; however, you really want to focus most on the not urgent and important tasks before they become urgent. This way you can give them the time they deserve. Another suggestion is to carefully plan when to do tasks that you have been avoiding. Perhaps when you are at your most productive. You can also intersperse them with tasks that you do enjoy to keep you motivated.

Things to avoid...

Procrastinating and multitasking are two things that will suck up time and concentration. Unless you are a machine, we have all been guilty of procrastinating. It is easy to put off a task that we are dreading (although they never seem to be as bad as we imagine they will be) or watch just one more show on Netflix. There are many reasons why people procrastinate (which you can read about in this New York Times article), but it is possible to break the cycle. For instance, if you have a tendency to waste time on social media, adding blockers to your browsers may decrease your desire to procrastinate.

It wasn't that long ago when multitasking was a sought after skill. However, studies have shown that people that multitask remember less and their productivity suffers. Trying to read for class while checking your email means you will probably make mistakes in your replies and remember very little of what you are reading. Our attention spans can be quite short, so focusing on one task for shorter amounts of time can reduce distractions.

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