The Black Art of Time Management

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It can be very difficult balancing a postgraduate programme with anything that resembles a social life. Good habits from the get-go are the only way you will survive your postgrad with your mental health intact.  As your course is underway, do you find yourself saying: ‘If only I had more time?’ Is your problem lack of time management? Or poor planning of it? The answer? List, list, list. Make not just one or two but three lists: the Absolute Priority List (things that must be done and done immediately); the Very Important List (things that must be done soon); and the Can Wait List (things that are not urgent but must be done).

The Secrets of Time Management

Be wary of the items that stay on your list but never get done. They probably merit a further set of lists. Do they come under Not Really Worth Doing and could be dropped altogether? Or is it because you feel that They Are Too Difficult? If the answer is: ‘then’, just get down to them and get them over and done with, because they won’t go away. Or are they Waiting For More Information, in which case put on some pressure to get the necessary details, support or clarification. Finally, there’s my favourite category: Jobs More Usefully Done By Somebody Else.

First things first

Be ruthless about how your prioritise work. But be careful: something may not have an immediate deadline or immediate implications, but that doesn’t mean that it should continually move down your list. If you don’t start tackling it, it will become urgent sooner or later.

Don’t keep putting off the jobs you hate. Procrastination really is the thief of time. While you leave them aside, they are nagging away at you and reducing your efficiency. Get down to them and make them go away.

Also, don’t wait until you feel like doing your task. If you must get something written, then start with step one. Put your bum into the chair, turn on the computer, open the blank document and start writing. There is a school of thought in psychology that claims that it’s easier to act your way into a feeling than feel your way into an action. Simply put: if you wait until you feel like writing that report then it may never get done.

File the pile, cut the clutter

If your desk looks like a landfill site, sort it out. You might find that important documents and priority tasks have drifted down to the bottom of your pile. Tidying and sorting out the piles on your desk into tasks with assigned priority will give you a welcome feeling of greater control over your workload.

File, pass on, shred or bin that which is no longer relevant to your workload. Doing the same with your personal space – your car, your handbag, your bedroom – will also have a remarkably therapeutic effect on how you feel about your own organisational ability.

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegate that which can be delegated, but do so with care. Otherwise you may find yourself with an even bigger headache.

No more blah

Keep meetings short! It’s useful to consider timetabling some meetings just before lunch – that tends to focus the minds of people who enjoy long and rambling meetings. Make an agenda and stick to it. Tight chairing will also serve to shorten meetings and ensure that they are productive.

Be wary of time wasters. If you find you are holding a one-to-one meeting that is taking too much time, it can be a good idea to stand up and bring the meeting to a conclusion in that way. (Do this in a diplomatic way, of course, or you will find yourself accused of lacking courtesy).

Time off

When it comes to time management, setting aside time for reading is vital. Diary in a space when you won’t be disturbed by the phone or callers. If keeping informed and up-to-date is an important part of your job, then this reading period is essential.

Taking short breaks will also help to re-charge the batteries and re-focus the mind on a difficult task. And of course they are also important from a health point of view if you work in front of a PC.

Stick to normal working hours, if at all possible. Working late nights and weekends can ultimately wear you down and compromise your efficiency. If you are consistently working long hours it is probably because you are overloaded, inefficient or being exploited. Which or whether, you’re not on top of things.

Read more study tips online here.

Looking for support? Check out the latest from the Union of Students in Ireland.

By Norma Donleavy


Postgraduate Course in Architecture
Hone your Interview Skills


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