| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 9/20/2022|
Time is a concept. It is somewhat abstract if we think about it. The only way to get the most out of our time is to get very concrete about time usage by putting limits on our time. The natural reaction for most people when their obligations increase is to just get things done as fast as possible without thinking too much about the process or the system they use. However, that will lead to a stress-induced situation very quickly. Instead of burying our faces into the tasks mindlessly, we need to take a step back to streamline how we get things done so that we can get things done in a decent amount of time without the feeling of burn out, stress, and worry. We need to be strategic about The How so that The What will be more efficient. I have three suggestions below that may help you get a lot more done with a lot less stress and possibly less time:
All The Little Pieces In Their Places
Our lives are busy. That's a known fact. But we seldom take the time to assess where do our minutes go and how can we fit it all into one schedule without feeling drained or burn out. Simply put, we are often busy getting caught up in the motion and tend not to bother with having systems. Even though it may feel intuitive to just wait until you have time so you can sit down for four hours and get that project that you don't feel so hot about over with. The truth is, that's the long way to go about it. You can get that project done twice as fast and easy if you just start listing out all the little pieces that you need to do in order to create a final product. All it takes is starting small like take 15-20 minutes to brainstorm and narrow down a well thought out topic for your project.
Sample Brainstorming For Writing Research Paper:
Selected research topic?
What are the reliable resources for research and how do I access them (books, online databases, etc.) ?
Will I take notes on flash cards or Google doc as I do research so I can incorporate these notes immediately when I start writing my paper?
Where can I fit research time in my current schedule and how many hours each day if I want to finish in a week?
How long is it going to take from start to finish? Will I be on time? If not, what action do I need to take starting now?
What platform am I going to use to take notes and build my presentation?
I can't fit it all into my current schedule, what are some workarounds?
Who can help me or resources I can use when I am stucK?
I have a work and study time conflict, how can I solve this? What are the possibilities?
Where can I work where I won't fall asleep but instead feel motivated and happy?
If you have a plan for each aforementioned item, then it's like someone just book a vacation from start to finish and now all you have to do is to enjoy the actual process of that reality.
We have to be real: No one has the time to work on one thing for 4-6 hours straight Why? Because most people have multiple obligations: (job, school, sports, internship, workout, personal goals, cooking, cleaning, kids, family etc.), but you can do 45 minutes daily for six straight days on a big project or paper and be done on the sixth day without feeling tired or losing a minute to attend other prior obligations and some me time. After the first 45 minutes, the next day, you might spend 45-60 minutes writing an outline how you'll present your research and PowerPoint presentation. Before you know it, you are already 80% done! The best part is it doesn't even feel overwhelming because it's not about getting everything done in one sitting (which is tiring and an automatic energy zapper) but it's about quality and consistency, which will help you win the race against time efficiently and quickly. And still have a little time to enjoy the finer things in life! Always map out all the little pieces that will get you there. Talk about time well spent and getting double return of investment.
Book Your Social Media & Internet Time
Have you ever sat down to do something online and two hours past but it felt like 15 minutes? Time simply disappears when we are online. Just because we are in a distracting environment with different tabs and diversions that compete for our attention, we need to understand that the concept of time becomes very slippery. Thus, we need to be conscious of how we spend our online time and use our time wisely for things that matter. Just think what we could get done with that same amount of time we surf the net mindlessly. Since time feels invisible online, we need to be vigilant about our time. Remember: the internet is designed to distract. Think of it like a monkey, it will rob us of our own control and autonomy if we take our eyes off of it like if you just give your wallet to anybody or everybody. Why is this vital? Because the better you manage your time, the more you will get done and the less stress you will have. It is indeed a domino effect where time doesn't pay the price for your mismanagement of time as a personal resource, but you will pay dearly with stress, last minute worries, and a sense of unfulfillment. Keep your online time in check and you can wash your worries away. For example, tell yourself you need to get a task done online within an allotted time (finish essay rough draft in two hours, I will get this email done in 15 minutes, in this hour I will get three things done). Most importantly, book your tech time in your Google calendar for a visual reminder. If you finish in two hours, the reward is you can catch a movie or get another professional project done or started, which boosts your confidence. But if you let those two hours go by cruising through websites without setting a clear intention, then you will risk the chance of not having self-care time like going to bed at a decent time or falling behind in professional obligations or schoolwork. Book it! Lock in your time!
One After The Other
If you have a nice, healthy list of tasks to cross off in a day, then I would suggest you complete one task after another. In other words, instead of doing a little bit of every task all at once, you need to make sure you complete fully one task before moving on to the next task. This is two folds: you can feel a great sense of accomplishment right away after completing a task completely [Disclaimer: Not completing the Whole Project, just a portion of that project like finishing writing rough draft today. That counts as one task]. That sense of intermittent rewards can fuel your energy as you try to knock off things from your to-do list. Also, it is easier to keep track of what you have gotten done and how much you have left to do when you complete one task after another leaving no unfinished business behind. You can enjoy as you go without having to remember where you left off because you have different starting points for five different tasks. But perhaps the greatest advantage in finishing each subtask right away is you will save time. For example, if you say you will finish an essay outline in one hour. You need to ensure you deliver that outline in an hour and avoid starting on something else since you felt bored after 20 minutes of outlining. So if you have 6 tasks in your to-do list, and you take the linear approach, after an hour, you will only have 5 tasks left on your to-do list. If you start on multiple tasks in one hour but did not finish fully with any of them, then you will STILL have 6 things on your to-do list. Clearly, you get more for your time when you finish one task fully before jumping on to another adventure out of boredom. In addition, you will also avoid cognitive overload which makes it harder to complete tasks. Your brain can only handle one task at a time before it becomes overflowed and overwhelmed with too many tasks pending simultaneously (Torkel Klingberg). Sometimes convenience is not productive.
Getting stuff done is about balancing your professional and personal life. As you have guessed it, it takes setting clear boundaries with time and efforts. Out of all the resources that we have, time is the one thing that we do not get back. Thus, practice setting your own boundaries and honoring them. As they say, conquering yourself is worth more than winning a thousand battles.
*Adapted from Peg Dawson's Smart But Scattered
Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed.
I am a licensed professional educator, executive function expert, former tenured high school teacher and college instructor with 17 years experience. I am also a student success designer. I enjoy recognizing the missing puzzle in the student's learning and personalizing that solution in a language that is unique to that student. I love the creative challenge of inventing a new language for every child. Learn more here.