How to master time management

(Sherry Han/The AQ)

Over the past two years in university, my time management skills improved quite substantially.

Since first year, I’ve been working multiple jobs, taking at least five classes and at the same time, engaging in extra curricular activities. I’m always on the go.

Time management is not just a skill that almost everyone lists on his or her resumé. It’s a real life skill that isn’t easy to acquire. Becoming an expert in time takes a lot of will, organizational skills and sometimes, the right technology.

But it isn’t as hard as most people think. I am going to share with you some simple habits and work style changes, that will help you become more efficient with your time.

Don’t have a list

If you have a million things to do, it is better to just not have a to-do-list at all. Instead, I schedule time to do things.

As soon as I get assigned a project, I try to estimate the amount of time it will require to complete the assignment. Then I associate that with the deadline and calculate how much time I will allocate weekly for the work. Then I book a period of time each week dedicated specially to the work project. But I never forget to leave some wiggle room, in case my estimated time required is wrong or something happens, I can still manage to meet the deadline.

There are only 168 hours in a week. I will probably spend 49 hours sleeping and at least 15 hours for personal care. There will be about 104 hours for me to go to class, work, maintain my social life and more. Obviously, there isn’t that much time to waste.

To use time more efficiently, I always have to be conscious of what I do and how much time I spend on everything.

Phones are a double-edged sword

When you are trying to hack time, smartphones can be your worst enemy as well as your best friend. I have everything that helps me manage my time on my phone, such as my calendar and time-tracking app. But I also have Instagram, Twitter and more applications that I waste my time on.

Many of us have to stay up to date on current events and email notifications, but that can become a distraction and a dangerous habit. When you try to create and focus, it is best to leave your phone on a “do not disturb” mode.

For the rest of the day, you have to be mindful of how much time you are spending on unproductive activity on your phone.

Multitasking efficiently

Multitasking is still a myth, but I can assure you that some kind of multitasking is definitely good. Instead of listening to music at the gym or while commuting, you should switch to reading books or listening to audio books. You can’t avoid transportation, but you can make that time extra productive.

Routine, routine, routine

Doesn’t matter how late it is, I refuse to go to bed if I don’t have my lunch packed. It is one of the many routines I got in the habit of doing. Creating routines can be a life changer. Doing the same thing everyday eliminate the time you spend wondering what to do, or how to do it.

Be kind to yourself

But nobody is perfect. You can have the best time management strategy in the world, but there will be days that you still mess up. Forgiving yourself when something goes wrong perhaps is one of the most important secrets to time management.

Lastly, you have to know your limits and your goals before making a commitment. Not everyone can handle the same amount of stress. You can never compare yourself to another person.

Time management is not magic. It doesn’t help you exceed your limit, but it helps you work within your boundaries.