How can I effectively manage my time?

by | April 29, 2012

Podcast Description: Writing the comprehensive examination and a dissertation requires efficient and effective use of time. Access strategies that illustrate best practices in time management.

Transcript: The following presentation is a production of Capella University and is not intended for commercial use.

Welcome to another topic in a series of podcasts regarding aspects of the comprehensive exam and dissertation process.

Many doctoral learners find it difficult to fit everything into a 24-hour day. Work, family, and community commitments can consume precious hours and keep you from accomplishing academic goals. And it is easy to become overwhelmed. Time management is an essential skill when learners juggle the demands of a busy personal, professional, and academic life.

Time management means just that—actively being involved in making priorities come to life. It requires intentional decision making regarding how to make every day rewarding.

Time management involves these four steps: Reflection, Planning, Execution, and Reflection. The stages presented in this podcast will give you a general structure to think about time management. Much of what is presented in this podcast can also be found on iGuide. Also, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so be sure to let your values, priorities, and personal style drive your process.

The first stage is reflection. At the end of every evening or at the beginning of every day and week, clarify what you want to accomplish. Identify demands and short- and long-term goals. Also, think about where and how you spend your time.

• How do you keep track of daily, weekly, quarterly information?
• Do you function better looking at the big picture?
• How do you make sure you don’t miss a task? Or a daily or long-term picture?
• How do you make sure you know what is due and when?

The second stage is planning. Set up a calendar or a list of things you need to do and when you would like them completed.

• What needs to happen today?
• What needs to happen this week?
• What needs to happen in the next month?

Prioritize the tasks and goals on your daily, weekly, and monthly list. Once you have established your priorities, you can begin making a plan for the day, week or upcoming months.

Remember to know and understand your goals. Write them out. Post them in prominent places. Refer to them often.

Steps taken ahead of time to organize your workflow and tasks can have a significant positive impact on your efficiency and productivity. Also, planning ahead helps you prepare for the unexpected–adapting to the “what ifs” in one’s life. Good planning makes it easier to negotiate these events and prevents them from becoming obstacles to completing your degree.

Find a means to record, update, and access your “to do” list. Use whatever tool is convenient and one that you will use, such as a traditional wall calendar or paper-based planner. Many electronic scheduling options are also available, such as PDAs, mobile phones, computer or web-based systems–which can offer greater convenience, editing ability, memory, and ability to transfer information between systems.

The third stage in time management is execution.

Once you have selected a scheduling system, it’s time to “populate” it with tasks, due dates, and related information. Some people find it helpful to color code their calendar’s information—for example, using different colors to distinguish personal, family, work and academic commitments.

Remember: simply recording this information isn’t enough! Get in the habit of consulting your calendar regularly (at least once a day) so you know what tasks are to be completed that day.

Consider breaking down the day in 10-minute blocks. Would you string many blocks together as time set aside for a specific task, or would you rotate tasks for each block? To avoid being overwhelmed by a large task, break it into smaller, more manageable chunks. Recognize your high and low energy time and use the high energy times to accomplish more complex tasks.

Establish consistent, daily patterns for attending to work and family commitments, and your academics goals.

If you have trouble sticking to your goals, find people to whom you can be accountable. Report your progress to them. They can help you reformulate your schedule or help you rethink your immediate and long-term goals, if appropriate, making sure they are measurable and realistic.

Check completed tasks off your list when you have completed them. It is a great feeling to check things off of a to-do list and doing so can really help you stay motivated. Remember to take some time to celebrate both big and small accomplishments!

Remember, your goals can be flexible, and an important part of the process is taking time to re-evaluate them on a regular basis.

The last stage in time management is reflection. What did you accomplish? How did you accomplish it? What did you not accomplish? Did you allow distractions to interfere? Why? Is procrastination happening? Finally, do you need to adjust your goals? Are they realistic?

Being personally and professionally invested in your academic work may also help to stave off procrastination. Focus on the advantages of completing the task rather than on the reason you are putting it off. Keeping your eyes on the prize—earning your doctoral degree—will help you stay focused and maintain momentum. Effective time management is an important tool to realizing your long-term goal of earning the doctoral degree.

Remember, you bring unique circumstances to your doctoral journey. Follow-up with your doctoral advisor for clarification and additional information about the dissertation process.

This presentation has been brought to you by Capella University and may not be re-transmitted or used for any commercial purpose without the expressed written consent of Capella University.

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