October 2017

Short-Term Time Management Skills teaser image
There is a much-needed neologized adverb of time to capture the student’s experience: semesterly. The working world runs according to days, weeks, months, and years – daily pills, weekly meetings, monthly bills. But the life of the student centers exorbitantly around two annual fifteen-week periods. In my last blogpost I discussed long-term time management skills. In this post I turn to short-term time management skills on the semester level.

Author Paul J. Meyer writes that “productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort”. [1]
So true! Have set goals for each semester and have a detailed plan of action for reaching them. Beware: no plan of action will survive the first half of the semester unscathed. Unforeseeable obstacles will inevitably arise and demand a shift in your plans. Plan and plan well - not so that you won’t have to change your plans, but so that you will be able to change your plans when you need to.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower. [2]

Semesterly strategies, like battle plans, are necessary and ephemeral. This is not paradoxical. The tighter your plan for the semester, the easier it is to recover from the unexpected because the more quickly you can assess what can be shifted and to where and what can be tossed out altogether. And you can do this while still maintaining a semi-healthy/balanced lifestyle of adequate food, sleep, and leisure.
A semesterly action plan takes at least two stages. In the first stage, you must decide what goals you want to accomplish for the semester and the level of priority they have in your life. You may begin with academic goals and move on to more personal, non-academic goals or you may begin with personal, non-academic goals and move on to your academic goals. This depends on you and where your priorities are.

Second, develop a weekly routine that dedicates the time necessary to accomplish your goals to your satisfaction. Begin with those aspects of your weekly schedule that are the least capable of being moved such as classes you are taking or teaching, meetings you are required to attend and so forth. Around these, build in time to accomplish your other goals. Presumably you want to do well in your classes, so build in the time you need to do this. If you are teaching and will need time for meeting with students, grading, or preparing your lectures, build this time into your schedule. Decide what your desired amount of sleep for that semester is and build it into your schedule. The recommended amount is 7 hours, but it is up to you if you want to take those recommendations. The important thing is to decide and act accordingly. Decide how much leisure time you need each week – and you need some! – and build it into your schedule. Do you want to dedicate some time to exercising this semester? Build the time into your schedule. Is it important to you to keep track of local, national, or global news? Build time into your schedule to do this.

I do not mean to make a note that you would like to do these things and plan on getting to them when you have time. The time will never come unless you make it come. Make a weekly schedule and block out specific hours of the week to work on specific tasks. Be both realistic and ambitious in filling your schedule out. Be realistic in the time allotted to those items at the top of your priority list. If passing your classes with a solid A is important to you, schedule in the study time you need to accomplish this. Be ambitious about adding items that are lower on your priority list. Remember, there is 120 hours in a 5-day week. A lot can be accomplished in 120 hours. Of course, the plan you begin with will not be the plan you finish with. Inevitably something will be dropped in your lap that you were not expecting at the beginning of the semester. But you will get more done from a printed schedule than from a list floating around in your head that you are waiting to get to when you have time.

Jennifer Ward
Jennifer is pursing an M.A. in Communication and a Ph.D. in Philosophy.
 [1] (Meyer n.d.) Meyer, Paul J. n.d. BrainyQuote. Accessed 10 25, 2017.   https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/p/pauljmeye393225.html.
[2] Eisenhower, Dwight D. n.d. BrainyQuote. Accessed 10 25, 2017. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/dwightdei164720.html.

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