Hi, my name is Moira and I am really, really bad at time management.

I have had a wicked Type-A personality my whole life. Inherited from both of my grandmothers, I was described as “efficient” from a very young age. I can get sh*t done, done right, and done quickly. That is, when I finally do it. Being very quick at my work, I often waited until the last minute to do it. As I got older, the work got harder, but I kept pushing it off. Even now, going on my eighteenth year of education, I still often wait until the night before for homework, and the day of class to print my slides.

My biggest enemy is distractions. Everything I do is online. I have an online class, my internship is online research, and my job requires a lot of time online. All that is great, go technology! But the big bads like Facebook and YouTube and Twitter, one big black hole filled with so many of my hours, uselessly scrolling into oblivion. Not just online though, when I’m working on a less-than-enjoyable task, anything is just Ooh Shiny! Laundry, working out, calling my mom, cooking, everything.

The past few years, I’ve made a real cognitive effort to better my time management skills. It took me a lot of hard work and failure to get to where I am today. Becoming better at managing your time is not easy, but it absolutely can be done!

Top Time Management Tips

  1. StayFocusd   I mentioned that the online world is my biggest enemy. Stayfocusd(link) is a Chrome plugin that allows you to limit your time on a selected list of websites. If you exceed your self-allotted time for the day, all of those websites are blocked. No ifs, ands, or buts. They also have a Go Nuclear option, which I used when I set down for crunch time on formal papers
  2. To-Do List   It’s super basic, but it works! When I get in full-blown procrastination mode, I write mine out on paper. Every week though, to prevent 5-alarm frenzy, I have a Google Doc that I edit every week. I write down classes, work, and workouts. Then I go through and fill in things like laundry, cleaning cages, chores, as well as internship tasks, homework, and notes to remember. Using Docs, I can easily move tasks around during the week, as well as add things for next week.
  3. Music   A good playlist can make or break your mood here. My go-to playlist is my own, Academ, on Spotify. It’s all classical music. This is something I can tune out to and that won’t distract me. I personally can’t have any songs with lyrics, or else my brain completely wanders off.
  4. Planner/Agenda   It’s such a simple and common tip, but it’s SO good. I love my Filofax and picked a really pretty paper from Etsy. I use my planner for appointments, work schedule, notes, and most especially track my homework. With that, you can really get into planning around due dates, scheduling study sessions, or scheduling breaks.
  5. Schedule Breaks   Speaking of breaks, they are absolute must-haves to keep you on track with your work. When you’re in the zone, that’s great, keep at it and skip the break. If you’re stressed, annoyed, or getting distracted, take 10-15 minutes to walk away.
  6. Prioritize   This is a biggie. When you have a long to-do list, sometimes it can feel overwhelming. It’s super simple to reorder your list and put your most urgent items first.
  7. Just Do It   A lot of times, I spend way too much time planning. I could spend hours working on scheduling everything down to the second. I spend so much time obsessing over being precise, and managed, and on schedule, instead of actually doing the thing. Sometimes you need to throw the system out the window, and just jump in head first.

What are your worst time management problems, and how do you conquer them? Let me know, and good luck this school year!