Reclaim Your Time

How many times have you given yourself the whole afternoon to do a quick reading for school, but never actually completed it? Or have you ever read your syllabus and noted your big paper weeks in advance, only to write it the night before? You likely have the skills, resources, and time necessary to complete your assignment, but for some reason it simply doesn’t get done. This could be due to Parkinson’s Law, the adage that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Fortunately, there’s a fairly simple time management method that overcomes this tendency.

Time Blocking is a method of time management that shifts focus away from time available for a task to time allotted to its completion. Time Blocking essentially breaks your day into smaller blocks of time allotted to completing specific tasks. This can help transform your thinking from, “I have a paper to write, notes to study, and a presentation to prepare this afternoon” into “I’ll write this paper by 3:00, study my notes for 45 minutes, and prepare the presentation by 4:30.” It’s simple to implement and most people adjust fairly quickly.

How?

Start by writing out your to-do list for the day, making sure to stick to what you truly need to accomplish today. It can be tempting to assign extra tasks to yourself simply because you can schedule and complete them, but time blocking is not designed to make you 100% productive 100% of the time. Rather time blocking a method to help you use your working time efficiently. (Remember to leave time for resting and spending time with friends.)

Time blocking is not designed to make you 100% productive 100% of the time.

Once you’ve written your to-do list, assign lengths of time to each task. Be generous; it will likely take longer than you anticipate. Now you can schedule your tasks into your day. Use Google Calendar, a paper planner, or even a sheet of paper to write out your schedule for the day. Once you allot time to a task, it can’t expand beyond that and subsequently impede the rest of your day.

Example Schedule:

7:00- 8:00 wake up + morning routine

8:00 – 8:30 – check email

8:30 – 9:30 – reading for {specific class}

9:30-10:20 – write outline of paper for {specific class}

10:30 – 11:50 – {specific class}

Make sure to include travel times if you commute, class times, study breaks (including specific errands you need to run), meal times, etc. Use a timer to help you keep track of your time blocks, and commit to following the schedule you created. If you didn’t complete a task in the time you allotted, come back to it later. It’s best to leave one 30-minute buffer for completing tasks throughout your day. 

You can find more instructions here

Tips to Make it Work

Break down big tasks (a final paper) into smaller tasks (outline, draft, revisions, final) and schedule those tasks in advance. It’s better to schedule to work a little bit every day on a big project than set aside a large block of time for it. The work will once again expand to fill that block, and you likely won’t use that time efficiently. The shorter your blocks, the better. It’s less helpful when a block is hours-long.

Train yourself to respect your time blocks. Time Blocking can be an adjustment, so give yourself grace. Using a timer can help hold you accountable to your schedule. Remind yourself that managing your time helps free your schedule to do things you love. Though it can be tough, getting in the habit of time blocking is worth it.

Start small, just blocking the things you really need to do. Move towards blocking your whole productive day (i.e. 9am to 5pm). This will help you stay on top of your assignments and free up your weekends and spare time. Pre-scheduling your tasks helps you respect your time and academic success!

Need Help Getting Started? If you want to implement time blocking into your routine but find it daunting, send us an email at studentsuccess@tkc.edu . We’ll set up a time to meet with you individually and help you get the ball rolling on better time management.