The broad scope of ‘time management’ essentially boils down to three aspects: priorities, organization, and commitment. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when creating your schedule, especially as you enter a new school year. Maybe you’re trying to juggle what feels like a million activities as you’re applying to college or wondering how you are going to stand out when applying to a job or an internship. Time management is difficult because it creates a routine that you might not be used to. But when done correctly and with consistency, understanding how to manage your time is the one of the best and most useful skills in any context. 

The most important thing to remember while reading this is that what matters is managed. If there are activities that you care strongly about or if there is a goal you really want to achieve, then you will find a way to make it happen. 

This is where our first pillar of time management, priorities, comes into play. Before you can make any sort of schedule, you have to know what your goals are. Goals help ground yourself in times where you might find yourself lacking motivation. You can prepare short- or long-term goals, and they might change as time passes. For example, if your goals are to earn a high semester GPA and earn a spot on the varsity soccer team, then you can plan your schedule around those priorities. A short-term goal might be doing well on an upcoming test because that aligns with one of your long-term goals. It is important to acknowledge your additional non-academic priorities when developing your goals, such as working a job, performing well in athletics, or dedicating time to your artwork. Balancing your interests is necessary in preventing burn out because you must look forward to the work you have to do to maintain motivation. You can prioritize your time according to the goals you created for yourself. 

Okay, so you’ve set goals and figured out your priorities, what next? Organization is the next pillar of time management. Organizing your time includes scheduling breaks and time for relaxation in addition to scheduling time for activities that are important for achieving our goals. Continuing with the goals in the above example, you would have to set aside time to study and train for soccer. Knowing what times of the day you are most productive will help organize your schedule into something that makes sense for you as an individual. If you are someone who likes to wake up early and find yourself being more productive in those morning hours, take advantage of that knowledge about yourself. Maybe you would start your morning off with soccer conditioning or a workout, so you have the rest of the day for other things. In a similar vein, if you know you are unproductive at night, it is a good idea to make sure you finish your homework before dinner so that you are not struggling and unfocused on your academics at the end of the day. Recognize that your strengths and productive times may be different than your peers and that is okay! Your schedule might look different from someone else’s because you have different goals and times of productivity. 

The final pillar of time management is commitment. While recognizing that goals can change, it is difficult to achieve anything without commitment. It is easy to set goals, but difficult to follow through and maintain those priorities. Hold yourself accountable to your goals by making them visible. Whether that is a written reminder posted in your room or you find a friend to be your accountabili-buddy with whom you share your accomplishments and challenges with, your dedication to your goals will ensure feelings of successful time management. 

Time management is all about knowing how you want to spend your time. This is why starting with setting goals and priorities is important to understanding how to manage your own time better. It may require sacrifices, but you are the only person who can decide how you should spend your time. After all, what matters to you will be managed.

Katie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Puget Sound with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular & Cellular Biology and minors in Spanish and Education. Katie is now attending the Harvard Graduate School of Education to learn about the intricate and dynamic nature of being an educator in today’s complex society, with the intention to teach high school science post-graduation.

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