Written by Shannon Lawrence
Do you feel like you never have enough hours in a day to complete everything you have to get done?
But then the person next to you - maybe a coworker, fellow student or friend who has twice as much on their plate as you seems to be handling themselves just fine. A lot of this just comes down to time-management style, and it’s not your fault if you’re struggling with it - in fact, a lot of people could benefit from better time management.
87% of students could achieve better grades if they possessed better organization and time management skills. As a fourth-year UBC student who’s spent countless sleepless nights grinding out assignments as a result of poor time management, I’ve learned a thing or two to help me break out of this cycle. The main thing I’ve found is focusing on being proactive vs reactive.
A smaller example of being reactive is being forced to go get groceries last minute because there’s nothing left in the fridge. Being proactive would mean noticing that groceries were running low, and planning a time to go get more before they ran out. A bigger example of being reactive would be pulling an all-nighter before an exam as a result of procrastination. Whereas if you were proactive, you would've followed a study schedule, booked a tutor in advance for a tutoring session or two, and gotten enough sleep so that you were energized and ready the morning of the exam.
Here are 3 tips to being proactive vs reactive in your studying and day to day life.
1. Track and analyze your daily schedule
The first step to improving your time management style is to know where your time is going.
Take a planner, a piece of scrap paper, or if you’re feeling fancy grab this: https://scheduleprintable.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/hourly-weekly-calendar-calendar-for-planning.jpg
Write down everything you do each day, so that you can see how much time you spend on each task, such as studying, eating, meal prepping, seeing friends, and completing chores. Don’t forget to make note of your downtime - time spent relaxing, using your phone/computer or watching tv..
This way, you’ll be aware of where you spend the most time, and where you might be wasting time. You’ll also see how often unexpected things come in your way and end up taking huge chunks of your time that you hadn’t anticipated. This is where being proactive and planning your schedule ahead of time comes in- the more proactive you are, the less likely you’ll be to go off track to do little things that you’d forgotten about.
Once you’re aware of how you spend your time, you can minimize wasted time, make productive time more efficient, and make a more realistic plan for how you’ll spend your time next week.
2. Minimizing wasted time
Once you start keeping track of how you spend your time, you might notice that you aren’t spending your time as you thought. Maybe it’s that you tend to just spend an hour or two on your phone when you get home from work or class to ‘unwind’. Or someone asked you last minute to come to an event and you said yes, without realizing you had a paper due the next day.t
Once you realize this, it’s easy to make the changes needed.
• To reduce time wasted on your phone or distractions on your laptop, you can download an app like Freedom, which blocks distractions on both your phone and laptop at the same time once you start a session.
• Or start planning your weeks in advance. For example, on Sundays write down a list of everything you have to do for the coming week.
3. Make time spent studying more efficient
In addition to reducing time wasted, you can also be proactive by making studying time more efficient. I used to spend hours sometimes working on one problem set, or trying to solve a math problem on the assignment that was worth only a tiny portion of my final grade. There are two ways to make this time spent more efficient:
• Focus on the things that are most important to you first. For studying, this would probably be whatever will count for the greatest portion of your final grade. This means getting a tutor and studying for the final exam over completing an easy assignment first.
• Get help for difficult subjects. Instead of wasting hours and hours of your time trying to understand something that seems impossible to you, book a tutor for a few tutoring sessions earlier into your studying. This not only makes your studying more efficient, but will also prevent you from getting frustrated when you can’t understand something by yourself. There is nothing wrong with getting a tutor to help with your studying, and tutoring these days is also a lot more flexible, with online tutoring sessions being available through mobile apps like TUEX.