Exams Stress Support

5 practical ways to manage your time effectively

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Do you feel like your dissertation or project is taking over your life? It’s easy to  feel that way, especially when we’re confined to working from home. It’s hard to stay productive, but sometimes equally hard to step away from the laptop (even if you’re not actually doing much).  So you’re left spending hours at your desk, without actually achieving much – sound familiar?

We’ve come up with a few tips that (with practice and commitment) might just help you manage your time and stay productive:

1. Try a new technique – Pomodoro anyone?

No, not the pasta – but the time management technique. The Pomodoro technique is designed to help you focus on a single task and take regular breaks. Although not for everyone, it’s worth looking into as a way of increasing your productivity and concentration.

Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the process is simple. You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes. Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. (Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer!)

After four 25 minute sessions (or pomodori) you take a 25 – 30 minute break. Then repeat the whole process for as long as you want to work that day.

Those who like the technique find the structured breaks are good for stress levels, and that they are extremely productive in the short bursts. It can take practice to get the most out of just 25 minutes – especially if you’re someone who can waste a good ten minutes ‘setting up’, but if you’re not feeling particularly productive it’s worth a try

2. Be realistic

Know yourself and be honest! Work out when in the day you are at your most productive or work out what stops you from studying.  By thinking honestly about how you work you will plan your time better.

If you’re a to-do list person, get in the habit of writing a realistic one for each day to help keep it manageable. Make your task small and meaningful, even if that means breaking larger bits of work down.  That way you see progress throughout the day as you tick off each bit  – great for motivation and helping you stay on track!

3. Step away from your desk

Even the most dedicated students need breaks to help focus and preserve sanity. Even if the rigid structure of Pomodoro isn’t for you – still make sure you try to take regular and significant breaks to collect your thoughts and refresh your brain. Whether you’re going for a run, meditating, keeping in touch with friends,  or just making yourself a cup of tea, getting away from your workspace can reset your motivation.

4. Don’t get distracted

A clear workspace is a happy workspace:  A chaotic workspace can quickly become a distraction, so by decluttering ahead of work time you’ll be keeping disruptions at bay. Working from home can make this more difficult, but try and write at a desk or table (not on your bed) – you’ll feel much more productive and won’t be tempted to nap! Have everything you want to look at to hand so you won’t be distracted searching for things.

Perhaps the most obvious of all, but don’t get distracted by social media and emails! Set yourself specific times to check them – and stick to them.

5. Don’t be afraid to stop

This is especially important when you’re working from home! Make sure you have set work times – and stick to them. They can be whatever works for you, but don’t work till into the night just because your work and home life have been forcibly combined. Your concentration and brain-power is going to be significantly reduced by working through the night and your work is likely to suffer – plus the next morning you’ll end up too tired to carry on working. Plan what you want to achieve that day. Make it realistic and work efficiently to get that done – and then stop.

Further information

My Learning Essentials have plenty of online resources to help with time management and procrastination as well well practical guides to help with writing up.

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