Time Management For Students & How to Balance Goals


Most students in the UK have horrible time management. They are seemingly incapable of achieving anything beyond what is required by their degree.

Not having “Enough time” is simply poor prioritisation. Always has been, always will be.

Time management is the key to life success! https://www.flickr.com/photos/lofink/

To achieve anything long term in life, we need a strong work ethic. We need to feel motivated and have a strong drive to accomplish our goals. Of course, this helps tremendously if we set goals that are exciting to us personally. The motivation comes naturally. These goals need to be completely independent of anybody or anything else. If they don’t excite us, they will not benefit us in the long run.

Once you have an exciting purpose, what normally follows is multiple exciting long term goals which will help us to follow this purpose. As there are multiple goals, we need to balance and time these. This is where time management becomes crucial.

Some of you may be asking, “So, how do we go about following our purpose, and setting the appropriate goals?”

Remember, it’s really important that this is completely personal to you. If you feel like you are being selfish in any way, that is very probably a good thing!

You need to imagine the perfect life for you in the long term. What things do YOU want to do, be and have? I suggest making a list of these 3 areas. Write them down. Some of them may overlap, that’s fine. Be greedy, be ambitious, be selfish. Think big, don’t be shy.

Now, obviously life will never be perfect! But this serves as a very useful exercise in giving you a sense of direction. Another important note is that you will probably get bored at some point if your life goal is to just travel and live on the beach etc, I believe that some progression and improvement is required to keep you satisfied. But again, this is just an exercise to give you direction. It will probably take a while to fully decide upon the perfect life for you. Keep adding to your list over time.

After a while, you will have your life goals. Where most people seem to fail with goals in general, is that the goals are too much of a mountain to climb. They don’t split it up into manageable, short term chunks. Because the goals are SO intimidating, they never actually get started.

Whether it’s losing weight, learning a language, applying for graduate schemes or placements, coursework, writing eBooks etc, you need to split the long term goal up into multiple, realistic short term action plans.

Goals https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/

Once you have your life goals, it’s time to decide how to get there. We now need annual goals. I’m not going to delve into too much detail now, but following annual goals we have monthly, weekly and daily goals.

This is a very effective way to make everything seem less intimidating and more achievable.

The more short term the goal is, the more likely it will be an activity goal. I.e write “x” number of words, do “x” number of sets, do “x” number of language Skype lessons, apply to “x” number of jobs. Longer term goals are being, doing and having things. These are the awesome, exciting things, but can seem too far out of reach unless we break them down into an actionable plan.

Moving onto time management, as I have mentioned in a previous post, humans are more efficient when focusing on 1 or 2 things at a time, especially us guys.

It is likely that you will have multiple goals that overlap within a given month or year, however on a short term basis, you will need to prioritise 1 or 2. This could be for a given week or day, or couple of days, it really depends on what the goal is.

Personally, I always have more than 2 goals for a given week but I allocate daily focuses. That way my brain gets some real momentum going in a specific area, without any distractions for a couple of days, then move on when you have done what you need to do for that particular goal.

Now we have these principles established, we need a detailed personal timetable. It doesn’t matter how you do this. I personally prefer to use Excel.

Most of us will have daily/weekly re-occurring appointments that are set in stone at uni. Lectures and seminars are perfect examples. So we can fill these in first. Then you distribute time across the week, in a logical format (that allows you to give daily or weekly focuses on certain goals), depending upon which goals are priorities for you in that given timeframe.

Most people tend to have a higher work ethic in the morning, therefore it makes sense to allocate time as early as possible to achieve your primary daily goals. This also prevents procrastination! In other words, stop pussying around and just do it!

Another important piece of advice I would like to share, is that for most people, you will be more productive if you wake up before 10 am. Preferably earlier. I realise everyone is different, but the reality is that most of the working world operates from 9-5, so you will sacrifice productivity by having to work later into the evening. This is just one of those external factors that we have no control over.

Time management is key to staying lean at uni. It means there is no excuse to miss the gym. You already have it scheduled. Food is already prepared. You know which days you need to take food to uni because you have a timetable that you view every morning.

Speaking of mornings, a morning routine is crucial to forming good habits, and maintaining that drive an determination you initially get when setting long term, exciting goals. Everything is about sustainability! We want to be happy in the long run, not for a few months 🙂

Whenever people give the excuse of “I just don’t have time….blah fucking blah” it is ALWAYS  a case of priorities, normally very poor, short-sighted prioritisation.

There is always enough time. Students and most people in general are just very shit at managing it. They would apparently rather play FIFA and smoke weed instead.

Specifically in regards to training, timing of your workouts is important. Taking into account factors such as energy levels, motivation, training partner availability (if you have greater intensity with them), are all important in determining which days and times to train.

To wrap up, effective time management is a crucial component of life success, particularly once you have a clear purpose.

It requires:

  • Extreme focus, and the ability to work on a task until it is complete. This is essentially productivity, and reduced wastage.
  • Smart prioritisation of goals, which will inevitably change over time.
  • Focusing on 1 or 2 of them in the short run, on a day-to-day basis.
  • For those who already have a strong work ethic: The ability to relax and re-charge (paradoxically enough).

This is what prevents us from burnout, or excessive stress levels. The ability to completely chill is crucial in sustaining progress towards long term goals.

I am a strong believer that periods of productivity need to be balanced out with periods of doing fuck all, and just completely relaxing. Most students get the balance horribly wrong. Most business owners get the balance wrong in the other direction. The key is balance.

One final point, which is quite important, is to start off slow with goals. Then slowly pick up the pace once you start hitting them successfully. Don’t give yourself too many in the short term.



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