I have always been the worst procrastinator. Some of my most vivid memories from my time at school have been the sleepless nights spent furiously finishing a chemistry project or writing a ten page paper only hours before it was due.
Time management has just never really been my forte.
I first realized that I was a procrastinator when I was in third grade — long before I even knew what the word meant. My mother sat me down and explained the importance of managing my time and promised that I would regret wasting so much of it laboring over unimportant projects or staring at the wall. It turns out she was right, but that didn’t stop me from disregarding her advice.
We would end up having the same talk every year and every year I would promise to change. But of course, I’m now nearing the end of my sophomore year of college and I’ve still not mastered the art of allocating my time wisely.
And while this may have been manageable at any other time in my life, the busy schedule that a college degree demands as well as the commitment to the never-sleeping social media accounts that are required to keep up in this information saturated world are testing my procrastinator ways.
Because not only do I — and many others — have the more obvious responsibilities such as research papers and exams, but also the responsibility to maintain our Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts in order to remain competitive and attractive to future employers.
I have created a list of ways to best manage your time and juggle school, social media and any other obligations that you may have.
1. Write Everything Down: Keeping an agenda or journal is one of the more obvious ways to keep everything in your life organized, and it’s definitely one of the best. Before leaving each of your classes, make sure to write down any work that is due in the class or meetings that you may have with your professor. Even if there’s nothing due, make sure to make note of it — if only to save yourself from the panic of wondering if you simply forgot to write something down.
In addition to keeping an agenda, I also like to keep a notepad on my desk so I can reference it or add to it whenever I’m working in that space (which is almost always).
I also like to write down any ideas that I have for future blog posts whenever they come to me as a way to avoid sitting around for hours trying to come up with blog topics on the spot. This is a more inadvertent way to better manage your time, but it can still be extremely affective, especially if you’re prone to indecisiveness like myself.
2. Set Up a Reward System: Sometimes one of the most challenging aspects of managing your time is the lack of incentive. I mean, sure, you get the “satisfaction of a job well done,” but I know that doesn’t exactly do it for me and I’m sure at least a few others feel the same way. That’s why whenever I complete a task, I like to take a few moments of leisure time to reward myself and to prevent me from feeling totally fried. One of time management’s greatest adversaries is burnout because it throws you off course and discourages you from completing the task at hand.
However, it should be noted that the reward system is a slippery slope. Yes, you don’t want to go five hours of studying or writing a paper without a break. But you also don’t want to stop to check your Twitter every few minutes and turn to Netflix for a new episode of House of Cards every time you finish a chapter of your assigned reading. I know that this is where I tend to struggle because I attempt to justify my procrastination by citing all of the hours that I had spent (or had at least thought about spending) on my history paper or media law reading. The hard truth is that when you have work to do, chances are you’re going to have to spend more time actually working than you are rewarding yourself. While that’s not exactly what we want to hear, it’s a reality we’re better off accepting sooner rather than two all-nighters and a failed quiz later.
3. Don’t Hit Snooze: Again, this tip may be a bit obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. Every time you hit the snooze button on your alarm, you’re robbing yourself of time that you could have spent getting ready or working on an assignment. As difficult as it may be, try to get up when your alarm goes off the first time. You’ll be amazed at how much smoother your day will go when you don’t start off in a rush.
4. Leave Reminders Everywhere: One of the most effective ways to best manage time is to constantly remind yourself of all of the assignments and obligations that you have. I have a stack of sticky notes in my room that I use to write down important dates and projects. I then post them all over my room — on my desk, in my notebook, in my laptop, in my closet, etc. It’s hard to forget something when reminders for it are literally all around you.
I have one friend who instead of leaving notes around her room leaves one item out of place when she has something important to remember. When she enters her room and sees that her chemistry textbook is lying on her chair instead of on her shelf, it’s a reminder to her that she has a meeting with her professor later that day. Leaving one item out of place prompts her to recall why it’s there in the first place. (It should be noted that this probably isn’t the best method if you’re a messy person and seeing items out of place isn’t out of the norm).
5. Set Up a Routine: One of the best ways to keep on track is to have set times every day that you complete certain tasks. For example, I check my Twitter every day when I wake up, when I’m at lunch, when I get back from class, and when I’m getting ready for bed. I also check my feed at other times throughout the day, but the aforementioned times are ones that I adhere to every day.
Keeping your profiles well maintained is important to your personal branding, but it can be difficult to remember to tweet or write a blog post when you have exams coming up or a club event to plan. If you set up times during the day to check your accounts — even if it only is just once every day — you’ll be better connected to your followers and you’ll be more likely to remain active on these sites.
Following a routine everyday, whether it’s for social media or for homework, is an important aspect of time management because if you know that a certain time is “homework time” or “time to check LinkedIn” you’re more likely to complete the task rather than just leaving it for later.
6. Have Others Keep You Accountable: When you’re blogging or tweeting for yourself, it’s much easier to fall behind. I suggest having others — such as friends or family members — keep you accountable to your work. If you regularly share your blog posts on Facebook, others are more likely to notice if you haven’t shared one in a few weeks and ask you about it.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not in any danger of being called a Twitter addict. I post only a handful of tweets most days, and I’ve gone a few days in a row without tweeting at all. While this isn’t the worst thing to happen by any stretch of the imagination, it’s not very helpful if you’re vying for a career that relies heavily on an online presence — which many do nowadays.
I’m not telling you to ask your friends and family to devote their lives to monitoring your Twitter account and personal blog. But I think that mentioning to them that you are trying to consistently post content may encourage them (and you) to hold you more accountable.
7. Send Out Emails Early: Oftentimes I’m required to contact people for my writing, whether it’s for my blog or for a newspaper article. One of the most helpful things for me is to send out emails as soon as I find out the person I am supposed to get in contact with.
This goes for almost anything. Do you have a blog due? Start it right away. A ten-page paper? Get one page out of the way on the first night. Are you supposed to reach out to your employer? Start drafting that email.
Trying to manage everything that is going on in your life, especially as a young adult, can be overwhelming at times. We are expected to keep up not only in school, but also online, and that can be incredibly exhausting.
The most important thing to remember is that you will get off track. You’ll hit the snooze button. You’ll start your history paper the night before it’s due. You’ll forget a few blog posts here and there.
And that’s fine.
But what you should take away from that is not that it’s okay to mismanage your time, but that everything doesn’t fall apart if you slip up. Always try your best to remain on track and focused, whether in school or on your Twitter account. It’ll be challenging at times, but believe me when I say that one of the easiest ways to take some stress out of your life is to effectively manage your time.