It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in January, when school ramps up after the holiday break and everything gets busy. Even if you aren’t committed to a New Year’s Resolution, the start of the year brings change and opportunities. Holidays are over and it’s time to get back to work!
A theme we hear among students is that there is not enough time to fit everything you have to do in a typical day. It takes time to learn new habits so that you can incorporate them into your already busy life. Once you start believing that you are out of time, you run out of time really quickly.
So, let’s try something different. Find fifteen minutes to spend working towards your goals. Even if you are not committed to a big change, you can make progress towards any goal by freeing up some time in your day.
These simple organization steps can help you free up 15 minutes throughout your day so that you have more time to work on new habits and stay on track towards any of your goals for the year.
Prepare for tomorrow before you go to bed at night.
While this could actually takes some time, this it’sis the kind of effort that saves you twice as much time the next day. Create a routine to prepare for the next day and set your supplies by the door. Depending on your particular goals, this might include workout gear and shoes, school materials and textbooks, copies of your resume, and snacks or a lunch.
Face it, not having workout gear with you can be a huge obstacle to adding exercise to your day. Likewise, having healthy snacks with you can help you avoid a diet emergency. If you have a job interview, it is essential that you prepare the night before with your interview clothing and print copies of your resume or portfolio material. To add study time anywhere, get in the habit of bringing textbooks and other study materials with you.
Make technology your friend in the morning.
Instead of setting your alarm to get up earlier (which can easily backfire), use technology to manage your time after you wake up. For example:
• Set the coffee maker to auto brew (do this as part of your night-before routine)
• Set the TV to shut off 5-10 minutes before it’s time to leave
• Set your phone or digital calendar to remind you when to leave the house or begin your work at home
I use a standing appointment on my digital calendar to remind me when to leave and what not to forget for the day.
Put all of your to do items in a single place.
Use a calendar that can be with you most of the time and has enough room for your schedule and your tasks. It can be paper or digital, but use it for everything. Granted, if you are not used to using a calendar, this new habit could take some time to learn. Paper calendars work well if you do most of your planning in a set location and you want to be able to scribble notes quickly. Digital calendar options are plentiful and can be used to meet a number of your needs. Pick a system that works for you, and use it actively.
Here are the advantages to using the different calendar styles:
• A monthly calendar can help you track monthly items like bills, paychecks, and appointments. Use a monthly calendar to track the weeks in a term, which can help you match the due dates or larger assignments with your obligations.
• A weekly calendar can help you track time for work, school, exercise or job hunting tasks. As you block out time for items you must do, you can find time for things you want to do.
• A daily calendar can help you track a busy day requiring multiple appointments or managing the schedule for several family members.
Digital calendars can be set with reminders, while paper calendars are useful for corralling sticky notes and paper. Some of our most successful students do nearly everything online, except that they keep a paper calendar because the act of writing with a pen or pencil helps them remember. In addition, a paper calendar doesn’t require a power cord, a battery, time to boot up, or a wi fi connection.
Take a walk.
Full-time workers get two breaks of 15 minutes each in a full workday. What do they typically do during that free time? Work! Put that free time to use by getting out of your workspace and walk around the office or the block a few times. The rhythmic movement involved in walking is beneficial to your brain and your body. Walking gets your blood flowing, heart pumping, and brain buzzing. Take the time to think about your priorities and goals, remember what you set out to accomplish for the day, and then return to your tasks with renewed energy and concentration.
Sleep on big decisions and major projects.
When you sleep, your brain processes information from your day into your overall operating system. This overnight sync can help you see things more clearly, such as typos on a resume, missing citations on a paper, or the pros and cons of a big decision.
And if you have done 15 minutes a day of work on each project, you will have quite a lot to attack the next morning, as the aroma of a nice French Roast greets you even before your first alarm goes off.