Time is undervalued and too often wasted. The Ancient Greek philosopher Seneca, in his appropriately named book, The Shortness of Time, writes:
“If we see someone throwing money away, we call that person crazy. This bothers us, in part, because money has value. Wasting it seems nuts. And yet we see others—and ourselves—throw away something far more valuable every day: Time.
Being more efficient with your times means that you’ll be able to get more work done. Being more productive not only leads to greater success, but gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
Whether you’ve got a big project at work or you’re preparing for the GMAT or another big exam, try these five time-management tips:
1. Set Clear Goals
Simply writing down what you intend to accomplish will increase the chances of meeting your goal. So start the day off by writing out a to-do list. And make sure to give yourself sufficient time to do each task.
If you’re studying, it’s important to give yourself enough time to properly learn the material you need to cover. You need to balance the pressure of time constraints and working quickly with actual comprehension of the subject matter. Add in time to test yourself and review the material you’ve covered.
Break your study into different stages, and give yourself clear deadlines. Do some mini tests or quizzes as you go to make sure you’re retaining the information.
2. Take on the Toughest Subject First
Mental fatigue is real. Just like physical training, your brain will get tired from studying. Choose to do the most difficult subjects first. This means you’ll be giving the best of your attention to what needs it most. Otherwise, if you wait until you’re fatigued to study for a mentally taxing subject, you not only spend at least twice as long, but fail to retain much knowledge.
3. Avoid Incomplete Tasks
A lot of time is wasted when switching from one task to the next, or stopping in the middle of a study session (and not completing what you planned to finish). Apply the rule that when you begin a task or sit down to study a subject, do it completely before taking a break. Of course, this also means focusing on a single task rather than trying to multi-task.
4. Work-Rest Cycles
Experiment with the length of your focused study sessions and rest sessions. Studies have shown that switching between intense work and rest periods can improve your productivity.
One workplace study found that its most productive employees worked intensely for 52 minutes, then took a break for 17 minutes. The “Pomodoro technique” follows a work for 25 minutes, followed by a five minute rest cycle.
Your sweet spot may fall anywhere in between those two. Experiment and find your most productive work-rest ratio.
5. Turn Off Your Phone. Step Away from the Computer
Unless you absolutely have to rely on technology, don’t. Turn your phone off, and study in a different room from where your computer is. Or, disconnect from the internet. You can also try using a website blocking tool.