Monday, February 13, 2012

Study Tipping Tuesday - Building a Task List to Manage Your Time

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I got you a gift…a study tip for your Tuesday- I hope you like it ;)

One of the questions I am most asked by students – and one of the ones that I think requires the most attention – is “How do you manage all of the things you have to do at once?”

In a word? Prioritize.

I build a task-list, and then I prioritize it. 

Let’s try it together; I will walk you through my process.

Open up a MS Word document. In bold, create a few categories that best represent your "life" categories when it comes to tasks. For example, right now, my task list is divided into the following:
  • Today (where I put tasks I will do today)
  • Due Dates (where I put tasks that have specific due dates)
  • Grad School (where I put my grad school HW)
  • Miscellaneous (important things but do not have specific due dates)
  • Business Priorities (this is not a to do list, it's a reminder of my most important goals and priorities for the next 6 months. It helps keep me focused when choosing which tasks to tackle first; for you this should be your educational priorities or life priorities).
The next thing that I do is go through my work calendar, my business calendar, my syllabi for grad school classes, and then any other personal or professional commitments that I have and fill them in on the task list. I do it in bulk whenever I receive a lot of dates/tasks at once (e.g. on a syllabi) and then update it about once per day.

Try this now – work your way through your syllabi and fill in tasks and their due dates for your projects/tests/exams are this semester. Make sure you write your to do list tasks using specific action words before each task (e.g. do, read, write, create).

(Example of one of my to do list categories right now.)
Grad School
- Research Meaningful Reception Learning and write paragraph for presentation *due Feb 13
- Create MRL PowerPoint slide for group project *due Feb 16
I compliment this with my Google Calendar. I place every item with a due date in the calendar and set SMS reminders that get text-messaged to my phone (i.e. I call this my life-saver). Whatever system you use, find a way to set up automated reminders.

Every  morning I review the task items in my to do list and move any urgent items to the "Today" category so I know to tackle them that day before or after work. And then all I have to do is focus on the "Today" category and can ignore the rest for the rest of the day. The key is knowing your priorities, and keeping it simple. As soon as you have too many things on your task list you'll never want to look at it. Stick with the most important things and never let it get too cluttered.
A lot of you ask me about procrastination, and the truth is, I really never procrastinate. While some people work better under pressure, I work better without pressure. I love the feeling of true free time, with nothing hanging over my head. And this kind of system does wonders for your grades.

Ask yourself: do you always feel on top of your life and schedule? Are your grades the best they can possibly be? Are you known for being organized and responsible? Are you meeting the goals you have for your life? If the answer is a resounding YES to all these questions then the organizational system you use now is working great.

If the answer is no - why not give this a try, and let me know how it goes!  And if you have any great systems you use, feel free to share. =)

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