The first step to effective time management is arranging your priorities. If you’re constantly getting little, unimportant tasks done and avoiding the more important responsibilities, chances are your life is a lot more hectic than it needs to be. Taking care of major projects before all else, even if you “still have time” to procrastinate, will be a huge relief in the long run. By the time the project due date is upon you, you’ll be watching all the people who DID procrastinate scramble to finish what you mastered weeks ago. However, although I’m sure everyone is aware that they should do the most important tasks first, the issue is that you’re not always sure which task is more important than another. After all, in college, we’re constantly assigned papers and deadlines, and they all seem very important. Where do you start? Well, according to Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People...
You make a list.
Find a piece of paper and fold it into fourths. Each column is going to have a different label: “Urgent and Important,” “Urgent but not Important,” “Important but not Urgent,” and “Not Important nor Urgent.” Now, lay out all the tasks that you have. Maybe you have five papers due in five different classes, an event to go to for your school organization, and you were invited out to dinner with friends. Also, you’d like to go to sleep tonight. Are all of these important to you? Which ones are urgent and which ones can wait? This part of time management is a bit of a juggling act. Believe me, I’ve done my fair share of juggling.
Personally, I like to look at the urgency of tasks first. Well, say your organization’s event is tomorrow night. I would qualify that as urgent. Now say that two of your papers are due next week, while the other three aren’t due for another month. Those first two are more urgent than the others. Also, as sad as it is, you can probably hang out with your friends any time you want, so if you have school work to do, you should probably not go out to dinner with them that night.
Okay, now that we know what’s urgent and what’s not, which tasks are most important? Well, for the five papers that were assigned, which classes are you most confident in? In which ones do you have a good grade, and in which ones are you struggling? How many points is each paper worth? For your school organization, how important is it that you be at the event? Are you a leader of the organization, or are you a regular member? All of these questions play a factor in importance. Also, keep in mind that just because a task might not be the most important right now doesn’t mean it won’t become important later. You should still do the “unimportant” tasks; just make sure to focus on the “important” ones first. After taking all of these questions into consideration, maybe your chart would look something like this:
Alternatively, it could also look like this:
Or, if you’re like me, you might end up trying to do this:
Don’t be like me, guys. Don’t be like me.
Ultimately, a lot of information has to be considered when arranging priorities. Although making a list is really only skimming the top of what it takes to manage time effectively, it is still wildly important, especially if you feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to do. This list helps to put every task in perspective and help you figure out a good place to start. In my next blog post, I’ll go more into detail on how to tackle big projects effectively and efficiently, but in the meantime, I hope these charts help whoever might be reading this article, and I wish you all a happy Wednesday!
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