In addition to studying, planning skills are important in many aspects of life, both in a professional context as well as personal. If you always leave things to the last minute or if you struggle to meet deadlines, it is worth reading this article!
In the Counseling Unit it is common to hear students say, "Yes, I organize myself, but then I don't stick to the planning". Organizing oneself entails both practical factors (what to do and how to do it) as well as personal and motivational aspects (why and for what reason do I do it). Here you will find some practical guidelines that will help you to plan your time more effectively. In a second article we will discuss several aspects that have an impact on the actual implementation of planning on a psychological level.
In short, planning consists of defining clear goals, pinpointing the intermediate steps to be followed to achieve them and regularly monitoring the progress being made within the set time. It seems simple but many people struggle with putting it into practice. Experts from the University of Kent have identified the following skills required for efficient time management: prioritizing, organizing a work schedule, making lists to remember what needs to be done and when, pressing on when things do not turn out as planned and avoiding procrastination (not leaving things until later).
In order to prioritize we should distinguish between urgent tasks and important tasks. In order to be efficient we must focus on what is most important and what is most urgent above all else. It is very useful to make a list of tasks and order them in terms of priority so that we avoid distracting ourselves with instant and simple yet unimportant tasks. It is particularly practical to manage your task list by following the four "Ds" that David Allen suggests in his book "Getting things done":
- Do: Immediately doing the quick tasks that require less than two minutes
- Defer: Defer or postpone the tasks that require more than two minutes and plan when to do them
- Delegate: Delegate the tasks that someone else can do for you
- Delete: Delete what is unnecessary so you concentrate better
Identifying the areas where you waste time and try to reduce them is a good start to organizing your time. By doing so, you can get rid of any unnecessary actions or rearrange tasks in the most efficient way. Create a work habit with a set schedule so that you can divide the time whilst adhering to deadlines and exams, avoiding leaving things to the last day.
Use a diary. The traditional paper diary has mostly been replaced by smartphones. Choose the format that is most practical for you to make sure that you make a note of all your tasks and deadlines. As well as having accurate and essential information, using a diary has a significant impact on the feeling of "I have a thousand things to do and not have enough time to do them" that we have all experienced at one time or another. By making a note of all pending tasks in the diary, we are distributing the work and setting aside specific times to overcome the mental turmoil that otherwise ends up affecting even our ability to concentrate.
With excellent organizational skills, we make better use of the time and, in addition to increasing the probability of achieving our goals, we do so with decreased levels of anxiety as we are in better control of the situation. Instead of improvising on the spot, we make conscious decisions at all times which in turn leads to less mistakes being made.