By Andrew Imbrie Bratawidjaja, Ph.D.
All of us from time to time experience frustration related to time management and personal organization. Most of us, if not all, perhaps agree that we are living in a time-starved-era. We are scrambling to find “more” time in order to get “more” things done. Yet, the interesting irony is that as we are striving to be efficient, we find ourselves doing the opposite – being less productive and wasting our time. This article is written for all of us, including those who are struggling with lack of motivation, dissatisfied with mediocrity and those who are super-achievers who crowd their lives with lesser priority things.
The majority of people might know the basic steps of ‘how‘ to be effective and efficient. However, I believe there is more to time management and effective organization than just having some ideas of ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do’ certain things. It requires people to examine deeper things, such as their passion and life purpose in order to be fully effective and efficient in their lives.
The following are some essential factors that each one of us should examine in order to enhance our effectiveness and efficiency.
1. Envision Specifically Your Life’s or Career’s Destination
We have so many choices in life that can easily confuse and lead us astray. In college, students are likely exposed to more things than they had expected. Without fully knowing your life or career goals, you are more likely to be sidetracked and overburdened by all kind of “extras”. Those extras can be manifested in the form of activities and relationships, and these may even lead to stress. Although those extras are not inherently “evil”, they surely can slow you down.
College students who are purposeful and intentional about their life and academic objectives are more likely to get to their destination(s) faster. They also tend to live their lives with greater confidence. Discovering your life and academic objectives directs you to be on the path toward success and prevents you from wasting your time, money and energy.
2. Revive Your Passion
It is easier to be intentional and purposeful about our lives when we are fully aware and embrace our life’s passion. Our dream or passion or “something that strongly drives” us is our fuel. Without it, life feels bland. We cannot afford living a life without having a passion. Many people learn to bury their passion early enough in their lives when they are being told that it is “too big” or “far from realistic”. Some people stop dreaming when they encounter obstacles and then simply live their lives on a default mode – “whatever happens, so be it”-type of mindset.
If you want to be effective and efficient, not only in managing your time but also your life, you must discover and have continuous access to your passion. You have got to keep it alive for you to feel alive!
3. Discover Who You Really Are
Without fully knowing who we really are, we are likely be swayed by the fleeting trends. We also can be easily influenced by others’ pressures, opinions or lifestyles. It is not uncommon that college students would squander their time and resources simply because of lack of knowledge of who they really are as an individual as well as their priorities. To be effective and efficient, we need to explore our unique-selves, including our needs, values, strengths, and weaknesses. It is only when we know our characteristics well that we can strategically manage our life and work.
4. Devise Goals, Priorities and Structured Planning
Knowing the first three principles above helps us to create a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) blueprint for our lives. Setting up goals can be daunting, especially if we have several audacious ones. It is wise to discern your goals and priorities, and to break them down into “chewable” sizes. Some people dislike setting goals because they do not want to feel “trapped” by them.
The good news is that you do not have to be restricted by your goals. You can always re-evaluate and re-modify them as you go along. Remember, it requires flexibility in order to be effective and efficient. Having clear and specific goals is so essential. Think of our goals as our “GPS” (Global Positioning System) device. It tells us where we are going. It reminds us when we stray. If we necessarily need to go off track for whatever reason, having those blueprints can actually help us get back on track faster.
5. Revamp Up Your System
Whether we like it or not, routine serves us well. As habitual beings, our body functions better when there is a rhythm or a system. To be effective and efficient, we need to establish some sort of “system” that works well for us. Having a system may involve identifying a method on how to create a conducive environment for learning, working or resting. Students may need to figure out how to de-clutter or reorganize their room in order to make it more inviting for studying or resting. Some may need to upgrade their organizational tools such as, desk-organizer, bookcase, PDA (personal digital assistant), file cabinets, etc, in order to enhance their productivity.
Electronic devices are notorious as the greatest distractors of our postmodern life. Some students may need to build some working systems or strategies in dealing with these distractors. The point is we got to have some sort of personalized operational systems or strategies that help us manage our lives. Remember, what works for others may not necessarily work for you! Therefore, you need to work at it!
6. Don’t Give In to Procrastination
Although many college students find that they often perform better or are more productive when they are under pressure, procrastinating is a risky business. It is not uncommon that college students slip and become out-of-balance emotionally because of embracing this approach to life. Is it possible to be productive and efficient without the push of the last-minute pressure? Yes, it is!
Finding out the underlying factors that influence our procrastinating behaviors is often helpful to modify our behavior. Ask yourself what are those underlying factors that lead you to procrastinate. Is it lack of motivation? Is it feeling burned out? Is it lack of accountability or support? Is it fear (of failure, imperfection)? One other helpful way to prevent procrastination is to “get started”. A rough idea written on a paper is often better than many good ideas written nowhere. Consider adapting “2-minutes-rule” in your lifestyle - If you can get something done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. The point is “just do it”. Besides helping to prevent burn out, prompt action can lead to an increased sense of self. You will feel more confident of your ability to accomplish tasks without the help of the last minutes’ pressures.
7. Enhance Your Self Care
When we are scrambling to find more time in order to put our chaotic circumstances under control, self-care is often the last thing in our mind. Students tend to neglect their self-care for the sake of time management – “I cannot exercise or eat regularly because I have to do this/that or I do not have the time for it, etc”. In pursuit of success, many college students also sometimes adopt a self-sacrificial lifestyle. They work longer, get busier, eat less, sleep less, don’t exercise, and have no leisure. As result, many of them end up feeling anxious, depressed and burned out.
When it comes to important things such as self-care, you should not find time, but make time for it. It is important to re-evaluate how you attend to yourself and your needs.
Do you schedule time for yourself? Do you know how to say ‘no’ to least important requests or activities? Do you have good balance between leisure and study/work? Keeping up with your self-care will provide the fuel you need to complete your educational journey effectively and efficiently.
Examining these factors may not only help you to become effective and efficient, but also move you forward toward becoming a person you always want to be. Sometimes, working with a life coach or counselor can help you make faster progress on these areas. Check out the resources that K-State Counseling Services offers by clicking on this link: http://www.k-state.edu/counseling/