Back to School : The ABC of Time Management

Back to school.jpeg

Now that Labour Day Weekend is behind us, it is time to get to "business" with the annual back-to-school frenzy! Whether you are parents with kids attending kindergarten or high school, or a freshman, graduate student, young professional or a teacher: back-to-school is the perfect time to restructure and manage your time. MyTimeNews has compiled a series of 7 smart tips to save your sanity by helping you start the new academic year and make the most out of it, like a true multi-tasking, time-management wizard!

1. Quit playing scheduling tag : Use a scheduler as your personal assistant

Keeping track of all of your weekly tasks and events becomes a job by itself: whether your kids have a total of 5 weekly extracurricular activities, your dentist appointment and your spouse's business trip are coming up soon, or you are trying to squeeze a workout session in the middle of the dreaded midterm week. Since no single calendar app is best for everyone, there are a variety of user-friendly schedulers, such as the classic iCal, Google Calendar and Outlook, that could help you color-code your life, manage your time and keep your weeks flowing smoothly. You can find a thorough overview of these apps and much more here.  

2. Balance your tasks and downtime to increase your productivity

Allow yourself and your kids some downtime to re-energize and refocus. Since we (kids, teens, and adults) are seated most of the time, scheduling physical activity to remain healthy and increase our productivity becomes vital. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that adults, kids, and teens participate in a minimum of 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity. This "active hour" has many physical, psychological, and social benefits. So, get up, get out, and have fun!

3. Stick to a routine (but keep a certain level of flexibility)

Sticking to a solid daily routine is a good option to improve your productivity. To build a routine, you need a scheduler. When organizing your calendar, remember to priorities your tasks/events in 3 categories:

Fixed tasks (routine)

Start filling your calendar with your fixed tasks, those forming your routine (work,   dropping kids at school, your kids' activities, your exams, important projects' due-dates, gym/training, etc.).

Special tasks

Add the special tasks (such as doctor appointments, interview, play, travel, etc.) to your calendar and modify the fixed ones if necessary/possible.

 Movable tasks (house chores, shopping, groceries, etc.)

These tasks offer you some time-management flexibility. They can be modified according to your schedule, as they do not require a specific time-slot.

Finally, allow your schedule some flexibility to adjust in case of unforeseen circumstances such as a missed bus, sick day, snow-day, etc. For more tips on time-management and routine, check out MyTimeNews's 10 Useful Time Management Tips.

4.  Reduce distractions during focus time

To maximize your time and improve your productivity, try reducing your sources of distraction; this will allow you to remain focused on your task. Hide your cellphone in your purse, turn off the TV when you and/or your kids are studying, and, above all, avoid procrastination.

5. Use a to-do list

At the end of each day, write a to-do list for the next day. The list will help you keep track of your tasks, while acting as a reward every time you check a box. The "reward effect" becomes a positive encouragement for you to check more things off your list. When combined to your daily routine (where you block chunks of your day to deal with specific tasks), the to-do list increases your productivity and motivation.

6. Use the Pomodoro Technique

Tested and approved, the Pomodoro Technique (tomato in Italian) helps you work with time instead of struggling with it. Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the technique is simple and works for almost everyone (writers, students, lawyers, parents, kids, teachers, managers, developers, etc.). Here is how to use it:

            1. Choose the task you need to get done (from your to-do list)

            2. Set your phone timer (or use the free online Pomodoro tool) to 25 minutes.

            3. Spend these 25 minutes working on your task, with neither distractions nor interruptions.

            4. When the 25 minutes are up, put a check-mark on your to-do list

            5. Take a break (5 minutes or so)

            6. Repeat step 1 to 5. When you have completed 4 Pomodoros, you can take a longer break (20 to 30 minutes),

               not only to give your brain a break, but to also allow it to assimilate new information.

 Imagine how much you and your kids could accomplish with this simple and effective technique.

7. Get a good night of sleep

Try avoiding light-emitting devices, such as your cellphone, TV, and e-reader, before going to bed. Studies have shown that blue light interferes with your circadian rhythm centers of the brain, which, in turn, has a negative effect on your levels of Melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone). Establishing a night routine for you and your family is another strategy to help you sleep well. A good night of sleep will benefit your life, health, performance, and well-being. Also, it allows to retain more information after studying for an exam, perform better on the soccer field, and keep focused on your daily tasks to maximise your productivity.

MyTimeNews wishes you all a successful back-to-school and a very productive academic year!