Helpful Time Management Tips: Part Two

Make an Agenda

Ok, now that you’ve written things down as I talked about in the first post, you can take a moment to breathe. Go complete one of the more pressing tasks on your newly written down list of tasks before doing any more planning or agenda setting. That’s fine!

Do what you gotta do, but as soon as you get a moment to sit down again, pick up your list and take it a step further. The good thing is, you won’t have to worry about forgetting something because you’ve already put it all on paper, so your brain is now more focused and clear.

Now, I personally like to make myself daily agendas (not every day, but when I have a particularly large number of things to get done or have a pressing deadline at the end of a week).

My daily agendas are very specific. They had to be because many times, in grad school, I had open days that I had to fill with writing my dissertation, or prepping for a class to teach. It’s amazing how quickly time flies. You wake up with all your grand plans for the day and suddenly it’s 2pm in the afternoon and you’ve accomplished hardly any of what you’d planned to accomplish! So, creating a specific plan for your day can really solve this problem.


So, here goes. Take your agenda, and being realistic about it, write out on paper what you plan to get done and when (and how long you plan to spend on it).

For example: I teach 7 college classes right now, but I also blog and do a bunch of other things and if I don’t write everything down, my schedule tends to go crazy in my head. The most important thing for me though, is to be realistic with what I can accomplish in a day and how long my tasks really will take…and, almost as important, what breaks I’ll need. You don’t have to make a daily schedule, if you’d rather just make a list of what you need to get done each day, that’s fine; buuut, without a schedule you might find that your hours get away from you faster than you’d like!

So, here’s an example of a daily schedule for me:

  • 7:00 – 9:30    

    • Get up, walk my dog, fix and eat breakfast, pack lunch, read the Bible, shower and get ready.

  • 9:30-10:30

    • Drive to class

  • 11:00 – 12:15

    • Teach class

  • 12:15 – 1:00

    • Lunch

      • Notice that I give myself an adequate lunch break. If I don’t and I try to multitask and eat while I’m working, I end up not doing a very good job of either and spending far more time on both things than if I had just eaten lunch and then started work again.

  • 1:00 – 2:00

    • Post quiz for my online classes.

  • 2:30 – 3:45

    • Teach class

      • Again, take note here that I gave myself 30 mins between work and classes. I have to be realistic. I have things to do to prep for class, I have students come in early, I want to go get some water etc.

      • Be realistic about little extra distractions; if you aren’t, you end up doing all those things anyway and feeling guilty because now you’ve used your work time for unrelated things. Let your work time be your work time and your breaks be your breaks.

        • So, for instance, between 1 and 2, if I have the urge to go get water or check on preparations for my next class, I wait. My mind is at ease knowing that I’m working in my designated work time and that I’ve already set 30 mins aside for whatever else I need to do before class. Make sense?

  • 4:00 – 5:30

    • Drive home, relax for a bit, unload my stuff,

      • Here I’m trying to account for the fact that sometimes my hour drive takes longer, or when I get home, I’m super sleepy and need a 5 min power nap or I need to take the dog out etc…

      • If I scheduled to start work at 5 and didn’t get started til 5:40 because of all of that, I’d end up feeling like a failure with my schedule. Instead, I plan accordingly so I don’t feel guilty for a moment to pause, and I can rest easy that I’ve got a plan to get my work done.  

  • 5:30 – 7:00

    • Work on lesson prep for my next class

  • 7:00-8:00

    • Write a blog post

  • 8:00 – bedtime

    • Dinner, laundry, relax

Every hour of my day is accounted for here, I know what I’m doing. This way, whenever I get home, I’m not scrambling in my brain to figure out what it is that I have to do or need to do. I just simply pull out my schedule and trust my plan. This schedule is usually based off of a weekly schedule that allows me to get done everything I need and want to get done in a timely manner and…in order of importance. If I have to add new tasks, I can, or I can move tasks around as needed.

Be sure to include breaks and time to do things other than your work!

This is critical. You’ll burn out far too quickly and you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns. As I said once, I’ll say it again. Work HARD in your planned time to work, but when you aren’t working, don’t think about work, RELAX HARD!

The time you relax is almost more important than the time you spend working. You’re allowing yourself to decompress, re-energize and many times when you come back to your work, you’ll have new ideas and a fresh approach. This can lead to HIGHER rates of production doing whatever it is you’re doing.

I hope this is helpful for you! These suggestions really are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how to manage your time but they are a critical tip. Check out my next blog post if you want to read about a few unique tips I have cultivated for graduate students to be more productive in their work!

The Liberty Belle

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