Tips for Time Management

Time management is a skill everyone is trying to master. It’s difficult, especially with the sheer number of distractions out there. We have some tips and tricks to create more a focused work environment so you can do your best in grad school.

Create a list:

This seems like a simple tip, but organizing all the tasks you need to complete is a great first step towards completing a project. Not only will this make sure you get everything done that you need to do, but you can use this to break down larger tasks, making them less intimidating and more manageable. A lot of small tasks are much more manageable than one large, intimidating one. Making a list will also help you ensure that you don’t skip steps on your way to your larger goal.

Set a timer:

Staying focused for an undetermined amount of time can be difficult. Instead of trying to work straight through, try setting a timer and completing smaller tasks one a time, then taking a break to recharge and see what you need to do next.

One structure is the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes before taking a break for five. Once you’ve done this four times, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes, then start the process over again. You don’t need any fancy apps or materials to use this technique, just a timer and something to do!

Turn your phone off:

It’s so easy to get distracted by anything and everything, a text, a notification, a new social media post. Let someone know you’ll be offline for a while if you need to, then turn your phone off. This will minimize distractions and while your fear of missing out might kick in, you’ll be glad to get a few hours to focus. If you don’t want to turn your phone completely off, you can set it to airplane mode or get a productivity app like Forest – though there are plenty of free alternatives for both mobile and desktop.

Create a schedule and stick to it:

Having a dedicated time to study or work is one of the best ways to train your brain into focusing. Sometimes, things will come up. Sometimes, you’ll need to push back your study time for emergencies or opportunities, but if you can control it, keep a schedule and don’t let anyone or anything disrupt that time. When you make excuses for changing your dedicated study time, you only allow yourself to miss it more and more. Find a time and keep that time sacred unless it’s an emergency.

When you need a break, take one:

Taking a break may sound counterintuitive, but resting is just as important as working. Breaks are vital to your brain health and can function as a reset button. When you’re stuck on a specific sentence or problem, taking a step back might be just the thing to help you break through it. While you’re taking a break, make sure you have food and water. It’s hard to focus when you’re hungry or thirsty!

If you need more time management tips, head to our Pinterest page for more advice, as well as other helpful resources for navigating your studying.

Writer: Abby Stewart | School of Graduate Studies |