Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | blastZONE

Time management can be a battle when you’re committed to a hectic course load, a part-time job and several extracurricular activities. But it can be done. The key is to develop effective habits, while simultaneously giving yourself room for flexibility. By doing so, you can accomplish your goals without compromising your intended level of success — or even your sanity.

Try implementing these five strategies to reap the benefits of operating at maximum efficiency.

Know your daily rhythm.

You know your mind and body best. You know which times you’re most energetic, and which times you’re most lethargic. For instance, knowing that my self-motivation level is at its peak in the morning means I’m able to schedule studying for the beginning of the day in order to increase efficiency and productivity. However, I lose much of that motivation after lunch, which is why I’ve scheduled most of my classes and work shifts in the afternoon. Having more structure in the afternoons makes me more productive. Scheduling your time based on your daily rhythm helps your work flow and saves energy.

Set timers.

What would normally take me an hour without a timer, can take 30 minutes with one. When provided with a time crunch, I’m less susceptible to distractions and feel more obligated to complete the task within the allotted time. Also, for many, the hardest part of getting anything done is actually getting started. When I sit down, I set a short timer for about 20-40 minutes and decide to start working. Once the timer goes off, I don’t have to stop  if I’m not done with my task, I can keep going. But once you set the timer and get into the groove of something, you’ll be more inclined to keep working until you’re finished.

Schedule guilt-free breaks.

These are real breaks, not procrastination breaks. An example of a procrastination break is watching a show while mentally draining yourself through guilt. If you take breaks, incorporate them into your schedule. Based on your preferences, you could schedule several short ones or a couple of long ones. Either way, you’d be more intentional about your time, preventing procrastination, and keeping you from feeling guilty.

Identify time-wasters — and make time for them.

Whether it’s a phone call or checking your email, some trivial tasks can be a means of procrastination. Although you might perceive them as productive work, they tend to be short distractions that add up quickly over the course of a day. By recognizing which of your tasks are time-wasters, you can set aside some “blank space” in your schedule for them. Save the mundane and the mindless for lower-energy times. This way, you’re still able to get it all done, and at no cost to the bigger priorities.

Prioritize by importance.

If you have a long to-do list, there is a good chance that some of the items can wait. By prioritizing your most important work and doing them first, you can be more flexible if new tasks come up.

Most crucially, it is important to remember that while balance is key, so is flexibility. Neither of these is a one-size-fits-all. To account for your personal preferences is to avoid being a slave to time. You know yourself best to set the most realistic expectations. Thus, rather than trying to change how you operate, use this knowledge to your full advantage and plan accordingly. Only when you work within your capacity will you feel in control of all the time at your disposal, and also yield the best results.