Process Guide #7: Time Management

Ever notice that the time you have to work on a project or assignment disappears with very little actually being completed? You are not alone. Students, and adults, everywhere could use a tip or two on managing their time to be more efficient.

Before you start working

  1. Make sure you understand the assignment/project and what is to be completed. Ask the teacher all questions before you start to work.

  2. If working in a group, discuss the assignment to make all members understand what is to be done.

  3. List all tasks that must be done to complete the assignment/project, don't worry about what is the most important yet.

  4. Prioritize your tasks. On your list, number the tasks in order of importance. Rewrite the list if necessary. Make sure the tasks can be completed in a timely manner - do not have a task that is next to impossible to complete in the time allotted (for example: rewrite a Shakespeare play in modern English in a 54 minute period).

  5. If working in a group, delegate responsibilities. Divide up the tasks as equally as possible and assign people jobs that best complement their strengths (for example: give the artist of the group the drawing tasks).

  6. Plan what needs to be finished and when. Individually or as a group, set deadlines so as not to get stuck or in a rut on a particular task.

Let's go already

  1. Once you have your personal list of priorities, start on the most important one. If it is a larger task, divide it into smaller ones.

  2. As you finish a task, cross it off your list. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and show that you are really making progress.

  3. Concentrate only on the task at hand. Do not be distracted by the other items to be completed; you will get to them later.

  4. Put yourself into an environment that suits your working style. If you need to isolate yourself from your fellow students to work efficiently, do it! Put distracting items away or move away from them.

  5. Once you have finished a task, move on to the next one. You can go back and make small changes later.

Tips for success

  1. Take on only what you can handle in the time allotted. If you get overwhelmed with too much work, you might just decide to give up.

  2. If you can't work efficiently with friends, then don't. It is always tempting to talk with your friends about the latest movie, what your did last weekend, or who likes who, but save those conversations for lunch, break, or recess!

  3. Make sure your goals are realistic. This works two ways, don't make them too difficult or too easy.

  4. Never lose site of the end product. While completing the individual tasks, remember they are part of a larger assignment/project.

  5. Know what you are looking for. When doing research, avoid wasting time by knowing exactly what you are trying to find.

Tips to avoid procrastination

  1. Don't draw out the planning process; just get it done and start working.

  2. Complete the task and move on, don't be a perfectionist. Go back to it if you have time later.

  3. If it is not the most exciting task, don't let boredom distract you. An even better reason to get it done. Some some self-discipline.

  4. Putting a task off until the last minute can result in the task being incomplete or of a lesser quality. It can also affect tasks that require the completion of an earlier item. In the end, don't procrastinate.

This page was designed by Dan McDowell for the Triton and Patterns Projects of San Diego Unified School District.
Some information adapted from Mind Tools - Time Management Skills
Last updated July 5, 1999.

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