Time Management - The key to a stress free well-balanced mind

This month at NxtStep we’re helping you with tips for your well being and keeping your mental health, well-healthy! This week’s blog is all about time-management. While time management seems like a boring topic and pretty self-explanatory, it’s actually a vital tool to leading a stress free  well-balanced life that even the hardest of workers struggle to keep up with. So, while you ask yourself, “can time management actually reduce stress?” check out these helpful time management tools to navigate your way through the most stressful parts of being a student!

Use a calendar!

It seems incredibly obvious right? Using a calendar to manage time? But do you use it? Time management as a student is vital! Everyone has had that overwhelming feeling where all of your assignments have built up and seemingly appeared from nowhere? Time management skills can help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed. So what do you do about it then? Well, first, when you get that assignment brief, don’t just put it to the side. Get out your calendar. Now, it can be whatever works for you, the digital calendar on your phone or laptop, or maybe you have a diary planner or wall planner. Think about what works best for you. Open it up, and put that due date in there, add (or write) reminders leading up to it, a week before, or two weeks before. That way, even if your time management skills fall to the wayside, you at least have small incremental reminders so that assignment doesn’t completely disappear! Next, plan your day or week, schedule time slots allocated to either, doing that reading, completing that quiz, revising key terminology, or creating a draft structure for your essay. Plan small steps, don’t aim to finish it all in one go. As you take small steps to completing each task and getting closer to the finish line, you’ll thank yourself for not leaving it all to the last minute. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t do your favorite task of procrastinating, even if you spend ten focused minutes planning your assignment, it will take that extra bit of weight off your shoulders. So use that calendar, to do list or diary planner and spread assignments out so they’re manageable!

Break everything down

Big assignments, life tasks, and work projects can all seem daunting at first. It’s fine to go ahead and say ‘break down your assignment’ but how? First, take that assignment brief we mentioned earlier, the one with that big looming due date. If it’s an essay, break down the required steps, you know it needs a structure, that’s one part. It needs research, allocate time for that. Then break it down into planning stages for each section; a drafting stage and a revision stage. That way, you can space out each part and feel like you’re still making progress and accomplishing something. Small steps is the key to success! This can apply to big practical projects too; sit down with the brief and work out what steps you would normally take. It might seem overwhelming at first but when you break apart something big into small manageable chunks, you’ll begin to see that you can actually tackle it. 

Be realistic 

When you’re setting your time-goals, be realistic; don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations only to feel bad when you can’t meet them. Listen to your lecturers when they say, “you can’t do this the night before”. Sure it’s fantastic to take on a challenge every now and then, I mean, who hasn’t heard that line at some point and thought “challenge accepted!”. But, it’s not the best way to handle big assignments, or work your way through a 3 or 4 year degree and end up with a lot of stress. Set realistic expectations, space things out. If you know you need to take breaks every 20 minutes to refresh your brain then account for that! Know your capabilities and what you can achieve and allow the right time for it! 

Revisit your to-do list

Your to-do list or planner schedule is not set in stone. Balance is important! If something comes up and you need to change plans, do it! You might find that you get ahead of your assignments, and now have extra free time. Use that time to give yourself a break or allocate it to an assignment that might be in need of some more TLC (we all have that one class where, let's be honest, gets pushed aside for the more exciting ones). 

Give yourself time too!

Having a fully booked schedule  every day with no break for yourself is not an effective  use of time management skills. You’ll overwork yourself and end up run down which is not an ideal situation! Being run down doesn’t just affect your mood it can affect  your entire wellbeing. Mind-body relationships are very much real; when your mind feels overwhelmed you’ll begin to feel that stress hit other parts of your body making you not feel your best and not be able to nail out those assignments or work to your peak at your part-time job. As you get run down you’ll notice your concentration getting weaker; you’ll feel more fatigued and might even get sick more often.  So, make sure your booking in an hour or two to focus on you! This article from Bustle gives you a rundown of what signs to look for that signal a study break! This could be time for you to manage that overwhelming feeling of assignments crushing you alive; we’ve all been there. Download one of those cheesy meditation apps you see advertised all over social media, headspace, calm, and simple habit are just a few. They can help you breathe, relax and get your mind back to a less anxious and stable state so you can begin to think clearly again. It sounds cliche, but breathing exercises can help you feel much better during a period of peak stress. Not to mention, it can only take between 30 seconds to 20 minutes. It’s the perfect moment to give yourself a break and work on that mind-body relationship we talked about. If you’re unsure what else you should do in those allotted times, check out last week's blog ‘Semester Selfcare and Wellness Tips’. 

Think of the future!

Your time at university is the best place to start practicing skills you can put into your career when you leave and venture off into the scary world of full-time work! Time management skills are incredibly important when your working, so while sitting down and planning your day, week, month, or semester can seem tedious, you’ll be building up the capability to handle and be resilient to stress, and coping with juggling many tasks at once. After putting time management into practice at uni, you’ll be able to walk into your next job interview with plenty of examples about how you managed to hand in 3 assignments without overwhelming yourself!

Now stop procrastinating, go do it!

Time management is an example of something being easy to say and hard to do. But when you’re using time management skills, you’re looking after yourself and your well being. It gives you the ability to make time for yourself, not feel overwhelmed, and most importantly, be prepared for your assignment hand-ins! If you can manage your stress levels through some simple time management tasks, then you’ll be putting a stop to those all-nighters, feeling fatigued, or those tense muscles from built-up stress. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start planning!

This month, we have more blogs to help you be your best you and look after your well being. Being a student is hard, but throughout October we’ll be giving you the tools you need to succeed. Check out next week's blog where our blogger Jack Buckley will carry on our theme of managing the complex life of a student and teach you how to maintain a work-life balance.

Written by Amber Wharepapa