One of the biggest help request I receive from students is on the subject of time management. A lot of times students become surprised when I tell them, “don’t try to manage time, just try to be more productive”.
Is not that I don’t believe that developing good time management skills is important. Is that on my experience students who spend time and effort focusing on time management, actually end up waisting multiple hours playing with Apps, calendars, planners and other “productivity” tools without accomplishing real work. Therefore, I focus primarily on productivity.
The “secret” of productivity is effective planning. How can you plan effectively? By setting goals that are realistic and manageable. To make this simple I recommend to start WRITING DOWN your goals following the SMART criteria:
- Specific – targets a specific topic within subject area.
- Measurable – gives you a clear criteria to measure your progress.
- Achievable – not too hard but not too easy.
- Realistic – goals and timeframes must adjust to your particular reality
- Time-based – give yourself a specific amount of time to complete the goal within a deadline.
Notice that the first step is to develop the habit of writing your goals. The next step is to write them in way that will help you achieve them while keeping track of your progress. A typical TO-DO list for a college students looks like this:
As you can see, based on the SMART criteria, there are plenty of reasons why this type of list is ineffective. On top of being ineffective it’s also overwhelming, which could lead to procrastination. A better set of goals should look like this:
I’m not suggesting this goals are perfect, but at least they provide you clarity, direction and focus. The more specific the instructions, and the more realistic your goals are, the higher your chances of succeeding. Plus, the moment you see yourself having success, that’s the moment in which motivation kicks in to help you keep moving forward.
The YouTube channel ASAP Science created this short video that illustrates these and other important concepts about productivity: