Have you ever tried to cram 34 hours worth of work, activities and sleep into a 24-hour day? It doesn’t work out too well.
Especially as a student, your time is valuable. You may be working full-time with a family to care for. You have other responsibilities you love but that also fill up your plate.
You want to do it all and succeed in all areas but you have limitations of how much you’re able to take on and wonder if you really can find the time to pursue your education without overwhelming your schedule and still spend time on the things, like family, that you prioritize and want to spend your time on and really consider if you’ll ever have the capacity to do it all… And to breathe.
Well, you can.
Pursuing your professional and personal goals by returning to school is a time commitment. But it’s a commitment of immense value. Your time is precious, which means you often have to be strategic about how you spend your days.
Here, we share five sneaky ways to save time in your everyday life, so you can focus on the things that really matter.
1) CREATE A SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT
To use time efficiently, it’s important to stay organized. For your work, home and school schedules, keep a calendar to keep track of important dates and when assignments are due. Noting how you spend your time, whether at work, in class, studying or some other activity gives you insight into what matters most.
Creating a daily to-do list can also help you stay organized. Listing the most important and time-sensitive tasks at the top will help you prioritize what to work on when you have that time set aside.
But despite your efforts in planning, schedules can’t be perfect. Therefore, be flexible as events, activities and other unexpected things arise.
Writer Annie Dillard wrote about the importance of using time wisely in her book, “The Writing Life”:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
2) BE PRODUCTIVE IN THOSE LITTLE MOMENTS
Waiting in the morning rush line for coffee. Riding on the bus or carpooling to work. Waiting to pick your kids up from school. These little moments in your day can add up quickly. And these moments can be great opportunities to be productive.
Tasks completed in these little moments can be quick, but they free you up from having to remember to do them later—tasks like answering a quick email, making to-do lists for a project, listening to an audiobook, finding a recipe on Pinterest.
You can even use those brief moments to simply stop and reflect in your busy schedule.
3) KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Sorry to break it to you, but you can’t do everything. When you make a commitment to one thing, such as returning to school to pursue your goals, you may have to give up something else in return.
Knowing your limits, of how much you are physically and mentally able to accomplish, will help you redirect your focus to your goals you’ve set out to accomplish. Setting priorities of what’s most important to you will also guide how you should set up your time.
It’s also helpful to know if you tend to be more productive in the morning or night. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Schedule your tasks requiring more focus and energy during your more productive hours to ensure you use your time most efficiently.
You might have to learn to be okay with saying a “maybe next time” to a weekly movie night with your friends. You may have to have your husband take the kids to their soccer practice while you study. Learning to say “no” to things, whether non-essential or quality things, may be difficult. But the end result of achieving your degree will be so worth it.
When you’re working hard to ensure that everything on your to-do lists and calendar gets done, sleep may be the last of your priorities. You’ll sleep when you’re done with this class, or when you’ve written that paper. You’ll sleep when you get that promotion, or when your kids are done with high school.
But sleep is an important ingredient to your success.
If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter or tried to work when you’re exhausted, you might have noticed that you’re not always your most productive self, no matter how many cups of coffee or energy drinks you consume.
Sleep is important for our health. It gives us the energy to stay active, both mentally and physically.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep has several effects on advancing your goals, such as memory:
Getting enough rest is key for cementing what you’ve learned during the day. If you’re sleep-deprived, you have a higher chance of having a poorer working memory, compared with those who are getting an ideal amount of zzz’s.
Sleeping an adequate amount is no longer optional in order to be successful. To save time later by being productive, take the time to sleep.
5) TRY NOT TO MULTITASK
Contrary to what many believe, or want to believe, multitasking doesn’t always make us more efficient. In fact, working on more than one complex task at a time reduces our productivity.
The American Psychological Association states that “psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking.”
Maybe you’ve experienced this while talking on the phone and getting your daughter’s breakfast ready while also trying to print an assignment.
It doesn’t work too well.
Rather than taking more time to do two things at once, section your tasks by type, such as answering all emails for 20 minutes and then switch to researching articles for a paper for 30 minutes, taking a brief break in between.
Fight the urge to complete several things at once and just take one assignment, task, activity at a time.
TAKE TIME TO THRIVE
Taking on new adventures like a college education is a time commitment. It will require sacrifice, but so do many things in life that are worth working toward. And with a little planning and discipline, you can spend your time pursuing your goals and thrive.
MAKING TIME FOR EDUCATION
If you’ve already got a busy schedule, you may wonder how you could possibly fit pursuing your education into the mix. But at Cornerstone University, degree programs are catered to the busy working adult. With the option of 100% online or on-campus one night a week, you can manage your time well and pursue your goals in the midst of a fast-paced world.