It’s been over a week since I last posted and in that week I’ve been very busy with schoolwork and exam prep (not to mention catching up after being at NCUR for the better part of a week). It’s been hard for me to get time to do anything besides stay in step with my work, but necessity is the mother of invention and so I’ve managed to learn some lessons that help me to squeeze out a little more useful time out of each day. It helps that I’m on a fairly tech-savvy college campus and hence no more than a few short minutes away from computer with a network connection. This post is devoted to how to make the best use of computer time when there is a ton of other stuff to do.
1. Timebox communication
Timeboxing is a time management strategy where you put together all related tasks into a single (slightly large) time slot and get them done all together. More importantly, when time is up you stop and move on to other things no matter what’s left. This isn’t the best strategy for all things (like any creative work), but it works great for more mundane things. Since most of my communication is electronic, timeboxing works very well. I have 30 minutes in the morning and another 30 minutes to an hour in the evening where I sit down with all email and Facebook messages and get everything cleared out. I don’t check my email in between unless there’s something urgent.
2. Keep work online
College students are always on the move. One great way to squeeze more out of the day is to not have to go back to your room to get your work. Keeping most of your work online means that you can get a little work done whenever you have a network connection (and for most college campuses you’re never too far from one). This doesn’t work if you need a textbook, but can be good for writing papers or doing online research.
3. Don’t be afraid to disconnect
In contrast to my last point, the internet can easily become distracting and disconnecting can be the only way to actually get work done. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug if it’s cutting into worktime.
4. Use calendars and reminders
With a mass of deadlines looming, it can be easy to forget what comes when and have everything just coalesce into an indistinguishable mass. Having a good calendar with some sort of reminder feature is absolutely essential. I use Google Calendar and for the past few weeks it’s been a lifesaver. I use it to schedule out my time as well as keeping track of deadlines. Scheduling is probably the best way to make sure that useful time doesn’t go to waste. Of course, you actually do need to follow the schedules that you make for yourself.
5. Keep notes on a computer
This is most helpful if you do it throughout the semester, but can be especially useful right before exams. Notes for classes are much easier to reorganize and structure if they’re electronic and print-outs are certainly easier to read. This doesn’t always work out for diagrams, but for plain text there’s almost no reason not to do it.