10 Essential Time Management Lessons

Whether you’re starting your new career or getting stuck into job hunting, as a new graduate you need the ability to self-motivate. There’s a lot to fit into every day, so here are some of our top tips for managing your time.

1. You can be productive before breakfast

Before breakfast is a great time to focus on a small task without getting overwhelmed by the day stretching out ahead of you. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve already gone for a run and had a shower, or if you’re in your pyjamas, clutching a cup of coffee with your laptop on your knees – you can still start your day with one item ticked off your list. 

2. A day plan is vital

A to-do list is a useful tool, but a day plan is better. Breaking your day down into time slots and assigning tasks to each of them will help you stay on track.

3. Every task is an appointment with yourself

It’s important not to let one task stretch to fill up all your time. When it’s time to move on to the next thing, treat it like an appointment you can’t be late for. If you have to scrabble to finish the thing you’re working on, that’s fine – time pressure is a great motivator.

4. Breaking tasks down makes them more manageable

Say you have an online job application to do. That’s a big chunk of your day, and is hard to organise. It’s much more manageable if you break it down into separate tasks, such as:

  • update and upload CV
  • fill in personal information and employment history
  • write answer for application question 1
  • write answer for application question 2
  • write answer for application question 3
  • check and submit

5. There’s no such thing as checking Facebook occasionally...

...That also goes for Twitter, Instagram, YikYak and all other social media timewasters. If you want to be productive, logging out is the only option.

6. Perfectionism can be a dangerous obsession

Compulsively editing your project, changing the font, googling for that last elusive statistic - we've all been there. Chances are, it's a more sophisticated way of procrastinating. Yes, quality control is crucial, however like everything else in life, there are limits. Keep your eye on the bigger picture.

7. You should plan to be early for every deadline

If you plan to be on time, you’ll be late. If you plan to be early you’ll probably be on time.

8. You need buffer time in your schedule

On the same note, it helps to plan some buffer time into your day when you can finish off items that take longer than you expect – perhaps an hour before lunch and an hour at the end of the day. If you don’t need it, you can spend the time relaxing and feeling good about yourself.

9. Big decisions are best made early in the day

As the day goes on and you get more tired, it becomes harder to make decisions with a clear head. You’re often better off sleeping on it. Make your decisions in the morning when you’re feeling fresh.

10. Friendships take time too

At university, friendships happen on their own. You and your friends attend the same lectures, eat in the same places, share flats and study together. After university, you need to make time to keep in touch. It might seem unnatural to put friends on your to-do list, but your work-life balance will be better for it.