How Making Lists Improved My Time Management

If there's one thing we've all dealt with at some point in college, it's poor time management. You have assignments due, material to read, and it seems like there's just not enough time in a day. For a while, I envied all the people that seemed to have time to do every little thing, and then I decided to figure out why I didn't. The biggest thing that came up to me was is I wasn't making the most of the time I had available to do things. I have always been a faithful planner user; however, there were times I still felt like I didn't have my days planned out. When I'm grocery shopping I usually use a list and it helps me stay on track. I know where I'm going when I enter the store and what my next move should be. So why not utilize that with life in general? 

So I decided to start making to-do lists for every day.

It sounds daunting, trust me, I know. But it really isn't all that bad. It will probably take you less than 5 minutes to look at your planner or think about what you need to work on throughout the day. The keys to my lists are order and not leaving off seemingly small tasks. Even if it's something as quick as "Print XYZ" I'll include it. A lot of times I only have major due dates, readings, etc. listed in my planner, but I don't include the fact that I need time to print said assignment or send a copy to my professor. While these things shouldn't usually take up too much time, there's always the due date struggle where you arrive at the WEPA printer station and find that it's out of paper. Now you have to rush to another campus location to try and print an assignment and make it back to class before it's late.

Aside from reminding me of small tasks, my lists also help me to better manage my time in general. I know what my goals are for the day and I can allocate my time accordingly. I try to make my lists go in order of time relevance or size. If I'm working on things that will need to be turned in soon I try to do those first for obvious reasons. Other times, if I don't necessarily have anything due I decide what to work on based on size. If the task is probably going to extend over a period of time I will plan to work on it each day to meet a certain goal (ex. read 15 pages of 40 today). This usually puts me ahead of the game.

Since I started making lists I can definitely see an improvement in my time management. There are days when I make lists that seem a bit ridiculous, but when I start checking things off I realize how much I can really get done. Instead of wasting time figuring out what needs to be done or mistakenly thinking I've completed everything I already have it figured out in the morning. 

If you want to try the list method here are my top tips: 

  1. Make lists whenever you see fit. It doesn't have to be in the morning. Sometimes I don't make a list until after classes and I'm getting ready to work. 
  2. Use sticky notes. I love sticking them in my laptop because I use it so much throughout the day and they're hard to miss. 
  3. Don't feel bad if you don't complete everything! If anything that just gives you something to add you your next day's list. The goal isn't always to complete everything, but find time to do enough of it so that you're not stressed. You know yourself and your limits. Do not try to overwork yourself

You might also consider using a Day Designer. I just started using one this year and I love it because it basically combines my planner basics and list making into one. Each day is its own sheet with space for your top three goals of the day, an hourly schedule, a standard to-do (with boxes!), a tonight to-do box, and a space for gratitude.