Time management

For students: how to identify and avoid time wasters

It is human to waste time on things – everyone does it to some extent but the difference is being able to recognise when you do so you can retrace your steps and recharge batteries.

There are two types of time-wasters to be considered here: self-inflicted, and external time wasters. Identify them and do something to alleviate them. It may not be possible to eliminate completely but they can be minimized.

The self-inflicted time wasters include:

a.  Procrastination

Every human has the tendency to put off tasks that are boring, difficult, or disagreeable and sometimes even the important ones. As a student/person who is fond of putting off for later what you can do now, there is a need to consider ways to deal with it before it becomes destructive (I am also guilty of this).

Set a deadline – and stick to it! Use prompts, reminders, and ‘post it’ notes and stick them where you can easily see them, so you don’t forget to do your task(s). You can also promise yourself a reward when you complete a task to provide encouragement and a record of success, but ensure the reward is linked to the successful completion of a task. If the work is overwhelming or heavy, consider dividing it into smaller chunks so that you can manage it.

b.  Perfectionism

It is good to do a good job but it becomes a problem when you become so engrossed in trying to do something so perfectly that there is no time for other important tasks. When you spend a reasonable amount of time on a job, think of the consequences it has on other things. It is bad when you spend so much time trying to improve on what you have already completed.

c.   Disorganisation

If you are disorganized, untidy, unable to find things on your table, please work on it. Tidy yourself up – it saves you time to do some other things instead of wasting time looking for your books, pens, and files. Focus on one task at a time, get it done before going into something new. Even if you are interrupted, try and complete it.

d.  Worries

It is natural and easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of study needed for a course, or the job on your table, but it is better to use your energy productively to achieve as much as possible, rather than being overwhelmed by worry. Avoid spending time worrying about lectures, assignments and the notes to be covered. If you are able to divide the tasks into smaller tasks and keep yourself busy planning, organizing, and executing the work, there will be no time to worry because the work would have been completed.

e.  Over-commitment

Try to be selfish by being able to say ‘no’ to frivolities. Saying no to a friend asking you out for a drink should not be offensive. Remember that this is your passport to a great and rewarding future so remind yourself of the need to complete your studies successfully and with good grades. You can offer an alternative like; tell them that you are busy right now, but would like to go at the weekend and, don’t forget to appreciate them!

f.   Lack of priorities

If you have not prioritised your activities or your demands, you may find yourself doing so many things at the same time thereby causing confusion. At the end of the day, you may end up concentrating on trivialities, leaving behind the important ones. That is why it is important to have daily and/or weekly schedules.

g.  Laziness

Some of us are so lazy that we prefer to sleep, or watch television, rather than spend time studying or working and before we know it, it becomes too late.

External time wasters include;

a.   Telephone/Internet

This is a serious time waster because a call may bring to an end a task you were trying to complete or reduce the time set aside for the task. If you are busy, you can ask the person to call back; offer to call back when you are free; take a message or use an answering machine or call forwarding; or alternatively, put the phone off till you complete your work.

b.   Visitors

Reject visitors politely, but firmly, except when they are extremely important. If you have student visitors, tell them you are busy, but could meet them at some other time.

c.  Television

It is very easy to be tempted to watch more television than you intended to but be careful. If you are a fan of a particular soap or sport, watch them but don’t be lured into watching the remaining programs for the evening.

d.  Travelling

Do not travel unnecessarily, and for unimportant things or reasons. If you are travelling on public transport, use that time to read one of your course notes or write notes. Do not waste that time staring out of the window, or sit there angry and fuming because the bus is running late.

e.  Waiting

Sometimes you can waste a lot of time waiting – for the doctor, your lecturer, or even other students. Do something useful with the time, like reviewing your lecture notes, or reading other books.

f.   Crises

We face several challenges and crises in our daily lives; some are beyond our control, while some are avoidable. For example, a health crisis can make one miss a semester or even an academic year.

g.   Social Media

This is a terrible time-waster, especially for today’s students. A student would rather spend time chatting, gossiping, and doing all sorts on social media rather than studying. It is no longer surprising to see a student chatting while the teacher is before him or her teaching.

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