Managing my time was probably one of the hardest things about university for me.
In sixth form and school, managing my time was never as much as a problem because I only had a weekend job and I was living at home. Moving to university meant I suddenly had a lot more responsibilities – I had to cook and clean for myself, work, and study. It felt like I didn’t have enough time to do all that and still enjoy the social side of university.
To begin with, I prioritised my social life because I didn’t know anybody, so I wanted to make sure I made some friends. Doing this resulted in piles of dirty laundry in my room and bad grades! What I’ve learned during my three years at university is that you need to find a balance and that your work/life/study balance may not be the same as someone else’s.
During my second year at university, one of my friends told me about the 5 ‘W’s of time management. I have no idea where it came from but it is something that has really helped me in my final year. I don’t know if anyone remembers having to write stories in English at school, but I was always told to consider the ‘who, why, what, when and where’. The 5 ‘W’s of time management follow those five same principles:
Who? The who refers to who are you doing this for? You are the only one who can make your goals happen. Are you doing this for yourself and your own success or is it going to help someone else? Perhaps a family member, friend, or colleague? Knowing who I am going to positively effect by doing a task helps to keep me motivated in getting it done.
Why? Why isn’t just referring to why are you doing the task in hand. For example, why am I doing this assignment? Because if I don’t, I won’t pass the module. Instead, try to think about the bigger why. I am doing this assignment because it will help me get the degree I need to reach my career goals.
What? This part is pretty simple. What do you need to do to complete this task? Create a plan and know exactly what you’re going to do to make it happen. That way you won’t be caught off guard by finding out there’s more that needs to be done.
When? Knowing how much time tasks are likely to take, and setting aside certain times to do them, will stop you feeling guilty when you’re prioritising spending time with your friends and family. When I’m not organised and don’t have a plan, I spend my evening with my friends worried that I won’t have enough time to do what I need to do.
Where? Knowing where you will be able to complete these tasks is necessary. If I have an assignment due which is likely to take me six hours or so, if I’m sat in bed trying to do this assignment it’s going to take me more like ten hours to complete. Having a desk, a quiet space or even going to the library can make you work much more efficiently.
These principles not only help me to manage my time but they also help me to stay motivated if there’s a task that I really don’t want to do. For me, the who and why are the most important. Who am I doing this for? It is usually myself and my own development, and that made me realise that no one else will do it for me – I must take charge of my own development. The why also massively helps me because I am very ambitious, therefore reminding myself of the reasons I’m working so hard helps me to stay on track.