Someone once told me that time management doesn’t exist as you cannot manage time, it is something you can’t control. You can control, however, yourself, so what you need to be doing instead is self-management.
Of course, it doesn’t take away the fact that we still have to know how to set up our schedules. In the second half of this blog, you’ll be reading about how to do time blocking to make the most out of your day.
If you ever find yourself asking how to extend your 24 hours in a day, you can’t. That’s because the time we have in a day is finite. It’s beyond our control. What we can control, however, is ourselves. How we discipline ourselves, how we motivate ourselves, and how we put to action our goals – is what makes self-management the real solution.
Ever felt like you’re constantly losing time but you’re not really doing anything? Are there times where you feel like you don’t know what to do but there’s SO much you have to do? Self-management can help you with those.
Remember though, productivity is not the end-all-be-all, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like you’ve failed! Self-management is a skill and just like any other skill, you can learn it as a beginner, and master it along the way.
So the question is, how do you do self-management? How do you learn self-management skills? Here are a few ways:
1 | To master self-management, you have to know your “Why” (It’s cliché cause it’s true!)
I’m sure you’ve probably heard that tip somewhere but a purpose really is the start of everything. If your reason is to become a better person, why do you want to become a better person? If you want to help and serve other people, why do you want to help and serve other people? If you want to earn money, why do you want to earn money? If you want to become productive, why do you want to become productive?
I really believe we shouldn’t strive to be productive for the sake of being productive. Here’s my example: I want to earn money because I want financial security. I want to serve and help people because I believe in God and I believe that’s what He would want me to do. I want to do my work because I see meaning in it and it helps other people. So on, and so forth.
If you know your “why”, you have something to remind yourself whenever doubts and challenges would arise. A strong answer is a strong foundation, and strong answer is subjective. Don’t depend on other people’s why’s. You know yourself best.
Related: 13 Reasons Why Choose Architecture
2 | With self-management, your action LEADS to motivation and not the other way around.
One of the reasons why the first step is the hardest is because we tend to not have any motivation. It’s a usual thing, we feel lazy and we tend to think we need some inspiration before we move – but that’s not always the case.
The key to motivation is to move. Just do it. Start the thing you’re procrastinating on. You might have heard someone say that things aren’t as bad or as daunting as they may seem. You can see why the first step is the hardest in this. Once you get it going, you build that momentum, making it less and less hard to continue.
I have a study routine. It’s a set of things that I would do before I get studying. I first clean my room and my bag, I set the right room temperature and turn on my diffuser with my favorite essential oils, and then I dim the lights. I find myself that when I do these things, I just start to get in that mood of working, even if I didn’t have any motivation or was feeling lazy prior. Sometimes, it also helps to listen to good music! If you’re a girl boss looking for some tunes, check out 13 Songs for the Girl Bosses here!
And although there are some days where I don’t need to do any of that, the days where I feel the most motivated to do some work, I can’t just sit around waiting for days like that to come by. I have to take control of myself and because I can, so can you!
Related: 7 Tips to Keep Yourself Motivated
3| Self-Management requires practice, practice, practice!
Just like any other skill, in order to get good at it, we have to practice. Constantly. How do you practice? You practice whenever you feel lazy. You practice whenever you feel unmotivated. You practice whenever you are tempted to procrastinate.
It’s discipline. The more you practice discipline, the more you decide to take control of your actions and not let laziness or distractions control you. I can’t promise that it will get easier, but with practice, at least we get used to it. We get used to doing things that make us uncomfortable but these things are what will help us grow. Isn’t that why we want to do self-management in the first place?
We can take control. You can take control – of your changing your environment, changing your priorities, and changing your habits one at a time. We can decide on it, and remember that choosing not to do anything is a decision itself. What choice will you decide to do today?
The saying, “practice makes perfect” makes perfect sense. Tip #2 is related to tip #3 in a way of helping overcome perfectionism which is sometimes the cause for the lack of motivation. We fail at self-management because we’re too afraid to start thinking of the end result – it just might not be good enough!
I also have struggled with perfectionism especially being in an architectural school in a top university where everyone around you just seems to be so good at what they do! I had this belief back then, I thought that what good would my work be if it’s not the best quality? If it’s not 100%? Well, the answer is, we don’t perfect things on the first try. We need constant repetition of the act or the work in order to “perfect” it or improve our competence in it.
We also don’t get disciplined on the first day, not even in the first week, or in the first month! There are different studies on habits and I believe that to be disciplined is a habit. It takes time. I’m not always productive and I’m not always proud but it’s important to know that these things or changes take time. I believe what matters is that knowing we can decide on things we can control and that we actually try to take action to get to our goals.
4 | To practice self-management is to think about one thing at a time
Whenever I find myself overwhelmed by a series of tasks I have to finish and places I have to go to, I tell myself to breathe and focus on one thing at a time only. The future will work on itself as long as I do my job of working in the present. You won’t be able to manage yourself well if you’re constantly thinking of hundreds of things, if you’re constantly worrying of things of the future and of the past, of the things beyond your control.
This is why listing things is important. List your priorities in order. List your to do’s day per day. Don’t just rely on memory as they don’t only take up headspace, they also take up energy and focus as well. Focusing on one thing at a time can be helped by doing time blocking in your schedule. This is where the importance of time blocking comes in.
How I Use Time Blocking (in order to relieve myself of stress!)
I have a love-hate relationship with this one. I personally think I don’t work well with pressure but instead, I work better when I feel like I am ahead of things and not cramming everything in blocks. Now, why do I have a love-hate relationship with time-blocks? It’s because it sets or gives pressure. It makes you realize you really don’t have all the time in the world. But that’s okay. We all have to learn how to work with a little bit of pressure.
Step 1: List your priorities, in order.
For example, my priorities are:
- Other relationships
Listing them enables you to organize your thoughts and be mindful of what and who you are working for. Listing them in order helps you prioritize and know which comes first especially in times of clashing.
Step 2: Observe and reflect on your actual work time
How long does it take for you to finish a task? To finish an assignment? To travel or commute? Etc. This will help you gauge the time you will allot for each task.
Step 3: Schedule in first the time slots that are beyond your control.
These are, for example, your classes or working hours, appointments, etc. Include in them your commutes. I personally include a multiplier when scheduling commutes and tasks. I will discuss this further below.
Step 4: Schedule in your leisure or the things you look forward to.
I watched a TED Talk before about what the top students do and you can watch it through this link. It’s relation to this step is also seen in the video’s 4th point: to plan your life first before you plan your study time.
Whenever I schedule my leisure first, I already know that there are things I can look forward to even if the rest of my tasks seem daunting. I would have to have the other things get done first in order to actually enjoy the leisure activities (or optional events of enjoyment).
Step 5: Schedule your other tasks. (Use a multiplier and reduce friction)
The last thing I do when doing time blocks is to schedule the tasks that I actually need to get done on my own time. Whenever I schedule things, I use a multiplier since there’s a study saying whenever we think we can finish something in an x amount of time, it actually takes longer than that. I use x1.5 as the multiplier. If I think I would finish a task in an hour, I will actually schedule it for 1 and a half hours. If I think I will finish it in 2 hours, I will schedule it for 3 hours. So on, and so forth.
Of course, if the tasks are absolutely undesirable but we just really have to get it done, it’s time to reduce the friction. Its undesirability can be considered friction and therefore we can try to find ways to make it more desirable or less daunting. For example, I like to work in coffee shops (that are not too noisy or far from home), or I go to a library.
Personally, I think coffee shops are more desirable than libraries as I can get to have a delicious drink and food with me while I work. You can also make yourself your fave drink at home or have your fave snack ready before you get the work done. There are different ways to lessen friction. You can experiment here and there.
Step 6: Find out what works for you through experimentation.
Don’t be hard on yourself. If your first schedule didn’t work out, try another. But before you make a change, reflect first on why it didn’t work out. It took me a lot of tries before I was able to figure out what works for me. At the end of the day, we all just really have to see what works best for us.
This time blocking method helps me relieve stress by being able to gauge how much it will take for me to get things done, how flexible I could get, or how much adjustments I need to make.
Tips of Self-Management
- Know your “Why”
- Action leads to motivation
- Self-management requires practice, practice, practice
- Think about one thing at a time
How to Use Time Blocking to Relieve Stress
- List your priorities in order
- Observe and reflect on your actual work time
- Schedule in first the time slots that are beyond your control
- Schedule your leisure or the things you look forward to
- Schedule your other tasks, use a multiplier or reduce friction
- Find out what works for you through experimentation
These are some of the things I actually do on my day-to-day to help me get through being an architecture student who still goes out with family, friends, and loved ones and get to participate in organizations inside and outside the university. I’ve been juggling a lot since the first year at uni and I really hope at least one of these things will be of help to you.
Related: 5 Ways to Boost Productivity at Uni
It’s also a summary of the things that have stuck with me from reading books and articles, listening to audiobooks, watching TED Talks, and others. Remember what I’ve said though, at the end of the day, we just really got to find out what works best for us.
Any of these tips helpful? Feel free to share more down in the comments! Feel free to share it with your fellow freshmen architecture students. You can sign up for our newsletter for more exclusives on How to Succeed in Architecture School!