Time management

Distance learning, the home office among the study forms, sounds quite tempting. No attendance necessary, no annoying teachers or fellow students, studying when, where and how you want! You are your own master and you create your own schedule. But that can be a problem too, because most of us tend to delay unpleasant things (like studying). And before you know it, you have an exam ahead of you and do not know, where the time between the beginning of the semester and the present day has gone. We encounter problems like this in many areas of our lives and in order for that not to happen to you, I will tell you, how I plan my schedule for studying and for other tasks.

First of all, it’s important to get an overview of what’s awaiting you as early as possible. As a student, it makes sense to use a semester as planning horizon. Once you know your important fixed dates, such as work and exams, you can start to plan your schedule. Whether you’re using a calendar, writing down your schedule, or simply want to keep it in mind depends on your personal preferences. It is also up to you how detailled you want to plan in advance. Personally, I usually plan ahead very roughly and mark only important dates, the rest of my schedule, I always keep in mind.

After considering your fixed dates, you can start sorting your upcoming tasks. I usually sort them by the date on which they have to be done, the tasks whose deadline is due at the earliest date first. Based on this breakdown, there are 2 options. Either you plan with the time you have left to complete the task, or you estimate the time it takes to complete the task.

The former has the advantage, that you can create detailed milestones to see if you are on schedule. Basically, you take the time that is still available to you and evaluate, how much you have to do and when you have to do it in order to complete your task on time. That way, you can create a schedule that you can work through successively. I would recommend to plan with many close milestones. You can set, for example, daily goals.

The second method is slightly more complicated, as you have to be able to estimate in advance, how long you will need to complete a task, but in my view it has the advantage, that you can plan your schedule with more flexibility. Since I know pretty well how long I need to finish certain tasks and flexibility is really important for me, I prefer this method. For example, I usually plan to work through one script a week, or through all of my scripts within 2 months. “Rough” milestones like these allow for a lot of flexibility, as I do not specify how much I have to do per day.

The former method is certainly better for you, if you have a hard time motivating yourself, since you can set short-term goals, which you can check off consecutively. The second method is your method of choice, if you want to keep your schedule more flexible. Of course, you can also use the second method to set daily goals, but you have to be able to estimate very well how fast you work. Conversely, you can use the first method with long-term goals only as well, but using a more detailed or strict method for planning a flexible schedule is more cumbersome than using a flexible method in the first place.

In both cases: Plan generous time buffers! Especially with a long planning horizon, something unplanned always comes up, and a task that has been completed too early, has not harmed anyone yet, time pressure right before a deadline on the other hand has! Also, remember to plan time for breaks, friends and family.

Now your schedule is complete and there is only one last point to keep in mind: Stick to it! If you have been honest with yourself while planning your schedule and have come to a realistic schedule, then you can do it! To keep you motivated to stick to your schedule, you can plan small rewards for yourself. For example, after working through a long milestone, you can plan to watch the latest episode of your favorite series and combine it with a short break.

If you notice in between, that you can not keep up with your schedule, don’t be afraid to revise it. If necessary, your temporal buffers may be reduced, but this will help you to plan your next schedule even more accurate.
If you are lacking motivation while working through your schedule, then you can read here how you can motivate yourself: 5 tips on how to motivate yourself.

I hope this article could help you for planning your schedule! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.
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