How to Manage Time and Set Priorities

Time sheduling

Key Point
Good time management means defining priorities and scheduling activities

What Are the 3 Rules for Effective Time Management?

  1. Don’t create impossible situations.
  2. Define priorities.
  3. Avoid distractions and lack of focus.

Don’t Create Impossible Situations.

Don’t get trapped into doing too much. Don’t try to work full time and take a full load. Don’t take too many lab classes. Use time to create success, not failure. Be realistic about school. For most classes, plan to study 2 hours for every 1 hour of class.

Make time your friend
not your enemy.

Identify your first priority classes and do whatever it takes to succeed. Drop second priority classes or reduce work hours if necessary.

Define Your Priorities Using the 3-List Method.

All time management begins with planning. Use lists to set priorities, plan activities and measure progress. One approach is the 3-list method.

List #1 – The weekly calendar.
Create a weekly calendar. Make it your basic time budgeting guide. List your courses, work, study time, recreation, meals, TV, relaxation, etc.

Plan to study first priority classes when you work best. Be flexible, adapt your schedule to changing needs. Keep your schedule handy and refer to it often. If it doesn’t work, change it.

List #2 – The daily “Things to Do”.
Write down all the things that you want to do today. Note homework due or tests or subjects you want to emphasize. Include shopping and personal calls, etc.
This list is a reminder. Use it to set daily priorities and to reduce decision-making and worry. If time is tight, move items to your long-term list.

Rewrite this list each morning. Use visualization to help you focus on what to do. This list is also a measure of your day-to-day success. Check off items as you finish them and praise yourself for each accomplishment.

List #3 – Goals and other things.
This can be one or two lists, a monthly list and or a long-term list. Put down your goals and things you have to do. What do you want to accomplish over the next month or year? What do you need to buy?

Use this list to keep track of all your commitments. If you’re worried about something, put it on this list. The purpose of this list is to develop long-term goals and to free your mind to concentrate on today.

Avoid Distractions and Lack of Focus.

Time is precious. Yet many people waste time by getting stuck in one or more of the following habits.

Procrastination – putting off important jobs.

Crises management – being overwhelmed by the current crisis. No time for routine matters.

Switching and floundering – lack of concentration and focus on one job.

Television, telephones and friends – these are all ways of avoiding work.

Emotional blocks – boredom, daydreaming, stress, guilt, anger and frustration reduce concentration.

Sickness – getting sick and blowing your schedule.

In all of these cases, the first step is to recognize the problem and resolve to improve. Use priority lists to focus attention. Try positive self-talk. To avoid distractions, find a quiet place to study, the library or a study hall. Get an answering machine.

2.           Write out and set your priorities

List three goals or objectives that are most important to you, and indicate whether they are long range, medium range, or immediate:

 long rangemedium rangenow!

3.            Schedule within your school calendar

How much time have you set aside to meet each goal during your week?


Does your time allocation reflect the priority of your goals?


Can you change your hourly commitments to meet your priorities?


Where do you have the most flexibility:  weekdays or weekends?
Can you change one or the other?  or both?


Can you change your goals?  What are your options?


Can you postpone any goals until school breaks?


How will assignments and tests affect your time allocation?
What can you change to meet your class responsibilities?


4.        Managing by exception

This is the big picture, don’t include too much detail)

  • Pick up a copy of  your school’s term/semester calendar
  • Develop a calendar of important dates for your classes: 
    Tests, papers, projects, readings, mid-term and final exams, holidays, breaks, study days, etc.
  • Enter important dates for your social and family life
  • Each week develop a daily schedule that includes routines and important dates
  • Post this schedule in your study area 
    for referral and review, and to mark your progress
  • Each evening develop a schedule
    to help you organize the next day, include routines, errands and important appointments
  • Review each day’s schedule that morning

Managing by exception
Work on those matters that are critical to you, and leave matters to others that are not.  Strategizing and prioritizing

Example:  You tutor a child in math.  You become aware that the family situation is troubled, but you haven’t the skills to help.  You inform the case manager for their action, but continue to focus on the supporting the child with his/her homework Review how you spend your timein order to help you prioritize your goals and objectives.


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