08 February 2010

Time on the clock

Time management is crucial in sports and at universities these days. Crowds clamber for coaches to call time out or to stall and use up all the clock if their side is ahead by a goal or two. As I blog today I'm watching the US gridiron contest, the grand final, The Superbowl between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. It's taking place at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida next to Ft Lauderdale.

As the first half ended the crowd was not happy with the decision of the coach for New Orleans, but he was vindicated as their kicker helped trim the Colts' lead to 10-6 at the interval.

Many students will be back in the classroom tomorrow, and I have some advise on time management.

1) Blocks of study time and breaks
Try to use blocks of study time every week. Blocks ideally are around an hour, but maybe you become restless after only 15 minutes? Some difficult material may require more frequent breaks. Shorten your study blocks if necessary—but don’t forget to return to the task at hand! What you do during your break should give you an opportunity to have a snack, relax, or otherwise refresh or re-energize yourself. For example, place blocks of time when you are most productive: are you a morning person or a night owl?

2)Dedicated study space
Determine a place free from distraction (no mobiles or SMS) where you can maximize your concentration and be free of the distractions that friends or hobbies can bring! You should also have a back-up space that you can escape to, like the library, a study center, your folks' house, even a Gloria Jeans where you can be anonymous.

3) Weekly reviews
Each week, like on Sunday afternoon, review your assignments, your notes, your calendar. Be sure that as deadlines and exams approach, your weekly routine must adapt to them!

4) Prioritize your assignments and work
When studying, get in the habit of beginning with the most difficult subject or task. Always do the hard thing first! You’ll be fresh, and have more energy to take them on when you are at your best. For more difficult courses of study, try to be flexible: for example, build in “reaction time” when you can get feedback on assignments before they are due.
Blessed are the flexible; they do not break.

5) Get something done.
The Chinese adage of the longest journey starting with a single step has a couple of meanings: First, you launch the project! Second, by starting, you may realize that there are some things you have not planned for in your process. Details of an assignment are not always evident until you begin the assignment. Another adage is that “perfection is the enemy of good”, especially when it prevents you from starting! Given that you build in review, roughly draft your idea and get started! You will have time to edit and develop later.

6) Postpone unnecessary activities until the work is done!

Don't be distracted. Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until your school work is finished! This can be the most difficult challenge of time management. As learners we always meet unexpected opportunities that look appealing, then result in poor performance on a test, on a paper, or in preparation for a task. Distracting activities will be more enjoyable later without the pressure of the test, assignment, etc. hanging over your head. Think in terms of pride of accomplishment. Instead of saying “no” learn to say “not now”.

7) Identify resources to help you
Maybe you need to find people or books or websites. Are there tutors? An “expert friend”? Have you tried google to get better explanations? Are there specialists in the library that can point you to resources? What about professionals and professional organizations. Using outside resources can save you time and energy, and solve problems.

8) Use your free time wisely
Take blocks of time for study and do the same with exercise. Take 3 hours for the gym and don't feel guilty. Play an extra set of tennis. But you will still have extra time. And it won't be a block. So what do you do? Think of times when you can study "bits" as when walking, riding the bus, etc. Perhaps you’ve got music to listen to for your course in music appreciation, or drills in language learning? If you are walking or biking to school, when best to listen? Perhaps you are in a line waiting? Perfect for routine tasks like flash cards, or if you can concentrate, to read or review a chapter. The bottom line is to put your time to good use.

9) Review notes and readings just before class
This may prompt a question or two about something you don’t quite understand, to ask about in class, or after. It also demonstrates to your teacher that you are interested and have prepared. I'm not talking about cramming, that is putting things into your head that never were there during the term.

10) Review lecture notes just after class
Then review lecture material immediately after class. The first 24 hours are critical. Forgetting is greatest within 24 hours without review! Use another method of review, like re-writing your notes, or studying with another person. Using another sense, like hearing will also help.

Hope this all helps. It certainly is helping the Saints.

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