Time Management Toolkit

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“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” –Paul J. Meyer


Graduate Readiness Toolkit: Time Management

HELLO AND WELCOME TO THE CEHD TIME MANAGEMENT TOOLKIT! You already know what we’re about to say -

Effective time management skills are essential for students. Without them, juggling classes and coursework with caretaking, a full or part-time job, and an occasional minute of social activity or wellness is close to impossible.

Students know this is true, and yet they often struggle to find the time to develop their time management skills.

Insert this toolkit.

Ironic, huh?

The CEHD Time Management Toolkit is designed to help you 1) better understand how you currently manage your time and 2) strengthen three of your most vital supporting skills for time management: prioritization, scheduling, and focus. Even better, it’s “on-demand,” so you can stop and start at times that work best for you.

You’ll need to dedicate about one hour total to complete this kit. Tackle the toolkit now and you’ll save hours, days, and maybe even weeks this semester.

In our unbiased opinion, it’s well worth it.

Ready to take back your time?



This section provides you with a base knowledge of what time management is, how effective your current skills are, and how we define the supporting skills we’ll discuss in this toolkit – prioritization, scheduling, and focus.

What is Time Management? In short:

Time management (noun): The analysis of how working hours are spent and the prioritization of tasks in order to maximize personal efficiency in the workplace.

How effective are your current time management skills? We’re glad you asked! Knowing your baseline will give you an idea of how much time and attention you should devote to developing your skills.

Take our Buzzfeed quiz to see how your skills measure up.


Graduate Readiness Toolkit: Time Management

What do we mean when we say prioritization, scheduling, and focus?


Let’s dig a little deeper: Time management is the way in which you organize your time spent on tasks set forth for each week, day, or hour. Time management can either make or break your experience on anything in life, from getting ready and getting to a dinner with your friends to completing a midterm assignment. What you do with your time minute-to-minute may seem small, but when we magnify those minutes into hours, and hours into days, the management of that time becomes your life. It is likely you have already implemented a time management toolkit into your lifestyle, but let’s take an inventory of those skills to build them, strengthen them, and continue to evolve them. Time management is a skill that will always be shifting. The time you have to manage changes with each phase of life and how you do so will change in accordance to your new goals. Where your time is being spent should be reflective of where you want to go next. Thus, as a graduate student, new or returning, the way you manage your time this year will be different from the last. This is why it is important to know how to assess your management skills 6

and make them fit for you. Before managing time, you need to manage your supporting skills. Do you know what is ahead of you? Without the organizational skills to be aware of your expectations there is nothing to manage except free time. Not only should you be organizing your thoughts, but also your priorities. The prioritization of tasks will lead you to manage your time most effectively and allow structure even on your most time-crunched of days. Consider balancing responsibilities an essential time management tool for your schedule and your wellbeing. Remember, “no” is a one-word sentence. Unexpected requirements will rear their ugly heads, but knowing where and when to opt-out can help you organize, prioritize, and manage your time. Lastly, your personal preferences are a key player in your time management toolkit. Maybe you are a list person. Maybe you keep everything in your smart phone. What about a planner!? The important thing is that you know what works for you on

Graduate Readiness Toolkit: Time Management

day one, and also what is still working for you on day 152 of the semester. Time management is not a one-size-fits-all set of tools, but a customizable toolkit put together with an assortment of skills and concepts. Successful time management will look and feel productive, will harness just the right amount of stress to ignite motivation, and will likely result in a formed routine. However, be aware that being busy does not always imply productivity. Be sure that your managed time is distraction free and that your free time, while still managed, doesn’t bleed into your production hours. Take inventory of your time to know where you are spending it and what your hours look like. Use this Time Management Toolkit to get a grasp of where you are, where you are going, and exactly how you want to get there. The foundational skills ahead of you will help you move forward successfully in your personal life, in CEHD, and moving forward.

PRIORITIZATION We’ve laid the foundation and now it’s time to cultivate skills! First up – prioritization.

. y l l a u q e d e t crea e r a s k s a t l l Not a There, we said it. “Not all tasks are created equally” means that while it is important to organize your kitchen pantry, it’s not productive to do that when you should be writing a paper. And while it is good to maintain proper hygiene, showering for two hours to avoid studying is a good way to do poorly on a test. We’ll even take it a step further – studying for the class you love is great, but doing it to avoid your other coursework is an issue. Be wary, CEHD students, productive procrastination is still procrastination, and it’ll take valuable time away from some of your most important tasks. One of the best ways to avoid procrastination is to practice your prioritization skills. Seeing your tasks properly ranked in front of you will give you a better understanding of not only what needs to be done, but what needs to be done now. It’s much harder to procrastinate or focus on the wrong task when you clearly see “less important” to-dos in their rightful place at the bottom of your list. Work through the tools on the next two pages to become a Prioritization Pro in no time!


CCreate a Master To-do List You’ll need to prepare your master to-do list of everything needing your attention before you can categorize it, so take a moment to do that now. You can use Microsoft To Do (available through your Mason email), Habitica (because gamification works), or a good ol’ pad of paper (for all of you “Why fix it if ain’t broke” type of people).

Apply the 4D Method

What’s the 4D Method, you ask? Read on and prepare for greatness.

C Rank your high-priority tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix Well done! You now have a list of high-priority tasks to work on. Sometimes it’s obvious which task you need to begin working on first. Sometimes it’s not. In the case of the latter, use the Eisenhower Matrix to assist in your decision-making process.

Download the matrix. 8

Graduate Readiness Toolkit: Time Management

CBe Ruthless You’ve used the Eisenhower Matrix and you still have multiple tasks that are both urgent and important? You busy bee, you! It’s time to cut the niceties. Ask yourself: If I had to absolutely stop working after completing only one task, which task would I choose? Seriously. You can only submit one paper, or study for one test, or complete one project. Which will it be? We often overschedule ourselves and underestimate how much time a task will take. This ruthless method of prioritizing helps get us back in balance. And if you’re fortunate enough to finish your one task with time to spare? Great! Now you can work on another high-priority task.

You’ve got 168 hours in each w eek. Where do they all go? Now that you have set your priorities straight, you’re probably wondering, “How do I find time to actually get this all done?” Well, you schedule accordingly. Before we dive into discussing practical tips on how to schedule, first you’ll need an accurate sense of what you currently spend your time on.

Take a moment now to fill out this 168-Hour Week calculator to see where your 24 hours in a day go.

If you end up with negative hours, use your new prioritization skills to decide on a few tasks to drop indefinitely.



Now that you’ve taken inventory of your time, it’s time to take the guesswork out of your day and create a daily or weekly schedule (a planner works just fine, or feel free to use one of these free schedule templates from Canva). Here are some guidelines to get you started:

Identify your time wasters and get rid of them. Making trivial decisions day after day is exhausting and wastes more time than you realize. Instead of waking up every day and deciding what to eat, select three different breakfast options and rotate them weekly. Instead of staring at the shampoo aisle trying to decide which one to get, pick a brand and stick with it until you have a reason to stop. Reducing these smaller, less important choices will help you reserve precious seconds for other, more important decisions.

Schedule your your non-negotiables first. This includes things like class, work, and yes, sleep.

Know your peak performance times. Peak performance time refers to the time of day when you are at your most focused and productive state. Take a moment to reflect on your average day and see if there’s a time you notice yourself working more efficiently. Now, plug in your most creative, analytical, and thoughtful high-priority tasks during that timeframe

Time block. Take a few minutes to group relevant tasks and put them side-by-side on your schedule. This will help you focus on one category at a time which will reduce the number of times you have to refocus on different, unrelated tasks. This will also help you dedicate time to what needs to be done instead of simply reacting to the demands of your peers or colleagues. 10

Graduate Readiness Toolkit: Time Management

Include time in your schedule for fun, reflection, and the unexpected. Many students set unrealistic expectations for themselves and are disappointed when they can’t study or work 24/7. We’re not designed to do that! Scheduling time for fun, reflection, and the unexpected will aid in well-being, remind you of your “why,” give you designated breaks that you won’t have to feel guilty about, and reduce your stress when an emergency pops up. As Charles R. Swindoll says, life is “10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

Practice saying “no.” If you noticed that too many of your 168 hours in a week are dedicated to things that shouldn’t be your priority, practice saying no and remove them from your calendar. Remember, more of your time spent as a student means less of your time spent elsewhere. Saying no to an outing with friends, a study session with classmates, or even a movie night with your partner is not selfish. For their sake and your own, it’s important you do not overcommit yourself.

Use dead time for menial tasks. The time you spend waiting for class to begin, waiting for a pot of pasta to boil, or even watching Friends for the 10th time adds up. Keep a list of 15-minute tasks at the ready and use that dead time to check some items off of your list. If you’re too tired to knock out a quick study session, then call your mom back, submit your grocery delivery order, or absentmindedly unload the dishwasher. You’ll be amazed at how much time is wasted waiting on your next “big” task! As you begin adjusting to your new, structured days, you may notice that you occasionally find yourself straying from your schedule. Sticking to a routine is hard! We hope that our final skill in this toolkit, “focus,” will help you stay on track.



Take a moment right now to observe your environment. How many tabs do you have open? How many conversations are you having (via chat text, or in-person)? How many tasks are you working o simultaneously?

Most folks have a similar response: a lot. It is often a point of pride in our overstimulated society. Unfortunately, juggling multiple responsibilities at once is not the best use of your time. Multitasking actually forces you to constantly switch your attention from one task to the other, often resulting in less productivity overall and worse results on all tasks. The solution to overcoming the “myth of multitasking” is to master the best time management hack there is – focus. Like all skills, focus requires practice and patience. Be assured, though, it will be worth it in the end. Ready to flex your focus? Get started with our recommendations below.

Try a Technique: Many people find the Pomodoro technique especially fruitful (“pomodoro” is Italian for tomoato – see what we did there). Why is it fruitful? Because it acknowledges a human’s need for a break and sets aside dedicated time for it. The method is simple, too:

Click here for an online Pomodoro timer! Need some noise while you’re working? Check out our Pomodoro Playlist, designed for 25 minutes of music that promotes focus followed by five minutes of fun for a break.


Graduate Readiness Toolkit: Time Management

t, on

Be BeNice nice to to your your Brain: Brain: If you catch yourself forgetting your train of thought halfway through a sentence or waiting a bit too long to stop at a red light on your morning commute, there’s a good chance you’re neglecting your brain. Respond to those warning signs by nurturing your brain using the practices below: · Sleep. Some people experience inadequate sleep due to illness; most simply don’t leave enough time for it. Sleep deprivation actually inhibits our brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other, which results in brief lapses, or as we often call it, “brain fog.” Getting adequate sleep ensures your brain can properly function, which results in enhanced focus that allows you to make meaningful progress on a task. · Play a brain game. There’s a reason we introduce kids to puzzles at a young age. Focusing intently on shapes, colors, individual pieces, and the “bigger picture” is an engaging way to hone concentration skills and increase creativity. You literally cannot finish a puzzle without giving your undivided attention to it, which is probably why many homes are decorated with half-finished puzzles! Maybe try starting on something that requires a little less commitment, like Sudoku. · Exercise. Exercise is great for your body AND your brain. We call that a “win-win” around here. Participating in even moderate exercise increases your brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. Not sure where to start? Register with Mason Burnalong and browse through hundreds of fitness videos!

Learn how not to get Distracted:

• Know your vision and goals – If you catch your attention straying too often, close your eyes for a minute and reflect on your “why.” This will remind you of your motivation and encourage you to move forward. • Visualize yourself working. Seriously, try it out! Visualize yourself doing what it is that you need to do. You’ll find yourself progressing before you even “get back to work.” • Get comfortable – don’t let your clothes, the temperature, or a missing water bottle deter your concentration! • Silence ALL notifications, even your work/student email (designate times during the day to check it) • Close out all tabs and zero in on the job COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT | 2020


Graduate Readiness Toolkit: Time Management

GO FORTH, TIME MANAGER, AND GET STUFF DONE! We could go on and on and on about time management but the time has come to let you get back to managing your time. We hope this Toolkit has given you the resources, advice, and encouragement you need to successfully prioritize, schedule, and focus on high-priority tasks as a student. Our Favorite Time Management Resources: Looking for additional resources to master your time management skills? Check out some of our favorite applications below. Antisocial - take control of your time by comparing your Smartphone usage to others and locking apps that you use too much Evernote – a single place for your notes, ideas, lists, and reminders Freedom – Like Antisocial, but for your computer. Reclaim your productivity by blocking certain apps and websites to focus on what matters most Microsoft 365 suite, including – Outlook calendar – Add to-dos to your calendar right from your email One Note – Searchable note-taking that integrates with your other MS applications Planner – Capture tasks, update progress, and work with a group Pocket – a place to “pocket” everything you want to learn more about but don’t have time for at the moment Things – Get things done by creating organized checklists for today, next week, or the year To-Doist – manage your to-do list easily, no matter what device you’re using Zotero – a faster way to collect, organize, cite, and share your research