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6 tips for effective time management

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 29 Jun 2021

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Juggling work, studying and exams is one of the biggest challenges students face. Boost your efficiency with our top tips.

1. Prioritise

There will be times when work comes first, and times when studying is more important. Prioritise your to-do list so that you deal with the most important and urgent tasks first – the Eisenhower or urgent/important matrix can be a useful tool for helping you decide. While multitasking might seem like a good skill to have, you’ll be more productive if you focus on just one thing at a time, so wait until you finish one task before starting another.

2. Plan

Whether you prefer an old-fashioned paper planner or a multifunctional app (see our guide to some of the best), put together a detailed schedule of tasks and deadlines. Get into the habit of updating your to-do list at the start of each day with all your tasks in priority order – being able to tick them off as you go will give a sense of accomplishment and can help keep you motivated.

3. Be productive

We all have certain times of day when we’re more alert and efficient, and it can be really useful to learn your patterns of productivity. Are you a morning person, or do you have a burst of energy in the evening? Identifying which times are most productive for you can help you use the whole day more effectively – try keeping a time log for the week to see how you currently spend your time.

4. Don’t procrastinate

It’s easy to lose focus, especially when you’re dealing with a difficult task – and never more so than when working and studying from home, where you’re surrounded by all sorts of temptations. Stick to your schedule, and minimise distractions when you really need to concentrate – shut yourself away if you can, ensure your workspace is clutter-free, and silence notifications or switch off your phone.

5. Take breaks

Part of staying focused and motivated is giving yourself a break, so plan down time into your work and study schedule. Try the Pomodoro technique, where you work solidly for a timed 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break – the theory being that you’ll make more concentrated progress when you know a break is coming. Make sure you take those breaks, too: stand up and stretch, take a quick walk or make a coffee before settling down again.

6. Practise saying no

Saying no can of course be difficult, but it’s crucial to prevent stress and overwhelm, and protect your physical and mental health. Plan ahead: let colleagues and managers know when you’ve got busy periods coming up, and politely refuse to take on additional tasks if you feel you’re already at capacity. Delegate to others where possible, too – it will not only free up your time, but also help them feel like they’re contributing effectively.


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