How I Manage My Time: Organization for the Naturally Disorganized

Time Management

gGetting organized was the thing I heard, in some variation, before the start of every school year. Our trips to the store to get school supplies seemed to convey that, the handing out of agendas in class every September seemed to convey that, my Dad telling me that the key to being successful in life was to “be organized and start early,” and yet, somehow, I missed the message.

My desk at school was always a mess, my homework was often late, I was often late, and my parents affectionately called me “Space Cadet” because I was so scatterbrained. I generally felt that I was always running behind my life and trying to catch up with it. Didn’t everybody?

The first time I truly “got” getting organized was in my second year of undergrad, and organization played a big part in my getting my first year of straight As.

One of the most valuable things getting organized taught me was that I can have control over my time.

Thanks to my Dad’s great tips, I’m rediscovering time management lately, and here’s what’s been working for me.

Keeping Track of Different Time Periods

I keep a system that tells me what I have to do in a month, a week/weekend, and a day. This keeps me from forgetting things and helps me to prioritize.

Here’s what I use:

  • Month: a 2017 calendar
  • Week: a 5 column, 5 row table with a bit of space for writing notes.
  • Weekend: a 2 column, 6 row table with a space for writing notes
  • Day: an Excel table divided into 15 minute increments and enough columns for each day of the week

Writing Things on Paper

I like paper because there is no crashing, lagging, or distractions. I keep copies of each part of my system and print out copies of what I need.

Here’s how I use them:

Monthly Calendar:

I use this mainly for school. I enter all due dates, lab dates, test dates, important dates (e.g. last day of the term), important notes (e.g. if a tutorial is cancelled) and write out what the topic will be on a given lecture day. After that, I calculate how many chapter sections I will need to read by each lecture in order to be on schedule with my reading and write these into the calendar too. This is tedious work, but I only have to do it once. It allows me to know what I have to do at a glance and enables me to do a small amount of work each day instead of freaking out and trying to read a massive amount of chapters before a test. The stress it helps me avoid is worth the trouble.

monthly-school-calendar
One of my old monthly school calendars. Orange was for major assignments, turquoise for minor assignments, green for tests, red for readings I had to complete on time, and yellow to mark important notes or events. I kept track of the week number on the far left. When things felt slow and difficult, it was a nice way to remind myself that time was actually passing.

Week & Weekend:

I print out the Word tables I made and pencil in a “topic” I need to work on for that week/end (e.g. a particular course, taxes) and jot down relevant tasks for a given day a week. This takes me less than 5 minutes. The topics might differ from week to week but I always include an “other” topic for miscellaneous things I need to do. I limit the size of the table and rows so I don’t have the space to overload myself with tasks.

Weekly Planner
My weekly goals for this week so far. I usually set goals each day instead of trying to plan out the whole week one time. The blank row at the bottom is where I write notes–usually things I’d like to do in future weeks. As a student, I tend to count the number of weeks in the semester and print out enough tables to cover each week. I leave space to note which week I am in (e.g. 7/14) so I can track where I am in the semester. My weekend table is the same as my weekday, except that it is for Saturday and Sunday only.

Keeping a Routine

My day-to-day life is so much better when I don’t have to think about every single detail of what to do and when.

This is why I use something as admittedly crazy as a 15 minute excel table.

I largely use my Excel table to fill in the fixed tasks in my schedule, such as sleeping, packing my bag, travel time, meals, prayers, class times, etc. This does two things: (1) allows me to get a realistic and visual idea of how much free time I actually have, (2) have a reference for a routine.

daily-routine-excel

I pull this up on my phone or look at a paper copy when I need to remember what to do. In addition, if I have a large amount of free time or things to do, I pencil in what I’ll do in a set period of time so I can make sure that things get fit in.

To make sure I follow through, I use timers on my phone. Once the time I set aside for the task is up, even if I wasted some (or all) of it, I try to force myself to move on to the next thing.

Conclusion

I’m not a naturally organized person, so sometimes this feels like a struggle, but it does allow me to get good results and achieve way more in a day than I would have otherwise.

How do you manage your time?

signature-1-c-300

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “How I Manage My Time: Organization for the Naturally Disorganized

  1. Sometimes simple is truly best! Also, I’m enjoying reading about your life in Mexico and finding out the little differences between life here (Canada) and there. Self-recycled paper instead of post its. Who knew?

  2. When I was your age, I used a purchased daily planner. That was what was available. As new technology emerged, I enjoyed the freedom and flexibility that came with it, particularly in lesson planning. Each year is different for a teacher, and I could change my format to reflect that. Now I am retired, and I have tried from time to time to set up a schedule or at least a to do list to make sure I get the important things done. So far it hasn’t worked well and maybe that is OK. I can after all go with whatever I want in a given day. Also I have to depend on my husband’s whims in addition to my own! I do maintain a calendar for appointments and if something is really important I put it on a self-recycled piece of paper as a reminder. (In Mexico, the back of a discarded paper, cut in squares, reigns over the more expensive post-it note.) And even better than my iPhone is my inside dog: she reminds me each day when it is time to go on a walk!πŸ˜‰

  3. What a great idea. I’m terrible at organising . I’m one of those that zooms around to get things done and then waste the rest of my precious time that I could use to my advantage. Thanks for sharing 😊 I need to plan my time better .

    1. Glad it’s helpful, Dewy! I’m guilty of the same. Once things settle down I start feeling like I have all the time in the world even though I don’t! I have to practice being organized but it does seem to get better over time. Best wishes in managing your time!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s