Hidden Pockets of Time

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Balancing time with time management skills

Jaida DeMill, Sports Editor

Does it always feel like the clock is ticking and you are rushing to get things done? Too many tasks with too little time? When you get home from a busy day of school and work, it’s already 10 pm, you still have mountains of homework, and your room looks like a tornado hit it.  

Even if you have a crazy, busy schedule, I believe that throughout your day there are hidden pockets of time that can be found. So, what exactly are these hidden pockets of time I’m talking about? They are moments of spare time that we didn’t realize were there before. They can span from just five minutes to even an hour. Switching, adding, or limiting some things in your life can help you uncover these hidden pockets of time. 

As a busy student myself, I have tried several strategies to find pockets of time and improve my own time management skills. What I have learned is it’s not an easy task, but it’s well worth the effort! Here are some time management ideas I have personally put to the test and still continue to use. They can also help you discover more time and feel less stressed.

Stop Complaining 

Yes, things sometimes suck with life. Your teacher didn’t teach you in the way you learn, you hate folding laundry, or all of your teachers planned due dates on the same day. The list can go on and on. Complaining lets out negative emotions and sometimes you just need to rant! So give yourself five minutes right now to complain.

Now stop. Consider this: Did complaining change the fact that you need to get it done? Did complaining get rid of the problem? No, it didn’t. It’s out of your control, so complaining is not going to change what you need to do. 

One of the biggest time wasters is complaining all day about your task rather than sitting down and getting it out of the way. Complaining can turn into a source of procrastination. So, get started on what needs to get done. The time you would have spent complaining can turn into spare time that you didn’t know was there before!

Use Timers to Stay on Track

Using a timer helps you stay on track and not let distractions or too many breaks waste time. Breaks are helpful, but they become a problem when you are spending more time taking breaks rather than working. 

In addition to managing your breaks, using a timer is helpful if you work or think better under pressure. It puts a limit to how much time you spend on things and reminds you when you need to switch to a different task.

The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, is breaking your time into increments of 25 minutes of working and then a five minute break. Using this method is a productive way to work, prevents wasting time, and empowers your focus. This is one of my absolute favorite techniques to use because it splits my work up into more bearable amounts. For this method, there are several apps, such as Bold Focus, Pomodoro Hero, and Focus Keeper, that you can download and use. If not, you can just use a timer. 

Find Your Productive Place 

Leslie Josel, an academic/life coach for teens and college students, addresses a great idea in her book, ‘How to Do it Now Because It’s not Going Away.’ She suggests picking 5 unique places, other than your room, where you can go and work effectively. This allows you to change your scenery and not get bored while doing homework. 

Some places could be your kitchen, the floor, beanbag, couch, table, desk, etc. Don’t just consider the inside places, look outside too. There is no right answer to this! Pick the place that is least distracting, but motivating to work in. No person is the same, so don’t force yourself to work somewhere that is not effective for you.

Be extra cautious when picking your bed or room as a place to do homework! Josel said, “There is a very real possibility that you will eventually associate your bed with your schoolwork and all the not-so-happy feelings that go along with that. And in extreme cases that can lead to sleep issues.”

Associating school work and stressful situations with your bed can cause issues and negative feelings in your room. It also can make you become easily distracted by being too comfy and sleepy. If you do use your bed as a study place, reconsider it and try other places instead. 

Put your Phone Down

According to a study done by the University of Chicago, “Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity.”

In other words, constantly checking your phone or getting notifications takes your mind away from the tasks at hand, so you are unable to think properly.  You end up spending extra time trying to refocus to start all over again. Josel also explained in her book it takes about 20 minutes to refocus your brain after an interruption. 20 minutes! This is a huge time waster!

So how do you fix this problem? Put it away! Not face down on your desk or plugged in 10 feet away from you. Put it in another room or give it to someone that can hold you accountable. You will get homework and other tasks done faster, so you can later have spare time that day. 

Eat Breakfast and Drink Water

Although eating breakfast takes a little extra time in the morning, it improves your productivity and your ability to work with full power.

While discussing the importance of eating breakfast, Cynthia Cox, a Bingham athletic trainer and teacher said, “Your brain needs carbohydrates in order to function. That’s the number one energy source for your brain. So, eating [carbs] and then getting energy to your brain is going to help you be able to focus.”

In other words, eating a carb loaded, healthy breakfast allows you to work more efficiently. You’ll get things done quicker than when you would with an empty stomach. 

According to Cox, being dehydrated is the number one cause of daytime fatigue. It impacts your ability to focus and decreases your performance. So if you’re feeling a bit tired and unproductive when you get home from school, fill up that water bottle and get hydrated! 

Get Enough Sleep

Sacrificing sleep to get things done is not a time management skill.  No matter if you have so much to do, replacing work with sleep decreases your ability to be productive. 

Cox said, “In general, they say that your productivity is a combination of the last 72 hours of your nutrition and your sleep. So, if you are getting enough sleep, you’re not falling asleep in class…[and] you’re able to more effectively manage your time in order to get tasks done inside and outside of class.”

Sacrificing sleep is a short term solution that not just impacts that night, but has a negative consequence on the next few days. In the long term, one all nighter or late night can limit your performance abilities for about half of your week. 

Sleep also impacts your mentality and cognitive strength. Cox said, “ [If you sleep] you’re going to be more attentive to what’s actually going on. You’re not sitting in a brain fog where you might be listening, but not understanding.”

Sleeping helps clear your brain and sharpen your memory. This allows you to gain information quicker and retain it for longer periods of time. 

 

As I stated earlier, these are just a few ideas that I have personally tried and still love to do. There are so many other ideas out there, in addition to the ones listed, that can give you spare time and minimize stress. 

The one thing I would suggest is give each strategy a chance to change your life. Don’t just try it once. Doing it once isn’t going to magically give you these hidden pockets of time. Start with a strategy, no matter how small, and make it a routine. This will later become a habit and eventually a lifestyle. Getting started might take a little more time, but in the long run, you will find yourself with a more productive life that can still include having fun. So, believe in yourself and don’t give up. You got this!