How to manage your workload
Learn how to make the most of your time
Working and revising on your own can be tricky, especially if you are juggling multiple things, like homework for several subjects and some personal projects. Here are some top tips on managing your workload to help you use your time effectively.
Why is it important?
Learning to manage your workload and time effectively is a great life skill. We all have moments when we have a lot of work to do, and things can pile up. Making sure you don’t get overwhelmed in these situations and are still able to get everything done to a good standard is really useful.
It is also very important for your mental health and well-being, because if you are able to avoid feeling overwhelmed with work, you will be a lot less stressed.
Here are some of our top tips when it comes to managing your workload.
Top tip one: set goals
It’s always good to know what your goals are for the short, medium, and long term, both big and small. This gives you something to aspire to, and also means you are always working towards something specific, and not aimlessly.
Having concrete aims also means you can think better about what you need to do to achieve them. This works whether it’s an academic goal (‘I want to get an A grade in this exam’) or a personal one (‘I want to learn to play the saxophone’). Here are some ways you can set goals for yourself:
- Assign your goals into categories. In the example above, we’ve identified two types of goals: personal and academic. Your goal categories could include physical, mental, and many others.
- Define a timeline. Decide how long you want to spend pursuing a goal, and give yourself a due date for each one.
- Split your bigger goals into smaller ones. This will help you stay on track, and it feels good when you've reached that smaller goal. For example, your smaller weekly goals can help you achieve your bigger long-term goals i.e. going over your class notes every week will help you stay on top of your studies, making it easier to do well in the long-term.
- Learn more about setting good goals here.
Top tip two: plan
Now that you have your goals, you need to plan how you'll get there. Planning is a great way to make sure you are working towards all of your goals without forgetting any of them, and you are putting the right amount of time into each of them. Having a plan also helps you feel more in control. Here are a couple of things you can do:
- Make a timetable. Write down the due date for each goal, and then work back through your diary to figure out how much you'll need to work on it each week or day. You can start by creating a revision timetable using the top tips in this guide.
- Make a daily list. Try to get in the habit of making a list of everything you need to do each day. This doesn't take long at all, it really helps you focus on the important things, and it give you a sense of achievement for each one you tick off.
- Make a ‘master’ plan. Managing multiple responsibilities can be made a lot easier if you create a plan and timetable that works around all of your commitments. For example, you can learn some ways to manage a part time job whilst studying so your studies stay a priority.
Top tip three: prioritise
Learning to prioritise and doing the most important tasks first is essential. If you start with the highest priorities, you are much more likely to actually get them done and cleared from your schedule, and you will be more motivated. Once you are done with them, the next tasks won’t seem as daunting. Do the things you have to do first, then do the things you want to do.
- Rank your tasks. When creating your goals and your to-do-lists, try to rank your tasks in order of importance. This could be based on things like the time you have to complete the task or the overall impact it may have on your life.
- Review your ranking regularly. Sometimes, priorities change. Make it a habit to review your priorities on a daily basis, to make sure you are consistently doing the important tasks first.
Top tip four: take breaks
It might sound counterproductive, but taking breaks is one of the best things you can do to get work done. Forcing yourself to work when you are overly tired not only feels terrible, but it will also really affect the quality of the work you are able to do. A 2001 article published in the US National Library of Medicine found that rest breaks increased both the productivity and wellbeing of workers.
Here are some ideas:
- Set a timer. Set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to step away from your work. You can try setting the timer after every 60-90 minutes of working sessions as a starting point.
- Do something different. Go for a walk to clear your mind, stretch, have a snack or catch up with a friend. It’s important to do something relaxing or completely different to your work to help keep you refreshed and recharged.
- Get enough sleep. You'll feel more energised when you are ready to do some work.
- Free time is essential as it prevents burnout. You can learn more about how to manage your free time and make the most of it here.
Top tip five: adapt
Even with the best planning, well-thought-out goals, plenty of breaks, and prioritising tasks, things might not always go according to plan, so try to stay flexible.
For example, if it gets close to a goal's due date and you aren't close to having achieved it, ask yourself how important it is. If you absolutely have to do it by then, change your plans so that you are able to spend the necessary amount of time on it. If it's not as urgent, it's fine to push a due date back. It can feel frustrating, but remember that your plan is there to help you, not give you impossible tasks!
You might also find that the schedule you’re using isn’t working - for example, you aren't managing to get everything done, or you are spending too much time on one thing and not enough on another. You can keep adjusting your plan, and try a few different ways of organising your time. The most important thing is to find what rhythm really works for you, and any time you spend figuring that out is not lost - it will really help in the future.
Check out all the guides in our ‘Managing your workload’ series here.
Good stuff from elsewhere
Creative Boom: How to effectively manage your workload
Looking for some more practical tips on managing your workload? Check out the tips here from Creative Boom.
Freedom in thought: How to be 10x more productive
Looking to improve your productivity? Here's a short video on how you can do just that.
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