Naureen Aqueel

The formula for success

Posted on: May 19, 2006

Published in The News, Educationzine, May 19, 2006.

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the things that you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”

—Thomas Huxley

If students learn to manage time properly then time, which often works against them, may well become their greatest asset

Around the globe, students face a common dilemma: whether to give time to their studies or their social life and other activities. They enter into a new semester, fully motivated to put in their utmost efforts for achieving their goal of good grades. However, as the days progress, certain activities seem to clutter up their lives, pushing their previously planned goals into oblivion. It is only when exams approach that they wake up from their peaceful slumbers into a world of havoc and stress and find themselves unable to manage their tasks in the time left. This is when they realise the importance of time management.

Time management is a key skill that each student should be taught. Many schools and universities abroad have taken up this task by counselling students in the skills of time and stress management. Unfortunately, in our schools the emphasis is still on imparting just academic knowledge and not on giving life skills. It has been observed that most of the successful people in this world have a balanced lifestyle. They have time for work, rest, fun, family and friends. What puts them on the road to success is planning and proper management of time. This is because the main aim of acquiring time management skill is to allow us to do maximum number of things in minimum amount of time. As Golda Meir has said, “I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.”

At the heart of proper time management lies goal setting, prioritising and planning. To manage time, it is essential to set goals towards which you are going to work. You can then sub-divide your goals into manageable pieces so that you know what your short-term priorities are. This, according to Stephen Covey, who is the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is beginning with the end in mind. This kind of approach gives you the motivation and direction you need to achieve your targets. Some say that the palest ink is better than the best memory. Therefore, time management experts often recommend writing things down. The most commonly used and successful time management technique is the daily ‘to-do list’. However, many people find such a technique as unnecessary and a waste of time, failing to realise that time spent planning is time well spent. Just taking out 5 minutes at night to plan for the next day’s activities can do wonders for your success rate. The best thing about writing things down is that you don’t have to waste time in trying to remember them.

After this, it is imperative to prioritise your activities, setting the most important tasks for the time when your productivity is at it’s highest. Studying requires a lot of effort; so the best time to do it would be when you are most active and fresh, for example in the morning. Also, it is very important to take breaks after every hour or so of studying.

Another important part of time management is rewarding yourself for your success. Every time you achieve a goal, reward yourself by doing something you really enjoy. This will help motivate you to achieve the remaining objectives faster.

Often our lives are so cluttered that it becomes impossible to accomplish all our planned things. While it is essential to plan realistically and thus not over-schedule, an important fact remains that we often have small chunks of time that we don’t notice and are, hence, wasted. For example, a free hour between classes is enough time to read the day’s lectures. Resist the temptation to always spend this time chatting with your friends. Another example is the time that is spent during commuting. If you spend between one and two hours commuting everyday, in a week that would add up to 5 to 10 hours and in a year it works out to be around 250 to 500 hours! Over the course of 4 to 5 years, your commuting time equates to attending all the required lectures in a 4-year university degree! An easy and wise way to spend all this time is to read while commuting.

However, the biggest hurdle in the way of effective time management is procrastination, a problem to which many students fall prey. To overcome procrastination, one technique is to divide your work into smaller tasks that might last for only 15 minutes, and then focus on one thing at a time, rewarding yourself as you complete each task. This helps reduce the fear that otherwise accompanies large projects.

If students learn to manage time properly then time, which often works against them, may well become their greatest asset.

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