What’s your most valuable resource?
Hint: it’s spent at a constant rate and it’s non-refundable. Everyone has access to it, though, like many resources, not everyone has the same amount.
Time is the most valuable resource we have. And yet we don’t actually know how much of it we have. This leads us to the need for stewardship and wise time management. Students will be especially familiar with this need.
There are a lot of demands pulling on a student’s attention: school, work, social life, personal time, etc. How do students manage their time to be both productive and restful? Here are some ideas:
1. Find your rhythm.
Part of good time management is knowing when you work best at certain tasks. When are you most creative? When are you most patient with administrative or routine tasks? Is your brain best prepared for learning during a certain time of day?
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If you have the flexibility to set your own schedule, consider what times would be optimal for work, school, and other activities. Maybe you are most awake and good for studying in the middle of the night! Structure your routine to take advantage of your windows of peak productivity.
2. Cut out distractions.
This one is particularly hard in the constantly connected world that we live in.
Our smartphones and social media feeds are always reaching for our attention. It can be very easy to surrender two minutes or five at a time. But these moments add up! Furthermore, if we are trying to do “deep work” (or deep study), these momentary distractions can throw off our focus and flow.
If you need to get some studying done, consider blocking time off and studying without your phone. Do what you can to limit the digital distractions.
3. Make a to-do list.
This one is helpful in getting the things you need to do on paper. It helps you organize your priorities and helps you create a mental game plan for how you’ll accomplish everything. I’ve also found that a physical to-do list helps keep me accountable! When I have a list, I’m more likely to actually do what needs to be done. I don’t want to leave any of the to-do list items unchecked at the end of the day!
While I use a daily planner for a physical to-do list, you could also use a digital tool like Evernote. There are a number of other to-do list apps that can help you organize your priorities and tasks.
4. Set priorities.
Speaking of priorities, it’s important to have them!
If you fill your time doing small, insignificant tasks, you will have the appearance of productivity but not the benefit of true productivity. There are certainly small tasks that need to be done and there’s a time to do them. But if you don’t set priorities for bigger projects, you won’t make good progress on them.
If you have a large paper to write, make it a priority. It can be easy to procrastinate with smaller tasks and chores.
5. Rest well.
Productivity isn’t just filling every waking moment with work and study. If we don’t rest and take care of ourselves, we will suffer from a lack of true productivity.
It’s important to find a rhythm of productive work/study that’s balanced with rest and recharging. The way we spend our “downtime” will have a clear impact on our work and study. That’s why it’s important to rest well.
Anyone can binge-watch Netflix or waste time on social media. Resting well isn’t just the absence of work. It’s productive leisure, which may sound like an oxymoron at first. Things like reading, experiencing nature, and meeting with friends can be refreshing and restful, without being a complete waste of time.
Time is an important resource and we’re all responsible for how we steward it. Whether you are working full-time, studying full-time, or something in between, there are a lot of demands on your time. Managing these many demands can help you live productively.
Jace Bower serves as a Content Development Specialist for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.