If there’s one universal, unifying truth shared in the NCEA student experience, it’s that better time management is that elusive, optimistic, ever-promising concept that’s always just out of reach.


It’s the new year’s resolution we give up on by February; it’s what we wish for but never receive when we blow out our birthday candles; it’s the pony we never got for Christmas.


But in 2019, that will change, for a very important reason: 2019 is the year of the pig.




Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, StudyTime is having a Chinese zodiac phase, what a bunch of lame uni students with too much time on their hands during the summer break,” to which I reply, “Shut up, Becky.”


See, according to the Chinese zodiac legend, when the Jade Emperor called for the Great Meeting, the pig arrived last. This was because the pig got hungry on the way, stopped for food, and then had a nap. If that’s not a big mood, I don’t know what is.


The universe is giving you a sign that time management should be one of the goals for this year – to battle the tendencies of the cosmological pig within us and become better at managing our time. Regardless of whether you’re in Level 1 trying to prepare early, Level 3 studying for exams around the corner, or a business mogul, time management is one of the best and most valuable skills to have in life. Just watch a Gary Vee video.


So, let’s get into some actual tried, tested, and solid ways to get better at time management in 2019.




1. A physical schedule 



True story: when I was at high school, we got given these little diaries every year to write all of our work and commitments in. I wouldn’t touch it. When my tutor teacher would come around class to check them, I’d quickly write down random maths assignments to make it look like I was on the ball. I just didn’t see the point.


Fast forward to a few years down the track at uni, and I decide to use a wall planner, and it changed my life.


Suddenly, every single day, I had a tangible measurement of the work I had to do.


One thing led to another, and I found myself buying a mini diary – and actually using it.


I bring it to every class, I check it every day, and every new piece of work or commitment I get goes straight into the diary. My quality of life has improved drastically with this one hardcover collection of papers from Whitcoulls. The benefits are surprising and numerous.



Firstly, when you write something down, you can forget about having to remember it. This little tip is incredibly understated, and it’s one of the reasons why writing down your anxieties works in psychology practice. Your brain doesn’t have to spend energy trying to remember what notes you had to write or how many pages  you have to read.


Secondly, when you write something down, you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable and actually do it. Try it out – see what happens.


Thirdly, visualising your week and planning out how you’ll manage your time is extremely conducive to our next tip.




2. Chunk your time 



Chunking is a time management tool we’ve spoken about in the past, but it’s so good that we’ll speak about it again. Basically, it follows the principle of Parkinson’s Law: the amount of work we have to do will stretch to fit the amount of time we allocate for it. If we give ourselves five days to write an essay, it’ll take five days. If we give ourselves an evening, it will take an evening.


We can use this to our advantage in splitting up our workload into manageable chunks, by allocating the amount of time we know the work could take if we spent our time efficiently.


If you have a few days to work on an assignment, split it up and record it in your diary/wall planner/Google Calendar as tasks to knock out effectively in set blocks of time.



3. The Pomodoro Method



It wouldn’t be a StudyTime article involving time management without a little bit on the Pomodoro Method. To cut a long and incredibly exciting story short, the Pomodoro Method is:


a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for a tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.” (Credit: Wikipedia.)


The technique takes advantage of the theory that our brain starts to lose focus after around half-an-hour, by giving ourselves 25 minutes of focused work separated by short breaks.



It’s a big change from the habit some of us have, which is to spend extended periods of time monotonously working at 40% effort and checking our phones every few minutes.


Whether it’s writing an essay or reading a textbook, it can make a task a whole lot more bearable by removing some of the boredom. It might also mean you’ll get it done quicker, by channeling more of your energy into the task. Of course, if you had a better textbook, you wouldn’t have that problem.



4. Plan to be effective 


This is a bit of an abstract one, but bear with me. If you want to get so many words of your essay done, you could give yourself a day and see what happens. Or, you could give yourself a mental motivational talk, give yourself less time, and work on your work mentality.



When we do something with not much effort, it tends to take longer. More focus = less time spent doing the task. 


Challenge yourself with how much of your brainpower you’re actually using to get tasks done by giving yourself a set block of time and just working harder.



One way of doing this is planning ahead in short periods, which I like to call blocks. I once listened to a guy talk about his time management strategy, and I forgot his name but the strategy stuck.


Basically, he would think about what he had to get done and the time he had available, and block out a set amount of that time to get it done.


He would think, “I’m going to brush my teeth, make breakfast, and then I’m going to read 10 pages in the next half-hour”.  


If you’re actually conscious of the time you’re using to get a task done in order to be more efficient with it, you’re doing well with your time management.



5. Create a habit


In the words popularly attributed to Aristotle but actually written by a dude named Will Durant,


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”


I can’t be entirely sure, but I believe he was referring to the NCEA endorsement.


Whether it’s brushing your teeth or going to the gym x days a week, things become a solid part of our lives by repeatedly doing them.



If you don’t have a strict workout schedule yet, maybe try going once a week at a time that suits you. If you don’t brush your teeth twice a day, maybe try once a month.


All of these tools: the written schedule, the chunking, the Pomodoro Method – none of them matter if you do it once or twice and then forget about it for the months of March-October.


Trust us: if you get to November and your time management has been next level all year, you’ll have a better time.


Although 9/10 dentists recommend not creating a toothbrush routine by starting small, you can with effective time management. You don’t need to jump into it with a whole lot of highlighters and aspirations that eventually become unattainable. Begin by writing some things down, planning the next week, and see how that week goes (spoiler: time management is dope).


Good luck, write your work down, and happy year of the pig.




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