Time management is extremely important to me as a university student. I am constantly on the lookout for ways that can improve the efficiency of my life and have tried out a good deal of different software, apps, and various other methods such as bullet journaling. My journey has taught me a lot, and I want to share the mistakes I made, as well as how I combat procrastination in a trendy way.
Time management mistakes I have made and lessons I have learned
The most important thing to realize is that there are many ways to manage our time, and not all of them are going to work for every individual. When something is not right for you, the wise thing to do is to seek better-suited tools as opposed to forcing yourself to ‘get better at’ using a particular method. I learned this the hard way when I tried to adhere to the Pomodoro method (i.e. setting a timer for 20-25 minutes of work and taking 5-minute breaks), which I will go more in-depth later on in the article. By doing so, I interrupted my own rhythm and ended up achieving even less than when I had not been introduced to the method. If you realize something does not work well for you, do not take it as a sign that there is something intrinsically wrong with the way you work or make major changes to your arrangements. Keep in mind that you are the driver of these tools; the tools should work for you, not the other way around.
Something else I struggled with early on was underestimating how time-consuming miscellaneous tasks could be. This was a result of my overly ambitious personality–I packed my schedule with hefty tasks each day, leaving too little time for chores and administrative tasks (e.g. replying to emails). In the end, I became extremely impatient whenever a small task had to take up my time. This iterates the significance of leaving ample time for anything that pops up unexpectedly, which can happen quite often, whether it be another trip to the grocery store for the mayonnaise sauce you forgot to pick up or calling your dentist to confirm an appointment.
My thoughts on 2 commonly used methods for time management and organization
The Pomodoro Method
Ah, the raved-about method that many Study tubers and hyper-productive students claim to have saved their lives. Well, it did not work for me. If you are unfamiliar with how it works, the Pomodoro Method promotes taking regular small breaks (usually 5 minutes long) in between 20- to 25-minute working intervals. After three to four repetitive cycles of working intervals and short breaks, a longer break (i.e. 20 to 30 minutes) is taken.
I like the idea in principle of taking breaks in between productive hours; going on a study or work marathon with no pause in between can easily cause burnouts. My main problem with this method is how short the time intervals are. Working for only 25 minutes would be too short a period for me; I usually would have just gotten into study mode before I had to get up for my break. The 5-minute break is also too short for my taste; I would not even have registered the satisfaction of being on break before I had to get back to work again. These short time intervals interrupted my concentration, both during productive hours and relaxation time.
In short, I would not recommend the Pomodoro Method to those like me, who are able to stay concentrated for long periods of time (e.g. 40 minutes to 1 hour) and dislike frequently transitioning between modes (i.e. productive and chilling), but I do see how it can be a great tool for those who prefer constant changes of scenery.
Bullet journaling can be used in many ways; the organization is just one of them, in which each bullet point would represent a task to be completed, and the bullet would be ticked off upon completion.
This in my opinion is a great way to get a visual representation of what tasks we must do during the day. Keeping a mental to-do list is tiresome and stressful–the fear of forgetting something often haunts us, so having everything safely written on paper would be ideal.
Bullet journaling can however become an inefficient time management tool. This is because there are other ways to use a bullet journal, like a personal diary or a sketchbook. Many YouTube tutorials, Pinterest boards, and Instagram pages are dedicated to making bullet journals aesthetic-looking, pretty, and artistic, which is why many bullet journalers originally intending to use it as a planner end up wasting time making it look decorative.
So should you use a bullet journal to keep track of your tasks and stay organized? My take on this is yes–but do keep in mind the purpose of this journal is to be a practical tool, not an oil painting on canvas in art class.