It’s that time of year again. Libraries up and down the country are crammed full of pale-faced students shuddering with a toxic cocktail of nerves and caffeine shakes. Yup, it’s exam term.
Last week I asked for time management tips as I’ve been up at least 19 hours of the day revising for my media law exam (now over, phew!), working on my final MA project and trying to hold down a full-time job in journalism. I’ve just about been holding myself together, and here are some of my top tips for doing the same.
And if you’ve got tips of your own, PLEASE DO SHARE in the comments or on Twitter. Seriously. For my sake.
1. Set strict time limits
Here’s a little trick that really works for me – I nicked it from the so-called Pomodoro technique (no need to shell out for a novelty tomato timer).
Set a kitchen timer for 25 minutes. Work solidly for that 25 minutes – you won’t believe how quickly it goes.
Then stick the timer on for a five minute break so you can make a cup of tea or check Facebook. When it pings, get back to your desk and work for another timed 25 minute chunk.
I can keep going like that all day – with longer breaks for lunch, etc, of course. It’s the only thing that kept me on schedule when I was copy-editing a book for ten hours a day last spring. And I’d really recommend using a kitchen timer rather tha your phone –
for some reason having a real, physical object timing you makes it feel like it’s out of your control.
For god’s sake, make a to do list. If you haven’t got a list of tasks, you haven’t got a clue where to start. Decide on tomorrow’s end-goals and make a daily to do list the night before, so you wake up knowing exactly what you’ve got to achieve that day.
I organise my daily to do list loosely in terms of time – a couple of tasks each for AM, PM and after dinner. But others organise theirs according to priority or status – urgent tasks, quick wins, longer projects.
Nothing beats the feeling of ticking off a to do list (well, quite a lot beats that feeling actually, but this is exam term. Simple pleasures).
3. Maximise your morning
Believe it or not, you really are at your most alert in the morning. Some studies suggest that at 11am you’re at your productivity peak.
I try and get my most difficult and important tasks done in the precious slot between two cups of coffee and lunchtime. That way you can relax a little after lunch safe in the knowledge that you’re making progress.
Some time management experts suggest setting aside one half-hour task that you can complete in its entirety before you even log on for your morning Facebook and Daily Mail fix.
4. Download self-control
As you might have guessed from the repeat appearance of Facebook in this list of tips, the internet is my number one nemesis when it comes to concentration.
If, like me, you have appalling self-control, then you’ll be pleased to know you can download it in the form of an app. Plug ins such as Freedom, Anti-Social and the aptly-named SelfControl can be downloaded onto your browser and used to block certain websites or even disconnect you from the internet for a set time period.
5. Procrastinate productively
If you want to relax without letting your brain vegetate, I heartily recommend spending some time on The Documentarian. This wonderful Tumblr aggregates free documentary footage for guilt-free downtime.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look