Although we all get the same 24 hours in a day – which means we all have the same amount of time to work as Beyoncé – you’re not alone if you sometimes struggle to get everything done.
Luckily, making some simple adjustments is all that’s necessary to start getting the most out of your day. If you identify quiet moments and use them wisely, your studies can fit around even the busiest of schedules.
Step 1: decide what’s important
“Most people don’t have a clue how many commitments they’ve signed up for and how much time they cost,” says David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity.
“They’re in a constant emergency mode, trying to solve problems as they happen. Instead, you need to sit down on a weekly basis to plan out your work so that deadlines don’t overwhelm you.”
Keeping a time log is a good way to set priorities. During a typical work day, note down what you’re doing during specific time slots. The next day, rate each activity on a scale from one to three, with one indicating an activity that’s a great use of your time, and three representing time-wasting activities.
Focus on moments you spend staring at your phone or aimlessly watching TV, and transform them into study time.
Step 2: pick your ideal study moment
“Getting up earlier and spending an hour studying at the beginning of the day before going to work is one of the best strategies,” says Elizabeth Saunders, CEO of time management coaching company Real Life E.
“Many think that studying after work is effective, but that isn’t always the case. The majority of people are really tired by the end of their work day, and that can make studying more difficult.”
If you can’t face getting up earlier in the morning, there are still some other hidden time pockets to turn into study time.
You could devote one morning each weekend to your studies and go to a coffee shop or library to study for a few hours.
Or maybe you’re one of those rare people who do function better after dark. All it takes to discover your best study time is a simple test to check if you’re a morning or evening person.
Step 3: make time to relax
It may feel counterintuitive to schedule downtime, but it’s actually the best way to boost your productivity.
A 2016 study by the University of New South Wales found that sleep deprivation can have the same negative effects on response speed and accuracy as being drunk. Clare Evans, author of Time Management for Dummies, recommends breaks as a means of claiming hidden time to study.
“With a more relaxed mind, you’ve got more energy and you’ll feel more effective when you’re studying,” she says.
“Don’t work when you’re tired and don’t work excessively long hours. You won’t take in as much information, and you’ll just become more and more ineffective.”
Step 4: say no
If you can’t remember when you last had a quiet night in, consider whether you need to get better at saying no.
It’s important to spend time with your friends and help them out when they need you, but if you’re left without time for yourself you run the risk of ending up without time to study.
Don’t feel like you’re rejecting people by saying no and never get tricked into defending your choice.
If you find it hard to say no, change your body language to appear more confident.
- stand up straight
- speak clearly
- make eye contact
- people will respect your decision.
Step 5: imagine your future
Finding and using hidden time takes persistence: you’ll need to keep making the right choices to create study time as you progress with your qualification.
If your phone or that new Netflix series are just too tempting, remember why you chose to pursue your qualification in the first place.
- Visualisation is a great way to bring your long-term goals to life because you’re literally imagining your future.
- You could also try guided meditation if you’re more of an auditory learner.
- Or a study-specific yoga session if you prefer to learn by doing.
Although it’s true that you can’t “make” more time, you can learn to use the time you have more effectively. It all comes down to identifying hidden pockets of study time, cutting down on time-wasting activities, and sticking to your schedule.
This might not make you into a world-famous pop star, but it will help you succeed in your studies – with enough time left to master the Single Ladies dance.
Coco d'Hont is a staff writer at Flibl and reports on technology, finance and workplace wellbeing. Follow her on Twitter @cococatani.