Time management, you have more time than you think you do!

I have got this question in my life many times: “How do you find time for your studies, work, and kids?” And my answer is simple: Time Management. I finished my Ph.D. while working part-time, volunteering in three organizations, raising three kids, and on top of all these, going through a pandemic. Surprisingly, I finished my Ph.D. in less than three years, and again denoting how I have more than 24 hours in my days. Yes, I have a few totally non-secret and common tools.

Google Calendar, is the first life-saving tool I discovered years ago to organize and keep track of my work-life balance. For either professional or life events, any kinds of digital calendar would greatly help. I have seen some people like me use digital calendars for both. Many people use it for work or school only, still fantastic. Some don’t like headaches and notifications of it; they had enough of the screen, I get it. However, belonging to the first category, I advocate using this calendar in both aspects of life as it lets you stay on top of your work-life balance.

Remember when we were in school, teachers (brilliant teachers-Not any teacher) would write the daily schedule and agenda, and it would inform us what would happen across the day and accordingly reduce the anxiety of what is going to happen next? Am I prepared for it? Therefore, similarly, as an adult when I look at my calendar at the beginning of the day and week, I know what is waiting for me. Besides, planning for events that happen in the long run is much easier than having a calendar notebook that allows you only to write the current year’s events. Lastly, let’s appreciate the notifications because they help you not remember special occasions, including your partner’s birthday.

Choosing less sleep than oversleeping is another key to my time management. As adults, we need 6-8 hours of sleep every night. So, which one do I choose? With a simple calculation, I can trade 20% of my bedtime with productive time by choosing to sleep for 6-7 hours/night. This routine allows me to go back to work or spend quality time with my partner after my kids go to bed.

Be strict and, at the same time, be flexible in your schedule. As I would not miss an important meeting during the day, I would not schedule anything as much as I can during family time in the evening. Though there are times when something important happens, and we have to be flexible. For example, during conferences where your whole day is different, and it is not the same routine.

Taking a short-break when you are stuck in a task and can not get over it. This is another strategy to save time. When I get stuck and keep browsing for two hours, and nothing comes out, I walk away from my computer or get on another task. After cooling down from the frustrating task, I come back to it with a fresh mind, and of course, things don’t look as hard as before. So, do not waste your time on something that does not give you a response, take a break from it. 

The last tip I have for time management is that you will have more than 24 hours in your day if you cancel your Netflix subscription or give yourself a more balanced life for it. Believe it or not, during the pandemic, I spent one whole weekend watching 20 episodes of a series. I could not leave to know the end. I was exhausted and felt so useless and unproductive the following Monday, and that was when I decided to say “No!” to series and movies. I am very glad I did that extreme action that resulted in a good lesson and habit afterward. So, place fewer movies and more other productive activities on your calendar.

In summary, if you want to greatly improve your time-management skills, use your digital calendar for work and family, sleep as much as you need to avoid oversleeping, stick to your schedules but be flexible when needed, and walk away when you are stuck in a task, watch fewer movies and series and do more productive and fun physical activities.

Good luck!

Written by Dr. Farokh L Kakar – Chair IWA YWP Canada

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