Starting a project from scratch can seem overwhelming, especially if you have never worked on a long-term project before. There are so many tasks that need to be done, but only so much time in a day. So where do you even start?
We have collected some tips and ideas that will help you to think about time management. Once you are in control of your time, completing your project will become much easier. Of course these tips also come in handy in your student and working life.
1. Identifying relevant tasks.
Start by asking yourself about the most important tasks. Identify a couple of tasks that are relevant to your overall aims and that need doing before anything else can be achieved. Always keep these bigger tasks and aims in mind.
2. Breaking tasks down.
Massive tasks like “Build app” are going to feel daunting. Instead break your tasks down while bearing in mind your overall aims. For example, if your aim is to build an app, make a list of specific tasks you can carry out. This might include:
- contact the developer,
- source images for different sections of the app and
- write text for the app description on the AppStore etc.
This will help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed and will allow you to tackle smaller, manageable tasks.
3. Setting attainable goals.
If you have done the first two steps, you are already on the right way towards setting attainable goals. Furthermore, make sure that your goals are achievable. This means that you can realistically reach these goals and can measure them. Use the SMART method to and review your progress on a regular basis. This will allow you to keep track of achievements as well as identify areas where you might need to make changes.
4. Writing a to do list that works for you.
There are numerous ways of writing to do lists. You might have been using pen and paper, an app on your phone or an online tool. Take some time to explore different options and see which tool works best for you. Some apps and web apps to explore include:
- Habitica (your to do list turned into a game) and
- Trello (useful for working in a team, coordinating and delegating tasks).
5. Avoiding distractions.
Make sure that you block out time without distractions. According to a study by Gloria Mark, Daniela Gudith and Ulrich Klocke, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. The impact of distractions on your productivity is huge. Therefore, put your phone away, close your email and find a quiet space to work in (or try listening to calming music if you are bound to a louder working environment). This will allow you to make the most of your time and to get on with your tasks.
6. Taking action.
Procrastination. We all know it. But how do we overcome it? A good way to get started is to remind yourself of the benefit your project will bring to others. As far as the IT Innovation Challenges are concerned, your project can improve staff and student life at Oxford, but you will only make an impact if you start.
The IT Innovation Challenges give you space to explore and experiment. Even if you are not entirely sure about all your next steps, you will figure them out along the way.
7. Completing tasks within a time limit.
Set yourself a time limit for your smaller tasks. You can try the Pomodoro technique, where you focus on completing one task in 25 minutes. Then take a break and start again.
If you are working on larger tasks, give yourself two or three hours or a day, depending on how big your task is. Even then you can try to use the Pomodoro technique to break up a working day. This will allow you to make progress and not get hung up on details.
8. Setting yourself a deadline ahead of the deadline.
As part of your project, you are required to send in certain documents, like the monthly report, on a certain day. In order to make sure that you meet this (or any) deadline, set yourself an earlier date as your personal deadline. Not only will you feel more in control over your time, but this also gives you a bit of buffer in case you have other unexpected, urgent tasks to do. This is a great trick if you’ve been struggling with sticking to deadlines.
9. Writing down all tasks for the next day.
After a productive day, there will be new tasks that need to be dealt with. It can be really helpful to write all of those down at the end of the day. You’re making sure that you are not missing anything important, you can get straight to work the next day and you get rid of your mental to do list so you can actually switch off.
10. Taking breaks.
This brings us to the last tip: taking regular breaks. The Pomodoro technique emphasises short breaks allowing you to step away from one task and giving you new focus. Breaks throughout the day are necessary so that you can come back refreshed and energised.
Switching off from your project work is also important so use the last tip as a means to wrap up your day and step away from work.
How do you manage your time? Let us know in the comments below.