Are you a Lark or an Owl? When and how to efficiently manage your time?

Does it feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day? That it feels like you are drowning in work and barely able to keep your head above the water? Well, we think that everyone sometimes struggles with managing their tasks, especially now that the 3rd round of exams has started. Are you one of the unfortunate students who has to get back inside and get behind their desks? Or have you aced all your courses but are struggling with balancing an internship or extracurricular activities? No worries, we will provide you with some time management tips that you can apply to your own specific needs and situation.

WHEN: Lark or Owl? 

Firstly, before we can start managing our agendas, we need to know who we are. Which circadian rhythms archetype are you? Are you a lark or an owl? In other words, are you a morning or evening person? If you are not entirely sure which type you are or you just want to test it again, we’ll provide you with some answers along the way. 

Once you have established which type you are, you can start planning your work during the time you are the most efficient. Although everyone always tells you to wake up early when you want to get some things done, it might not always be the right strategy for you. If you are an owl and you notice that it works best for you to wake up a little later and work more in the evening, then do that. Go for what is best for you, for what works for you. However, it is still important to do the same amount of work or spend as much time on your tasks regardless of the time you wake up. Therefore, being an owl is not an excuse to wake up later and stop at the same time as the larks.

Daniel H. Pink highlights that the key to successfully decide when to do which task is to keep in mind your peaks and troughs. For the larks, they start the day with their peak and will go through their slump in the afternoon before they rebound.  While for the owls, it is the other way around. They start with the rebound, go to the trough, and end with their peak. No matter which type you are, you should plan your analytical tasks during your peak moments so you stay highly focused on the task at hand. As last, keep your easier or creative tasks for the slumps as possible distractions might bring along new ideas.

HOW: Tips & tricks

As we have established when you should perform your tasks, one might still struggle with how to best perform those tasks. The next step is to efficiently manage your working time with the help of these tips & tricks. 

1. Make a To-Do List

It almost sounds too easy, write down all the tasks that you’ll need to complete or events to attend. Although this might seem trivial, it is not uncommon to overlook some tasks when being tied up on something else. Therefore, a simple To-Do List can keep track of all your tasks that can be effortlessly looked at whenever you want.

2. Start planning

You know you have a lot on your plate, but the question is, when are you going to do what? Start making a daily schedule with all your activities and start planning every minute of your day. The easiest way to begin is by filling in your daily reoccurring activities, such as lectures or work. Then you can add your other tasks to the schedule to create a personalized time planning to keep yourself on track.

3. Learn how to prioritize You simply cannot do everything at once. Therefore, it is key to attribute priorities to your tasks. There are multiple ways to do this: use a color code to differentiate the importance of tasks or use labels, such as urgent, important, medium, and low. Make sure you finish the high-priority tasks first even though they might not always be the most fun. Keep in mind that if you postpone non-urgent tasks, at a certain point in time, they will become urgent. Accordingly, you'll have to change its priority status.

4. Be Realistic

“I will finish the entire project in one day.” You have undoubtedly talked yourself into setting unrealistic goals with the best intentions to finish the job quickly. This, however, might not be the best strategy. If you fail to meet your prior expectations, you’ll have to finish the task later, which messes up your whole planning and might lead to more stress.  Thus, it is better to set realistic goals with a certain extra time marge for tasks that take a bit more time than anticipated.  

5. Schedule free time Don’t forget to give yourself some time off. You cannot keep working at a hundred percent if you never take a break to stop for a minute and remind yourself to breathe and relax. Did you get an invite to have a drink with a few friends? Take your schedule and plan it in.

The first step in becoming a time management master is to find out your circadian rhythms type which you can test by clicking here. The consecutive steps consist of planning your day according to your type and customizing the tips & tricks to your specific situation. Overall, the key to efficiently managing your time is to make a realistic schedule tailored to your needs and stick to it. If you manage to do that, you’ll never have to miss a barbecue in the warm sun ever again. At least, if you included the spare time in your schedule. So, let’s start planning!

Source: Pink, D. H. (2018). When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Penguin Publishing Group. 

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