How to manage your time better and achieve your goals

Whether it’s getting into uni or learning a new skill, goals can motivate you to work hard at something. But if you’re struggling with sloppy, ineffective time management, those dreams can start to drift away. Read our tips for how to manage time better for advice on how to minimise procrastination and maximise productivity.

A group of young men want to manage their time. This is a wide-angle image.

Decide on your goal

The first step in managing your time better is figuring out what your goal is. Are you hoping to get into uni or college? Do you need certain grades? Are you saving money for a big trip? Or working towards a dream career? Whatever it might be, don’t lose sight of it. This’ll be your guiding light and your greatest motivator. You can do this by: 

  • Journaling. Keeping a note of the dreams, ideas and insights related to your goal is a great way to stay focused. Try writing something every day, preferably in the morning. That way you can set your intention for the day.
  • Visualise your goal, again and again. This one might sound a bit hippy dippy but there’s logic to it, we promise. Spend time thinking about your goal, what path you’ll take and what the finish line looks and feels like. Visualising your goal should lead to having a clear idea of how to get there.
  • Talk about it. By telling friends, family or colleagues about your dream, the goal will become more real – not just a dream in your head. Plus other people could have valuable input about how you might go about achieving it.

Use lists to help you figure out how to manage your time better

Never underestimate the amazing, organisational power of lists in developing time management skills. When you’ve got a million things going on in your head, it’s likely to get overwhelmed and miss a couple of things out. To avoid this, find yourself a calendar and notepad to keep track of all your jobs. This’ll help you use your time effectively. Plus, you’ll naturally learn how to manage your time more effectively to fit them all in.

  • Aim to make a list every morning. Spend roughly 30 minutes setting out your daily tasks and prioritising them in order of importance. If the list is too overwhelming you could break it down into smaller time blocks. You could also make smaller lists of important tasks, important but not urgent tasks, and lower priority jobs. If you’re really getting into the list life you could even set a time limit for each job.
  • Try focusing on 3 key tasks for the day. Once you’ve completed them, you can move on to the rest of your to-do list. Try doing your trickiest task first and you’ll be able to go through the rest of the day with a sense of accomplishment.
  • If you’re not a pen and paper type, have a search online for good time management and to-do list apps. There are tons out there to help you get organised.
  • Get things down on a calendar. There’s no excuse for missed appointments or ineffective time management if you’ve taken the time to write it down.

How to manage time: A five step plan

While your dream feels like..well…a dream, getting there can be a bit of a ‘mare’. Revising for exams for example – not exactly anyone’s ideal Sunday afternoon. So, if you’ve got a painfully boring task to do, remember to keep the end goal in sight. After all, there’s a reason why you’re putting yourself through this hell. Try breaking your task down into manageable chunks and only working for a specific amount of time. This five step guide to getting something done, inspired by the Pomodoro technique, should help.

  1. Choose a task on your to-do list.
  2. Set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes and work solidly on your task for that time.
  3. When the timer goes off, take a five minute break. Make a cuppa, stretch your legs, treat yourself to a loo break. Whatever you want.
  4. After your five minute break, set your timer for another 25 minutes and get back to work.
  5. Continue this cycle four times and before you know it you’ll have completed two hours of work. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Working for these shorter periods of time can really help in the long term as long as you stay focused when working. That means no phone calls, texting or social media during your 25 minutes of work time!

Struggling with revision? Check out our revision tips and study motivation advice.

How to avoid procrastination

Avoiding procrastination is one of the biggest problems when it comes to working out how to manage time better. If you spend more time with your head in the fridge than in a book, then we’ve got some time management tips for you. Give yourself a deadline and use the five step plan above to get something done. Plus: 

  • Eliminate distractions. Hide your phone or, if you’re using it as a timer, make sure it’s on flight mode. Who knows what kind of Instagram vortex you might fall down if you’re left unchecked. You could even try using website blocker apps such as SelfControl or Freedom.
  • Let the people you live with know you’re working. That way you don’t have a scapegoat when 4 hours have passed and you’re still staring at a blank screen.
  • Get out the house. If there are too many distractions at home, get yourself to somewhere quiet like the library. The studiousness of people around you should get you in the mood for work, or at least pressure you into working out of guilt.
  • Treat yourself. You’ve complete the task! Grab your favourite lunch or take a night off, you deserve it.

Struggling with procrastination? We’ve got a whole article on how to avoid procrastination here.

Next Steps

By Olivia Capadose

Updated on 08-Jun-2022