Just Say No to Facebook

June 04, 2008

No one likes a boring day. When you’re sitting there doing nothing, you feel like an unproductive loser. That’s why I like to pile on as many things as possible. But sometimes you can’t get it all done and, well, you feel like an unproductive loser again. That’s when good time management becomes important.

My plate is almost always full. Aside from my four AP classes and the homework that goes along with them, I’m also in the band (which right now entails daily after-school rehearsals 3:00 to 6:00 to accompany the school production of Annie). And then there’s newspaper, which takes plenty of time to interview and even more to layout the paper for every issue. I also have a job, which means I work at least 10 hours a week — on weeknights. Managing time is nothing new to me, but I’m always looking for a better way to do it. Of all the different methods and tricks that I’ve tried, I think these five are the ones that consistently work the best for me:

1. Just Say No to Facebook. It’s so tempting to log on, just to see troll through groups, check out who updated their status and who’s just now listed as “single”. But if you have a lot of work to do, you must avoid it! We all know the drill: you get on there just to check for new messages and the next thing you know, you’ve wasted two precious hours. I still haven’t really mastered this one, but when I am able to avoid Facebook (usually by eliminating access to it), I get things done in much less time.

2. The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with the First Step. This is actually my favorite one. As we all probably know, starting something we don’t want to do is often the hardest part of finishing it. To deal with this, I tell myself that I’m going to work on that statistics problem set for five minutes. At the end of five minutes, I say “just five more.” If you just do that a few times, you’ll build up the momentum to the point where it’s harder to stop than to keep going. This is a very effective way of getting things done, because it doesn’t take much inner strength to say “I’m going to do five minutes of homework.”

3. Write Everything Down. Sometimes you’re able to remember all your homework and projects without writing them down in a planner, but at some point, you completely forget some big project or essay, and those zeros are lethal. I’m to the point now where I write everything down about four times. I have my backpack planner, which is just where I write assignments down as I get them. Then when I get home I transfer them to a bigger planner in a prioritized list format. The transfer is key — it prevents you from writing stuff down in a planner and then just forgetting about it. Anything that needs to go on a calendar is then transposed to a magnetic weekly calendar on my fridge, and finally I have a wall calendar in my room for major stuff like big projects or dentist’s appointments. Forgetting to do assignments is probably the dumbest reason for getting a bad grade. So don’t be dumb; write it down!

4. Make Use of Those Little Moments. You know how loose change adds up? It’s the same way with little bits of time. Every day I look for just a couple of minutes of spare time to finish a worksheet or memorize some vocabulary words. Using those little bits of time effectively makes a big difference. It also works well for reading. A few pages here and a few pages there add up.

5. Treat Impossibilities as Challenges. This may not work for everyone, but it often works for me. Sometimes it looks like the laws of the universe state that you will not be able to complete this massive amount of work in the time you need to complete it, but if you look at it as a challenge to defeat the laws of the, you’ll often find success. A couple Sundays ago I had 130 pages of dense Victorian literature I had to read for the next day, and normally I would have just said “I won’t be able to finish this… why even bother wasting my time?” But this time I decided that I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than finishing the reading, even if that meant pulling an all-nighter. Surprisingly, I finished by 8:00 or 9:00 pm. It worked because I treated it as a challenge.

Obviously, everyone has their most effective ways of managing their time. The above five are the ones that work best for me. It takes a lot of experimenting (and a lot of failure) to figure out what works best, but it’s definitely rewarding to be able to say you can fit 1,000 things into 24 hours.

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