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Time management for MSc students

Today, I am inviting Esraa Farag to talk about her experiences with time management during her MSc studies. Esraa got her M.Sc. degree in Information Technology in February 2016, after long struggles with procrastination, lack of motivation and miscommunication with her advisors. Now, she is writing her Ph.D. while working as a full-time Software Development Team Lead. In the time she is not doing research, not working, she likes to run, to read, to write and to hang out with friends.

Are you struggling to meet tight deadlines? Are your efforts scattered around multiple tasks and projects and hardly gets anything done?

I was once in your exact position, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of things I have to do in the limited time I have… But I had learned only one thing that actually changed my perspective: there is never enough time to do everything you have to do. That’s why choosing what you do in the time you have, determines how much work gets done. Here are some tips I used that helped me to finish my master’s thesis.

1-Plan your day the night before
Before you go to sleep spend 30 minutes planning what you are going to do the next day. Make a list of the tasks you are planning to work on, and break down each task to its detailed steps. The more detailed the tasks, the less overwhelming they seem, the more motivated you will feel to work on them, and the easier for you to do them.

Trust me, those 30 minutes will save you at least 2 hours of the next day.

2- Decide the 3 most important things
From the task list you created, choose the most 3 important, urgent tasks, that you have to do tomorrow. Do these 3 tasks the very first thing in the morning, or schedule them at a certain time during the day. When you complete these important tasks you will feel accomplished, productive and confident. Afterwards, you can proceed with the remaining tasks with high enthusiasm.

Doing the important tasks in the morning will free up evening time to spend with family, friends, gym or you can simply rest. This will prevent feeling frustrated at the end of the day knowing that you wasted the day in less important tasks.

3- Do only one task at a time
When performing a task, make sure that you give all your focus to the task at hand. Don’t try to multitask; multitasking is a lie – it actually reduces your productivity. Giving all your focus to one task at a time dramatically increases your productivity.

If focusing on one thing at a time is a hard thing for you, then try the 30 minutes rule. The 30 minutes rule simply means that you focus on the tasks at hand for 30 minutes with no distractions. Spend the 30 minutes without checking emails ,answering the phone(swaitch your mobile to the silent mode), checking social media or doing anything else. Just focus on what you are doing.

After the 30 minutes are over, you can then take a break for 10 minutes (you can make phone calls, check Facebook, talk to a friend, write an email, take a walk, ..etc.)

These three easy tips can help you get more done in less time and more enthusiasm.

Time management is a skill you must have as a grad student. The good news is that it can be learned 🙂 .

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