Image: Bellarmine Magazine.
As the school year comes to an end, we are all trying, some of us struggling, to finish it strong. But distractions are everywhere; it’s almost impossible to get those good grades but also have time to hang out with friends and perform well in the play and do great in sports. However, it’s actually easier than you think to manage your time well. I have experimented two methods on myself and they both proved to be very successful; here are the two strategies that will make things much easier:
Strategy #1: Use your body to control your mind.
I know this may seem ridiculous. If the body is in control, what is the brain made for? Visual appreciation? No, I don’t mean literally let your body be in charge because muscles and bones can’t think, surprise! But your body is often a stronger decision maker than your brain.
Most people’s logic goes this way: I will have a goal and make plans to achieve it; I will even give myself some rewards and punishments depending on the result. For example, the goal is to read 50 books this year. Then I will create a reading list, a timetable, and I will set punishments if I don’t finish the books on time. After these steps, I can already see myself checking off all the books from the list with a big smile on my face.
However, most people won’t meet their goals. Why? The answer is simple: all of those methods are mind controlling the body. My brain is telling my body to read books. But my body refuses. You have to learn to prioritize your body.
Like reading, no matter how much you don’t want to do it, no matter what excuse you have, you can always choose to sit down and open the book first. After a while, you will surprisingly find out that you are actually reading! Like working out, I don’t want to do it today because I’m in a terrible mood or it’s raining outside, or whatever excuse I get, I can always go to the weight room first, force myself to lift up the weights, and soon I will find out a terrible mood or bad weather has nothing to do with whether I work out or not.
The reason why this works is based on a psychological and biological phenomenon. Your mind and body are deeply related. But it is much harder for the mind to have control over the body because the mind has a strong “self-adaptation” ability. Even if I only think about giving up for two seconds, my spirit will expand upon that idea and convince me as best as it can until I agree to give up.
Next time when you have a goal, you should send the orders to your body, instead of your spirit, because your spirit will follow the body, not the other way around.
Strategy #2: Limit the quantity and time of “to-do”s.
I bet many people have heard the expression “quality over quantity.” But what quantity is a good amount and what is considered good quality?
For the daily to-do list, five things are the maximum number. This limitation also applies to those CEOs in big companies, even though they look like they are always busy. Humans are just not capable of doing more than five because this can put a huge amount of stress on us and cause us to rush through our tasks because we are eager to get the next one done. After we finish 10 tasks (if we are able to finish), we might feel really proud of ourselves, but the quality is definitely worse than what we would have done if we only did five things.
Good quality has a direct relation to a small quantity. The reason is obvious: people have much less stress and can be more concentrated. However, if you spend four hours on a homework assignment, it will not work out well either. The easiest way to get the best quality is to find an isolated place—by isolated I don’t mean somewhere in the mountains or in your basement—I mean a distraction-free environment. After you put your phone away or turn on the airplane mode, set a timer for twenty-five to thirty minutes, no more than thirty. After this, all you need to do is to 100% focus. There will be nothing but the homework in your eyes for these thirty minutes.
If you take those two strategies, congratulations! Now you are ready to crack all the tests/quizzes/essays/exams! Good luck!
For more time management strategies, check out Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg.