By: Meghan Farrell
Communication Major & Economics Minor, 2019
As a student who juggles multiple jobs, a full-course load and community involvement, I had assumed that simply having many responsibilities would be enough to make me “good at time management.” However, in college I quickly learned that time management skills do not come automatically from the addition of more tasks, but the quality and impact of your work really matters, too. My work experiences have taught me that careers in communication require excellent time management ability as one must manage multiple deadlines, competing priorities and diverse audience needs—all while ensuring a high standard of attentiveness to detail.
One of the most important tokens of advice I received was to consider time management not as a standalone skill, but a combination of them. In the spirit of paying forward, I offer my own tokens of advice on time management.
Start with the Work That Matters Most. My first tip is to identify the work that energizes you, particularly when there are pressing demands on your time. Deadlines are going to conflict, emergencies are going to arise, meetings will be rescheduled, someone is going to hate your first draft; however, if you are passionate about the work you will find the energy to push through and move to the next task.
Make a Working List. I also recommend keeping a fluid to-do list. Planning and organization are among the most obvious time management skills, but it is easy to get overwhelmed if you are resistant to adapting your plans. I often block out time for specific work and school responsibilities, but I also ensure that I evaluate my task list at least twice daily. Reflecting on your to-do lists can also help you come up with creative ways to take advantage of the “slow” parts of your day. I listen to recorded lectures or relevant podcasts on my commute to my internship to reinforce material from classes, and I spend time between classes strategizing article or design ideas.
Keep Communication Channels Open. Working as a member of a team is common in many upper level courses, and it’s the norm in most office environments. Communication, delegation and empathy help you manage time in a team environment for efficient work flows. Clear communication and delegation of responsibilities, from the start, will help your team succeed. In my school projects, I create task communication documents in Google Docs that outline objectives for the project, allow people to sign up for the tasks that align to their strengths and track progress to hold everyone accountable. The tracking document also helps identify challenges early on, so that you can intervene effectively before tensions build or it’s too late to solve a problem effectively.
Practice Self-Care. One of the most important lessons that I have learned to improve time management skills is how to manage stress. Anyone who took Interpersonal Communication knows that stress can have damaging effects on both your mental and physical well-being. Understanding how you can respond effectively to stress and setbacks will make you stronger when you face your next challenge. Thus, it’s important to also develop your coping skills as a co-requisite of your time-management skillset.
Stress Doesn’t Breed Creativity. Especially in a career where you are called upon to think creatively, it is important to give yourself mental breaks to recharge. There are many ways to manage stress, so it is important to find what works best for you. For example, I love the outdoors, and I will often casually write content while sitting outside: I remember one article that I wrote in September at 4,580’ elevation, nestled in the White Mountains. Being in nature allows me to clear my head and broaden my perspective so that I can tackle my next assignment with a renewed focus.