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As the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders persist, we’re all still finding ways to optimize our time while working or studying from home

With businesses and schools closing and reopening, managing time at home presents challenges for students and workers alike. 

As you experience reduced recreation, increased social distancing, and more time working remotely, you may need some tips about how to manage your time better.

Udacity is here to help you out.

1. Focus on Your Priorities

Priorities include work, school, family, friends, recreation, and relaxation. Identify what your priorities are and reflect on them as you rank them in importance. Use your priority list to know yourself better.

Use your priority list to plan your days, weeks, and months. Schedule your priorities first and ancillary activities second. Make this approach a rule of thumb and stick to it.

2. Schedule Your Time in Advance

Think ahead. The timescales in your schedule can be hours, days, or weeks. You can benefit from scheduling your time at least 24 hours in advance. At the end of Monday, you should have a solid idea of what Tuesday will look like.

Use a calendar or task management system to plan out each hour of your day and each day in your week. If scheduling with digital time management tools, synchronize your schedule across your electronic devices. 

It can be helpful to schedule one week at a time. Remember to include other important timetable items mentioned in this guide such as buffer blocks and breaks. 

Scheduling takes time and effort; awareness of this may make you averse to it. But scheduling is worth the effort you put into it. The time you spend developing a solid schedule for yourself can be repaid 10-fold.

When you know what your days will look like throughout each week, you can feel peace of mind knowing that when you complete the tasks on your schedule, you satisfy your goals. You fulfill your responsibilities, realize your priorities, and increase that little needle measuring your net progress throughout life.

3. Dedicate Your Peak Performance Hours to Your Most Important Tasks

To best manage your time and efficiently tend to your tasks, play to your strengths. What time(s) of day are you fresh and alert? Many people are freshest and most alert in the morning.

Take advantage of your identified window of peak performance. Schedule your priority tasks during this window. If your peak-performance window is usually 8 a.m. to noon, schedule your most important meetings, procedures, or trainings from 8 a.m. to noon each day. 

You will feel satisfied completing quality work during the window when your inner flame shines brightest.

4. Schedule Breaks for Yourself

Humans are not machines. Everyone needs breaks — time to refresh, recuperate, refocus, and destress. Recognizing these needs and factoring them into your schedule can benefit you immensely. Breaks can help improve your mood, attention, and sleep.

Insert 10-minute breaks at regular intervals throughout your day and take breaks once every hour or two. Safely stand up, stretch, breathe deeply, and get some fresh air.

5. Give Yourself Focus Time

Everyone needs a time and place where they can focus on their tasks undistracted. Whether it’s at a private office space or your own home, utilize a safe space where you can work comfortably without the potential for you to redirect your attention to something else.

You can set up a work space with a desk and comfortable chair in your safe space. Make sure you have a drink and snack available, as well as any tools you might need to work undistracted for the duration of your focus time. If you like, listen to music that is conducive to focusing while you work. 

Block out any distractions that may arise during your focus time including people, chores, and non-urgent phone notifications.

6. Distribute Demanding Tasks Throughout Your Week

Say you are enrolled in an online training program that requires 10 to 15 hours weekly. You may want to split up that weekly time requirement into bite-size chunks. 

For example, work on that training program two to three hours each day throughout the week (e.g. distributed practice). Work on the program one hour at a time instead of tackling your daily load all at once. You can complete an hour in the morning and an hour or more in the afternoon or evening.

7. Manage Your Time Like It’s a Valuable Investment — Because It Is

Assess the value (potential, actual) you associate with each of your commitments. Calculate your expected returns on investments (e.g. financial, immaterial) you can gain from completing your tasks.

Use actual financial data where you have it to complete this step (e.g. money to earn via collaboration with a specific business partner). Develop your own numerical value system to assign values to tasks where you don’t have financial earnings or other value approximations (e.g. fun rewards) to associate with them. 

Your values and ROI estimates directly relate to your priorities. Assign higher values to your more important tasks. Sum and review the values associated with each task. 

Use your time-as-an-investment assessment to rate, rank, and schedule your activities and responsibilities accordingly. Focus your most valuable tasks during your regular windows of peak performance each day and week. 

8. Insert Buffer Blocks Into Your Schedule

Allow windows of open time (buffer blocks) between tasks-to-be-completed. People need buffer blocks to adjust their minds and bodies to the next item on their schedules. Providing yourself with buffer blocks can help you brainstorm, prepare, self-reflect, and feel better.

To create buffer blocks, insert five-minute blocks of time into your schedule between each task. 

Walking, meditating, and daydreaming are useful means for clearing your head between tasks.

9. Expect Tasks to Take Longer Than You Think

Everything on your schedule usually takes longer than you think it will. Plan for this. If you think task A will require 45 minutes, assume it will actually require 55 minutes or more. 

You can manage your time better by logging the amount of time your tasks take as you complete them. Enter the actual amount of time something takes as a note alongside where you have it scheduled. 

Through time, reflect on your notes and use them to obtain better estimates of how much time you think a given task requires versus how much time it actually takes. Use this information as feedback to modify your schedule and routines accordingly.

Don’t pile up more things on your schedule than is reasonable for a given day.

10. Don’t Underestimate the Benefits of Sleep

You may think that by sleeping less you can get more done. But this idea can’t be farther from the truth.

People need sleep. Sleep is essential for reconsolidation of thoughts, memory formation, recuperation, and the development of new ideas.

Understand how much sleep is optimal for you and make it a habit to get that much sleep every night. Most adults need seven to eight hours nightly, but maybe you’re more in the zone of eight to nine. 

If you don’t know how much sleep you prefer, experiment to find out. Try keeping a sleep diary and varying the amount of sleep you get nightly in half-hour increments. Stick to each sleep amount you test for at least one week at a time. Record how you feel each day and take notes about whether you’d like to try more or less sleep the next time you adjust your average nightly amount.

Figure out your optimal sleep range and let yourself sleep.

11. Accommodate Your Limits

When you review your daily routines as they are now, what stands out to you? Do you often struggle to find time to exercise, watch your favorite TV show, or read a good book?

If you reflect on your schedule as it is now and you notice a pattern that, most days, you don’t fit all your tasks in, consider scaling back. Less can be more.

Use your evaluation of your daily norms to find ways you can scale back. Maybe you need to delegate some of your regular responsibilities to other people so you can have time to focus on your priorities. Maybe you need to eliminate some commitments altogether.

As you redesign your routines to accommodate your limits, prioritize your self-care.

12. Manage Your Time With Confidence

Use this time management guide as a resource to rearrange your schedule so you manage your time the ways you want. Identify your priorities, your personal limits, and your expectations. Establish goals that are meaningful to you.

Envision your life days, weeks, and months in advance to determine how you can realistically accomplish your goals. Continue to progress toward your goals and modify your schedule and routines as needed. Proceed with confidence.

Achieve Your Goals With Udacity

As you reevaluate your schedule to manage your time better and refocus your priorities, you may realize you’d like to learn something new or earn credentials to advance your career.

Online learning platforms like Udacity are ideal for remote skill development. Udacity provides the means for you to build your skills from the comfort of your own home or favorite workspace.

Udacity’s team of experienced instructors and mentors excel in technology and business. Udacity’s courses are designed to equip you with real-world, industry-relevant skills to help you succeed in today’s workplaces.

Check out Udacity’s course catalog and consider registering for an absorbing Nanodegree program today!

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