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Time Management: Six Tips from WI Students

May 07, 2020

In August, 2019 the Wilmette Institute asked students to say how they manage their time. The Time Management survey is still open, for any former or current students who think they may have tips to contribute. All respondents will be eligible for a $20 gift voucher for a future WI course. The following is a summary of the responses to date.

List-making Habits. Most of the respondents utilize the good old-fashioned “to-do” list in their daily lives. In fact, 43% said they make to-do lists “all the time,” while 38% said they do make lists, but never use them for courses. One respondent says “[I make] to-do lists and timelines, often in the form of digital reminders in my calendar app, including for my courses.” Another notes that she also uses “Calendars and social apps to coordinate activities and tasks.”

TIP #1 
If you’re struggling to keep up with coursework, making a list may be a good idea. It doesn’t have to be electronic—pen and paper works just fine.

Prioritizing is a Must. About two-thirds (68%) of respondents said they prioritize daily activities on a regular basis. Not all of them put their priorities in writing, but they do have a clear idea in their mind what tasks they need and intend to get done. Whether or not you use a to-do list, these survey results indicate that paying attention to priorities is a key time-management habit to cultivate.

Sleep and Exercise Habits. This piechart below shows that all respondents have good sleep habits, with more than 50% reporting 7 or more hours of sleep per night on average. Half the respondents also exercise regularly, while about 1/4 reported that they “don’t exercise much.”

TIP #2
Good sleep and exercise habits contribute to time management by increasing the overall health and capacity of both body and mind. It is easy to forget that physical energy is required for the brain to work! In fact, according to this article in Scientific American: “It is well established that the brain uses more energy than any other human organ, accounting for up to 20 percent of the body’s total haul.”

Multitasking vs Concentrating. Interestingly, no one style of task flow is preferred by the respondents of this survey. About 1/3 (36%) say they “generally concentrate completely on one task at a time,” but 50% indicated “I often am working on two or more different things at once.” Multitasking is not for everyone, but for those who can handle it, it can be a great strategy for a busy life.

Meditation/Quiet Time. Almost 3/4 (72%) of respondents either practice meditation regularly, or “regularly take time for prayer/quiet time with no distractions.” One respondent wrote: “I frequently do deep breathing to recenter myself If I feel I’m getting stressed and sing prayers whenever they come into my head.” Our conclusion? Quiet time pays off. If children are a distraction, perhaps you can find an older relative or friend who would be happy to spend time with your children while you find time for yourself.

Female writing notes in a coffee shop with her phone face down on the table.
Photo by Alex Samuels on Unsplash

Finding the right time, and finding enough time. We need more respondents to investigate this aspect of the study, so please do take the survey if you are interested in contributing your own experience. In the meantime, we report the following on data collected so far:

A majority (54%) work on courses on and off throughout the day (they multitask)

18% get up early to study when they are “fresh”

18% report they only have time to study on weekends

A minority (9%) say their best time to study is late at night

32% have enough free time to study/finding time is not a problem

27% say they can only spend a couple of hours a week on courses

23% cut down on social activities in order to concentrate on studying

14% use the time they would normally spend “reading the Baha’i Writings” to study courses

One respondent commented: “Learning is a lifelong habit for me so I always have training time built into my life, whether for my work or my life. The day you stop learning, you’re dead!” While 32% say they set aside a special time each week for studying, 41% report that they do not have enough time to schedule designated study times.

TIP #3 
It’s okay to grab a few minutes here and there. Consider getting up early (or staying up late, depending on your personal cycle of alertness), but do try to get at least 5-7 hours of sleep every night.

Offline strategies. About 1/3 (36%) of respondents reported that they do most of their studying online at their computer, but most respondents (54%) say they study both online and offline. A minority (14%) print out most of the materials so they can study offline. One respondent commented: “I prefer print as I read faster & retain more, but keep an iPad mini just for online reading since I spend my days hunched over a computer for work & don’t need any more sitting than I have to.”

Studying while traveling/exercising/working. Eighteen percent (18%) of respondents read or listen to course materials during their commute to and from work.  Another 35% study at work, during breaks, and 12% study while exercising.

TIP #4 
Individual study habits vary widely, but printing at least some of the materials makes it easier to grab study time here or there, and can be a worthwhile option for many learners, including seniors, and parents of young children.

TIP #5 (for sore eyes)
Ctrl + : While holding down the Control key (Ctrl), press the “plus” key one or more times. The control key is on the lower left-hand side of the keyboard. (For Mac: use Command key.)
Ctrl – : Press the minus key in the same fashion to make print smaller again.
This works on PDFs and Word docs as well.

TIP #6 
We really liked this tip from one lifelong learner who has taken more than 20 courses since 2010: “Set a realistic goal for what you want to get out of the course, then use your limited time to meet that goal. Don’t worry about what you haven’t done. Do what you can. This builds capacity.”

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