When I was younger, time management was not always my strong point. In grade school, I vividly remember sitting in front of our family computer for hours to finish "homework" and somehow ending up on the last chapter of a fan-fiction story. It wasn't uncommon for me to finally get to bed in the late hours of the night because I didn't know how to properly manage my time (it also didn't help that I had an unaddressed phobia of math). The struggle of my messy and undisciplined life definitely had to change in order to succeed in a demanding high school.
Luckily, I discovered a way to maximize the use of only 24 hours in a day after observing and talking to some of the busiest and most successful people I knew. This multistep strategy helped me throughout high school and college and now helps in my adult life.
1. Recognize What Pulls You Off Track
It may seem simple, but understanding what usually derails your productivity is very important. Does a certain social app suddenly seem very tempting when you're in the middle of a project? If you're like me, is that strange fan fiction suddenly calling your name before finishing that paper? Become aware of what tends to draw you away from accomplishing goals throughout the day.
2. Give Yourself a Reward
If it's a recent television series, new book that you're dying to devour, or fun social app, feel free to turn it into a reward. Having breaks and rewards in place throughout the day helps to make achieving large tasks more approachable by breaking the process down. I use this system a ton when I'm at the gym or writing a book. If a task feels too daunting and makes me apprehensive to start or causes me to become easily distracted, I break it up with minirewards. The minirewards are where what you observed about yourself in step number one comes into play. The things that pull you off track that you really like can actually be beneficial to you in the long run. It's easy to think of each day as a race with so much to accomplish, but it's much more like a marathon, so pacing yourself is everything! With little breaks and rewards throughout the day, it's easier to prevent burnout.
3. Use Your Tech
To be very honest, I am not confident that I could find my way home from most places without a GPS route from my phone. Anticipating the workload for the week or day with the help of technology can cut down on your grunt work through the day. I didn't realize how much of my work I could delegate until I took time to look at the tech options available. It can be as simple as setting phone alarms and reminders or as complex as using automated services — whatever you need, there is probably a tech tool out there for you.
4. Be Realistic With Goals
I like to keep myself motivated by not biting off more than I can chew in a day. Being realistic about my abilities and building in some time for error helps to keep me positive. I like to write down three to five main goals that I want to accomplish in a day and take it from there.