Time Management and Organization

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Many people are discouraged from trying to learn new knowledge or skills because of time issues. They already feel that their lives are too busy and they don't see how it is possible to fit more commitments into their already jammed schedules. Other people take an overly laid-back approach to new knowledge acquisition. They sign themselves up for classes and programs and then don't take those classes and programs seriously. They show up late for class, or study in a haphazard manner. They may procrastinate with regard to assignments. At the end of the semester (when the course is over) they wonder why their grades are so low!

Both types of people described above might benefit from improving their time management and organization skills.


The first type of people (who shy away from new challenges because they are "too busy") might actually be able to make the necessary time available if they participate in a values clarification session (so as to figure out whether new learning might be more important than other current commitments), and then (if it is more important to learn), a careful rearrangement of current commitments and responsibilities so as to move aside things that are less important and make room for learning. Normally scheduled events (like preparing dinner, or paying bills, or child care) might be able to be put off for a while, or given over to someone else in the family so as to make room for school a few nights per week, for example.

The second type of people (who take an overly laid back approach to learning) might do much better in their chosen programs if they actually made school a priority, attended class on schedule and studied regularly (as our study skills section recommends). Many things can be accomplished in life when you prioritize them, and then take them seriously enough to see that they get done in a timely manner.

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Time management skills boil down to awareness, organization and commitment. You need to become aware of and record everything you're doing so that important things get done on time and nothing has a chance to sneak up on you. You also need to commit to keeping your schedule, and not wandering off when something more momentarily interesting occurs. Time management and organization skills are applicable to a wide range of life tasks you might decide to take on. They will benefit you broadly in what ever you might do.

The awareness part of time management corresponds to self-monitoring methods from our section on habit change. In this case, what you need to self-monitor are your commitments and how much time you spend on them. Commitments are appointments, or things you have to do like errands, or attending a class. They are also the things you choose to do when you are avoiding your actual commitments (such as spending time hanging out with your friends). Some commitments are predictable and follow a formal schedule, while others are informal and occur more spontaneously. You have explicit commitments (like classes and times you need to pick your children up from day care) and also implicit commitments (like the time you'll need to put in studying for tests, or researching and preparing presentations). Make sure you schedule time for both commitment types!

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