All too often in life, it seems that the times in which we felt most productive were times when we actually had the least amount of time to spend.
What do I mean?
Think about that looming deadline set by your boss or that all-too-rapidly approaching final exam.
Do you find yourself not doing the work you’re supposed to do, when you have plenty of time to complete it yet when you’re giving yourself a time table and short sharp bursts of urgent timelines you excel above and beyond what you ever expected?
In simple terms, when you HAVE TO DO SOMETHING, YOU DO IT, when it’s not a must, you let it slide…
Are some examples of prioritizing:
Not important and not urgent. At the end of the semester you need to hand in a book report. It will probably take at least 10 to 20 hours to read the whole book (unless you speed read), and at least 4 or 5 hours to write the whole report. You have been given 3 months to complete it and it is worth at least 10% of your final grade.
You need to begin with it at the earliest momeny in order to avoid it becoming urgent.
You really want to avoid letting an important task become an “urgent and important” task. You can easily avoid this type of situation by psychologically giving yourself one-fourth of the time to complete the task, which will result in a faster completion time. Therefore, allowing extra time so that you can review and “polish” the final product into something truly amazing.
Not important but urgent. A quiz is scheduled for tomorrow, but you haven’t been to able to review anything. Although it’s only 5% of your total grade, you want to get the maximum mark you can.
You know perfectly well you could have done this sooner, and more easily, in between other tasks. Now, however, you need to worry about it unnecessarily.
Important but not urgent. You have a project that is worth 35% of your final mark. It’s due in a month and you estimate it will take you 20-25 hours to complete.
On top of chunking it down into bite-size chunks you also need to give each bite-size chunk a deadline and timeline, so that you have a realistic expectation and understanding of your workload. This will take the pressure off you, so you can relax when you set time to relax and be very focused in the times you allot for each chunk to be done.
Important and urgent. Your final exam is in 2 days time and 70% of your final grade depends on it. You have not done enough till now. The amount of new material to be covered is so great that you are not sure where to begin. You start panicking.
This is not where you want to be spending your time. You want to spend as much time as possible on important but not urgent issues. Of course, this takes planning and preparation But you will find times when you need to manage important and urgent situations in your education, life and work.
The ideal coping method is to take a more objective look at the issue, and take the time to think it over calmly. There is no situation that can be best dealt with in haste; every difficulty needs some thought put into it, and every difficulty can be better overcome if you plan a little before diving into the situation.
Once you’ve worked out how to keep this balance, and how to take advantage of deadlines on the really urgent assignments, you’ll have developed a system that will help you successfully complete any task you’re assigned at school or work.
I cover these in much more detail with more detailed examples in my book. Get it now and reduce your exam stress today/tonight.
Onward and upward!
Dr Marc Dussault
Successful students are NOT smarter than their classmates – they just DO things differently. Prioritization simply means putting in the SAME or LESS effort at a different point in time. Most students CRAM for exams with a LOT OF STRESS when in fact they could have done much better by studying the night before the night before the exam without duress.
That’s what I did when I was in the MBA program. I forced myself to study the night BEFORE the night BEFORE class on PURPOSE. So that I had the NIGHT BEFORE to review anything ‘else’ that I might have forgotten or had trouble with.
I was much less stressed than my classmates, slept better and YES got better grades. More importantly I enjoyed the process. Many of my classmates did not have fun learning – they were stressed, anxious, nervous and not much fun to be around. That was the case for the academic colleagues as well as family.
In some cases, it was almost the trigger to a divorce. In several, it meant they were not patient with their kids which is a terrible thing to see – WHEN IT’S TOTALLY PREVENTABLE…