The Frustration of Jigsaw Pieces: Perfecting Time Management Skills

As a child, I often tried to solve 1000-piece puzzles, and sometimes I lost patience and tried to jam a piece into the wrong area because it just didn’t fit. Obviously it didn’t work, and all I ended up with was a dented puzzle and heart. For us university students, especially first-years, this is our everyday reality. We try to cram extracurricular activities, relationships, jobs, and academic work into our schedule, and this results in many, many empty coffee cups. Here are several strategies I’ve implemented that have worked for me so far and might just get you off that heavy dose of caffeine:
  1. Use a planner
As someone who is constantly teased as ‘the person who would light up a Remembrall 24/7,’ it’s clear that I forget things easily, and thus, have to write deadlines and meetings down. I, personally, use a physical agenda (get one for free at the UTSU building!) to keep track of dates, but the calendar app on a laptop is equally helpful. As the old Chinese saying goes, “The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory.” (Maybe not if you’re writing in Tom Riddle’s diary—but you get what I mean.)
My UTSU agenda and mechanical pencil.
— The agenda is to me what the Remembrall is to Neville.
  1. Plan out your next day
Every night, I allot time to plan out my schedule for tomorrow, including both classes and activities to be done in between classes, and write it down on my whiteboard—that way I’ll have goals to complete and a direction to pursue instead of accidentally spending two hours at lunch slaving over how amazing [insert insanely amazing show]’s latest episode was.
  1. Consider ‘lost’ minutes
A lot of times, you’ll actually need a few spare minutes to complete trivial tasks before you get going to your next activity. For me, my minutes tend to be lost due to packing up slowly, asking a prof or TA a couple of questions, or even just chatting with a friend. Incorporate these into your schedule so you don’t end up sprinting across the field to snag that delicious Second Cup coffee in an attempt to beat the rush of fellow sleep-deprived students.
My astronomy textbook and iclicker atop my binder.
— Believe it or not, it takes me five minutes to pack my textbook and iclicker into my zip-up binder . . .
  1. Prioritize
The cruel truth is that we can’t pursue every single opportunity before us. Sometimes, we just have to miss that show’s season premiere to go to that extra English help session instead. Pick and pursue your events wisely, based on what’s most urgent and important.   And so, it is time to stop jabbing jigsaw pieces into the puzzle in futility—or rather, to stop trying to fit commitments into the wrong time slots in your life—; instead, now is the time to start using these time management skills to place the pieces where they rightfully fit and create a beautiful masterpiece!     What do you do to manage your time? Let me know in the comments below or through @lifeatuoft on Twitter!

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