Internships are a fantastic way to grow and build skills applicable to your major, while allowing you to improve general life skills like time management and communication. Improving my own personal time management process has come from dealing with my natural tendency to procrastinate, the heavy workload of college, and being a project management intern. Below I outlined the approach to the planning phase of managing my time and my work load that I am continuing to develop. This method has vastly helped me improve my productivity and ability to complete goals which has allowed me to work towards both academic and career success.
One of the most important parts of being productive is planning. I’ve found that my own personal procrastination stems from two things: being overwhelmed by tasks, or not knowing where to start. Planning is the best weapon against both of these causes for procrastination.
I’m a big promoter of something called Action Planning, which is essentially planning out your actions before taking them. While this process isn’t always applicable, I’ve found it’s great for following through on tasks and projects that are action-oriented (writing a paper, preparing for a meeting, planning a party, etc.) You can read about this process in more detail here. Below I outline my own approach to this process.
Here are a few steps that you can take while going through the planning phase of managing your time. I’ll use the example of writing a paper as I talk about this process.
Set Big Milestone Goals
Every big task has to have milestones along the way. For a paper some of those milestones could be
- find research papers for sources
- writing an outline
- completing a first draft
- submitting your final draft.
Breaking these big tasks down into smaller goals allows you to set deadlines and reduces the overwhelming feeling that such a big task might create.
Break Up Milestones into Action Items
Create a list of action-tasks that need to be taken to complete each milestone. Looking at find research papers for sources, this could mean Brainstorming a list of 10 keywords, Finding 20 possible sources, assessing validity and relevance of found sources, compiling final list of sources. By spending 10 minutes breaking up the open ended goal of “Find research papers” into action items, you accomplish several things:
- you give yourself a roadmap of what you need to do to reach a milestone
- you can plan your time better by estimating how long each action item will take
- It reduces the need to figure out the next action after you complete one
Set Deadlines for Milestones and Action Items
Now that you have a roadmap for what you need to do to complete your tasks, you can make estimates for how long the action items and associated milestones will take. Setting milestones can help keep you on track for completing your goals without procrastinating, as well as creating a sense of accomplishment when you meet those self-imposed deadlines.
Prioritize by Creating a List of Daily Action Items
Prioritizing is especially important when you have several big tasks on your plate. Again looking at College workload as an example, if you have to write a paper, study for exams, and help tutor your friend, you have to be able to prioritize what needs to be done to reach your deadlines. Using deadlines as guides, you can create a list of actions that you need to complete Today to keep on track towards those deadlines for each of your big tasks.
By spending an hour at the beginning of every week to plan for the week ahead, you can greatly reduce stress, procrastination, and increase productivity. The above process is one that I use, and it won’t work for everyone but the main ideas of breaking up tasks, setting goals or deadlines, and prioritizing based on deadlines are ones that shouldn’t be overlooked.