Meditating Student

While time management and mindfulness are two seeming distant skills, those two skills can be marvelously combined together to help you manage your time and energy more effectively.

 Almost all students in the world have had to adapt to a new studying setting that is very different from what it used to be before the COVID-10 pandemic.

Some schools and universities have turned completely to teaching classes online while others have had to enforce some strict social distancing guidelines as well as personal hygienic rules. As a result, a significant number of students now have to spend a considerable amount of their time taking their classes online or participating in an online educational course where it is very easy for students to lose focus and get distracted.

Distractions have a knack for crawling up in our minds and diverting our attention away from our area of focus hence affecting the reception of information. It is easy for our minds to wander away for a while until we realize the importance of the task at hand and snap out of it. During online classes and in longer studying sittings, students are more prone to losing focus and getting distracted but the key to keeping focused and keeping the mind in check lies in two great skills that if mastered and learned to be used together, it can boost your productivity and wellbeing even beyond classroom to your daily activities. These two skills are mindfulness and time management.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness, by definition, is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. In other words, it is the process of taking charge of the mind and focusing our entire attention to the present moment with full awareness to where we are and what we are doing while shutting off distractions around us. Mindfulness teaches us the skills to stay in the present moment by noticing when the mind is wandering off. It also teaches us how to deal with stress by being aware of what is happening in the here and now rather than acting unconsciously and unaware of what emotions or feelings may be driving that stress.

Mindfulness for students studying from home?

Yes indeed! Shifting the focus to the present moment is a great way to get rid of stress and anxiety caused by the overwhelming activities students have to experience, especially when they are in a new, stressful, and far-from perfect learning environment of online learning. It helps students focus their attention on the present moment and not so much on the future or on past unpleasant events that may have happened. In doing so, the mind is fully engaged in receiving important information relating to the subject being studied and ignoring any thoughts that are unrelated to it. Research has shown that mindfulness practices can greatly reduce anxiety and depression, which in turn will increase focus and perception.

How to practice mindfulness

Mindfulness practices entail focusing your entire attention on your bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions, and especially the breath. So any activity can become mindful by focusing on the present moment and engaging your senses. You can practice mindful eating, for example, by looking at your food, noticing its smell and tasting its different flavors and textures and eating it slowly while noticing it enter your stomach. The below YouTube video gives you ten exercises that will help you adapt to mindfulness living:

If you were a student struggling with focusing in the online learning environment, and would like to start applying mindfulness to your day-to-day life, here are a few tips that will complement your mindfulness practices.

Avoid Multitasking:

Multitasking can open the door to distractions so only focus on one thing at a time. This will help limit distractions and will keep you focused on the task at hand.

Focus on one thought at a time

This is another way to say avoid multitasking, not only in tasks but also in thoughts and ideas. Clear up your head of all competing and racing thoughts that often disrupt your train of thought.

Always be prepared:

When studying for an exam or working on an assignment, it only helps if you prepare and organize all the materials you will need for this session beforehand. This will limit the time unnecessarily wasted and utilizes your study time better. There will be more on that later when we talk about time management skills!

Turn on your camera:

Body language is important during classes. In an online environment it is good practice to turn on your camera as this can you help a great deal in building connections.

Engage and participate:

Always be engaged and ready to ask questions. Participating makes you involved in the class and limits any opportunity for distraction to take over your mind.

Take rests between classes:

Back-to-back online classes can drain your energy levels real fast. Take small rests between classes as this will help you reenergize your mind and focus on your next class.

Now we will turn our attention to another great skill that will help you get more done in a shorter period of time and free up precious time for other activities. This skill (or set of skills) is time management.

What is time management?

The simplest definition of time management is art and science of planning out the amount of time you spend on which tasks. The founding father of this concept is Frederick Taylor in his scientific management techniques. His goal was to increase the productivity of workers. He developed his ideas on time management by studying the time it takes and the activities and movements involved in workers performing various tasks.

Here is a list of proven techniques that will help you manage your time more effectively.

Have a to-do list

Start jotting down lists of short-term goals and long-term goals. Short-term goals can be daily or weekly and can include all the assignments that are due within the day or the week such as a paper that’s due this week or the extra-curricular activities you are taking on. Make a list of your long-term goals as well. Long term goals can be monthly or can take as long as a semester to complete. Be it raising your GPA to a certain level or work towards making it to the Dean’s List. This should all be written down and checked off whenever a task is complete.

Keeping the number of short-term and long-term goals at a minimum is a key to actually accomplishing them. Not only will this allow you to complete your tasks in a timely fashion, it will also boost your sense of accomplishment when marking a task as complete hence lowering your stress level. The importance of following this approach during your college years and even later in life after graduation cannot be overstated.

Have a Do-Not-Do list

Often times you might be tempted to take on an extra goal to achieve something here or there. Those can quickly pile-up and run into a long list of over-due tasks especially at the long-term level. A good practice is to say no to goals that are not essential or not at a current priority and to add them to a Do-Not-Do list where you know they are there but you choose to put them off until the time is right for them.

Plan Ahead

Now that you have put your tasks into lists, it is time to prioritize these tasks according to how important they are or how soon they are due. Make sure to set an appropriate amount of time for each task without neglecting other tasks. Suppose you have a paper to submit in four days and homework for 3 different classes that are due in two days; make sure you set a reasonable amount of time to write this essay without ignoring your homework. Granted, large projects can be frustrating and can cause your stress level to increase and your focus to drop hence it is a good practice to break down bigger tasks into smaller ones so they’re easier to complete. Be flexible with your list and shuffle tasks around as best as it would serve your schedule. If you are feeling focused, use that and study for your upcoming exam but if you’re feeling creative, put that creativity to work and start working on the paper that’s due.

Kill Procrastination

Every one of us procrastinates in one way or another and usually it’s not a bad thing (but not a good thing either!) until it starts taking up more time than it should. The reason people procrastinate is because they tend to exaggerate the task at hand so they put off completing it. Procrastinators may think a task is difficult, boring or annoying but don’t let that stop you from completing your tasks. It’s easy to get sucked into distractions but have a strong will to disconnect from all the distractions around you. If you’ve been putting off writing this essay because you think it’s difficult or annoying to write, think about submitting that paper and receiving a decent grade and how good that will feel. Always reward yourself after completing a project or a task; take a fifteen-minute break to watch a YouTube video or read an online article.

Take breaks

Focusing on a certain project for a long period of time will use your body’s energy so It is important to set aside a set period of time within your studying schedule for breaks. Set a ten-minute break every ninety minutes of work or so. A break should be short enough for you to reenergize your brain but not long enough for you to lose your focus. If you were to stick to this routine, you will be amazed at how productive you have become and how your brain is ready to process information.

Control your stress

Stress is typically your body’s response to a challenge so it is perfectly normal for you to feel such stress when you are under the pressure of exams and assignments. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with your college work and due dates, you are not alone. All college students feel the same. Luckily, stress can be controlled. There are a few things you can do to control your stress levels. Dedicate a time within your schedule for workout; set aside an hour of exercise every other day. Exercise is known to release feel-good endorphins in your body hence lowering your stress level. That in turn will help boost your productivity.

How can mindfulness and time management be combined and practiced together?

Practicing mindfulness will surely lower your stress level and assist you focus on the tasks at hand. Yet, it is very easy to get off-track again within the life of a high school or college student which is typically very busy with huge amounts of assignments, project, papers, and activities (all online!), needless to mention any extra-curricular activities that you would like to engage with or a side-job that you need to maintain. Having so many assignment deadlines and activities with no clear approach on how to tackle them only adds to your stress making it all the more difficult to get your assignments done on time. Here comes the need to exercise time management properly in addition to mindfulness to sustain the clear state-of-mind and help you achieve more.

Learning how to manage time effectively is the best practice for students to excel and accomplish more tasks. Time management allows you to get more done in a shorter period of time while feeling good and accomplished about it. Mindfulness balances and fulfills your inner state-of-mind and sharpen your focus. Time management manages your time (duh!), while mindfulness manages your energy!

Time management manages your time, while mindfulness manages your energy!

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