Effective Time Management for Mental Health

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Post-Secondary education can be overwhelming. All of a sudden you're expected to budget your own time, take care of assignments and research without direct supervision, and balance an active social life with the demands of a full study schedule.

If you don't plan carefully, you can find yourself drowning in a sea of looming deadlines and incomplete work. This is a pretty common experience for post-secondary students, but luckily there are some basic techniques that might help you avoid the stress and get your time in order.

Love It and List It
One of the greatest sources of fear is the unknown. If you aren't clear on exactly what you're facing, you're bound to make the situation even worse by getting lost in a cloud of anxiety.

So a good first step to tackle what you have to get done is writing it down. What assignments are due, and when? What classes do you need to study for? Take your list, and put it in order of priority - whatever's due first goes to the top of the list, with the next-most urgent item following, and so on.

Sub-Divide and Conquer
Remember, you don't have to do it all at once. Take the first thing on your list: what are the steps you need to take to get it done? Create another list of those steps. That way, with each completed task, you can cross it off.

Remember, each thing you do is another step on the path to clearing your schedule. Instead of thinking in terms of "finishing everything," which is abstract and enormous and leads to needless stress, think about concrete, achievable goals: pick up books from library; write first draft.

Lose the Distractions
It's hard to get anything done when you're tweeting, Facebooking, texting, surfing, and sending your brain in a million directions. Before you get started on your assignment, try this: lock your door. Turn off all electronic devices. Disconnect the Internet.

Now that there are no external distractions, sit with a pad of paper and a pen, and any books you're using to do your work. Think through your plan, and write it down. Once you've got it clear in your head, you can turn your computer back on and dive in.

Eat Well, Sleep Well
It's hard to focus and manage your time when you're not well nourished, or when you're exhausted from lack of sleep. Planning and thinking are a big part of effective time management; but clear thought is impossible when you're not taking care of your body.

Stay hydrated, eat fresh, healthier foods, get a good amount of sleep. Taking care of yourself will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and panicked.

Balance Your Schedule
One of the most stressful things about being in school is the feeling that you could always be working. Unlike a nine-to-five job, where you have a defined schedule with evenings and weekends off, the student life is, theoretically, a 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week endeavor.

But no one can work all the time, and nobody should. Set times for yourself when you won't be studying. Go outside, hang out with friends, play sports - whatever will make you feel good. And do it without guilt: you know you'll get your work done in a timely fashion, because you have a plan.  

For more ideas on how to manage your time as a post-secondary student, check out IAmNext.com and Cambridge University Student Union's tips.