Although time management is not a skill uniquely relevant to academic research or writing, it is essential to the quality of both these endeavors. The pressures of life are such that finding adequate time to complete any task is difficult, but the satisfaction gained from work well-done is the reward of the dilligent worker (Eccl 2:24; cf. Matt 5:21)
While faithful time management requires attention to the entirety of one’s life and so extends beyond the realm of academic work, here a few time-tested tips:
- Prayerfully establish your priorities. Make a list of what you feel God is calling you to do, and rank the items in order of importance. Manage your time so that you do the most important tasks on your list. This helps prevent the urgent from overwhelming the important.
- Keep a calendar that lists important dates and regular activities. Charting how you spend your time makes you more aware of your schedule. Keeping track of important events, assignments, and due dates this way fosters wise planning.
- Identify all deadlines at the beginning of the semester. Most of your assignments will come with deadlines—either a date when a writing assignment must be turned in or a date by which you should have completed a reading assignment. Take note of each deadline on your calendar and develop a plan at the beginning of the semester for tackling your work.
- Create step-by-step deadlines for complex writing projects. Most writing projects require multiple steps to complete them. Rather than waiting until the last minute and hoping for the best, budget your time by establishing deadlines for the each step (gathering research, forming a thesis, writing a rough draft, etc.). For help with this process, see Creating a Writing Schedule.
- Work regularly and efficiently. Work expands to fill the allotted time. If you fail to plan when and how you will complete your work, you may find yourself wasting valuable time and falling behind.
- Create a weekly schedule to budget your time and reduce anxiety about finishing assignments. Do this by listing the tasks you need to complete in a given week, and allocate time throughout the week for working on each task.
- Establishing a regular time and location for study has proven to be immensely beneficial for theological study. Nearly every class requires independent research and writing, and most classes require more reading than you have time to complete. For these reasons, it is essential that the time you allocate to studying be time well spent. You cannot afford to waste time deciding when and where to study every day. The most successful students find a favorite desk, a regular corner of the library, or a quiet room where they can work without distraction for a fixed period of time.
- Schedule breaks. God designed us for work and rest. Accordingly, work without rest or recreation yields both decreased productivity and misery. Schedule time for breaks, time with friends, time to eat, and time to sleep. Also, allow more time to get things done than you expect, since your work often takes longer to do than you think. Moreover, unforeseen things will happen and upset your schedule (e.g., car trouble, sickness, someone else using the reference book in the library the day you need it), so build in extra time.
- Pray for diligence. Self-control is at the heart of academic diligence, but self-control is produced through ongoing dependence upon the Spirit (Gal 5:23). Just as academic study is to be pursued for the glory of God, so also does the competence to work excellently come from God alone.
Other "Planning Your Project" topics:
Planning Your Project Home
Understanding the Assignment
Creating a Writing Schedule
Becoming a Better Writer Home