Mission: Possible – Time Management is Self-Management

Time Management

By Mary Gordon
Mentor, Information Technology

Regaining Personal Financial Balance

At WGU, each student is assigned a personal faculty member to work with them as a mentor throughout their time at WGU. Additionally, each course has its own course instructors, subject-matter experts who are available to help students get through course material. Advice from your mentors and instructors is invaluable as you make your way through your online degree program. But we also want you to benefit from the wisdom of faculty not necessarily assigned to you, so occasionally, The Night Owl features advice from WGU faculty in colleges throughout the university.

Time management isn't just about "time." It's also about self-management: taking responsibility for your behavior so you can have productive use of your time.

I've been a Program Mentor in the College of IT for nearly four years. I've worked in education since 1994 at urban, suburban, and rural colleges. This amazing journey has allowed me to assist many students in achieving their academic goals. A common denominator among these men and women was their decision to be steadfast and enterprising self-managers.

Thinking about these students and those I work with at WGU reminds me of one of my favorite movies, The Incredibles.

While there are many quips and situations I found entertaining, there's one quote from the movie that resonates with me. It is the answer Mr. Incredible gives to his friend who is concerned that he is not managing his time well. Mr. Incredible confidently states, "I've got time." Basically, "I'm in control." I love it!

This line comes to mind when students say to me, "Mary, I just didn't have enough time this week." I pause and say, "You've got time—but how are you using it?"

There are hundreds of time-management tools, gadgets, webinars, and books out there, and we have all invested in a few. But these tools are useless if there isn't a conscientious effort to change your behavior and implement the strategies.

Think about this: If you have 168 hours in a week (and we all do), how are you spending your time? Where can you re-allocate minutes or hours so you can be more productive and less stressed? I ask the students I work with these questions. Together we write out the time spent on their weekly activities. Guess what? We always find "time" available that can be allocated for their school work.

So here are some tips that may help you optimize your time so you can be a better self-manager and work smarter, not harder.

Meals in 30 Minutes or Less:

Plan your weekly menus. Pre-cook some foods (like meat) and refrigerate so all you have to do is add sides (vegetable, starch, and/or salad). Make crockpot meals. Turn it on in the morning. Dinner is ready when you get home in the afternoon. Designate a day as "left-over day." Makes a great smorgasbord! Check out the Internet for other fast, healthy, 30-minute-or-less recipes. This will save you at least 10 hours per week!

4 D's to save you 5-10 hours per week:

  • Do: Be proactive rather than reactive. Stay flexible, adaptable and focused. Try uninterrupted study at your local public library. Use the time you commute to listen to reading assignments on your mobile device with text-aloud software. Set short-term and long-term goals so you can deal with issues before they become problems (e.g., too many end-of-term assignments).
  • Delegate: Ask for help. Share chores, errands, and tasks. Getting things done is what makes you a superhero—not doing them all yourself.
  • Defer: Prioritize. Set a time limit for tasks. Reschedule tasks as needed. Record TV shows and watch them later, after you study (as a reward).
  • Delete: Scale down. Don't let trivialities drain your time. Take charge. Delegate, defer, or just delete it off your list.

Going back to college is challenging—but very rewarding. If you struggle with procrastination or a lack of motivation, right now is the time to step back and recommit to better self-management. Stop making excuses. Have faith in you. Believe you can achieve your goals, because you're Incredible!


Western Governors University is a nonprofit, accredited, online university. Find out more about WGU's online bachelor's and master's degree programs in business.

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