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Voll im Plan – weniger Stress durch Zeitmanagement

Katja Mayer 16.04.2012
Do you know the feeling? At the beginning of the semester, it seems as though you have plenty of time to complete all of your jobs quite comfortably – but toward the end, time just keeps getting tighter. So tight that your friends have to cancel plans with you for weeks and you end up burning the midnight oil and looking like a zombie once you have managed to struggle your way through your workload.

​Of course, most of the time you do manage to get everything done in time and perhaps you’re even one of those people who performs best under pressure. But if you start doubting that you’re really taking the best course of action, you should consider making a change – and read on about time management...

Zeitmanagement im Studium

In fact, with a little bit of planning it’s actually quite easy to complete all tasks calmly and confidently. Calmly, because you don’t have so much to do every day that you have to work yourself to the point of exhaustion. Confidently, because you will be in control of your own time and on top of your tasks instead of feeling panicked and rushed by deadlines.

This will also have positive side effects: You will live a healthier life, be more fun around friends and family – and, generally speaking, you will achieve better grades. We would like to present you with a few tools and methods to help you organize your time in the best possible way:

The Alpen method

The Alpen method got its name because the first letters of the five steps spell out the word A – L – P – E – N. This method provides you with a basic principle to plan and structure your workload:

  1. Add the activities to your calendar: You can no longer forget what you have put down in writing. And don’t just write it anywhere, put it in your calendar. There are many electronic calendars you can use for this ­– such as the one included in your e-mail program. Get your computer to remind you of deadlines in good time – the bigger the task, the earlier the reminder. 
  2. Learn to make reasonable estimations: Realistically estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete a task and block this time slot in your calendar. This way, you’ll avoid double-booking your time. You’ll also be able to see when you’re fully-booked and find out that you may have to prepare your presentation a week in advance.
  3. Provide a buffer: More often than not, something unexpected happens. Either books are not available, reading takes longer or you get sick. If your schedule is really tight, you’ll end up in trouble – and might even fail. As a rule of thumb, 60% of your time can be scheduled for work but 40% is needed as a buffer. 
  4. Evaluate and make a decision: Put your tasks in order of priority. Not everything is equally important. Prioritize your jobs and stick to your decisions. This even means letting others know that you have to study when they ask you for something. Don’t let yourself get distracted by them (or the internet).
  5. Now review your plan: First, review your time schedule. Is it actually realistic? When working through your plan, you should keep checking to make sure you’re on schedule and that the plan fits your working speed.

You should split larger projects – such as final papers – into individual stages so that you can review your progress. If you are unsure about how to split your workload into a logical sequence of steps, it often helps to put the cart before the horse: What is the final stage? Which step comes directly before that? Continue on in this fashion until you have worked your way back to the beginning.

The Eisenhower principle

Besseres Zeitmanagement im Studium

Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower developed a decision matrix that will enable you to group all of your outstanding tasks by importance and urgency. Accordingly, tasks may be:

  •   Important and urgent: These are tasks (for example, revising for the exam next week) that you have to take care of yourself – immediately.
  • Important but not urgent: The presentation next month is important because it makes up an important part of your grade. That’s why you need to make sure you plan enough time to prepare.
  • Urgent but not important: The dripping faucet needs to be repaired – but that isn’t something that you need to take care of personally. A plumber can fix it for you.
  • Neither important nor urgent: Sorting out photos, trying new cooking recipes. There’s just no time for these jobs when you have other important and urgent jobs to do. These are the jobs you need to postpone – not the presentation.

This way, you can put your jobs into some sort of order and adjust it using the Alpen method. You should also take the Pareto principle into account when putting your plan into action.

The Pareto principle

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto came up with the so-called 80-20 rule over the course of his studies. When applied to time management, the principle states that 80% of your results come from 20% of the time you spend on them. The other 20% of your results takes four times as long. And the longer you keep working on it, the less you will improve the final result. Under no circumstances will this make the job perfect. There is no clearer argument against perfectionism.

This means you need to know when you have read and learned enough to be able to write the paper, because reading even more texts won’t provide you with new insights. Be honest with yourself when you have realized that your changes are no longer improving your work. Call it a day and move on to your next task.

It also really helps if you don’t let work pile up on you. Of course, there will always be exams at the end of the semester, but you can deal with your presentations in between. Spreading them throughout the semester means you will always have enough time to prepare and gradually make more time for leisure.

Further information on time management:

Read the 10 tips our founding partners at SAP recommend for a more intelligent, faster and more efficient working style
You may already be familiar with the simplify philosophy. I find many of the program’s suggestions are really helpful. Andtime is the third level in the pyramid for an easier and uncomplicated life. Now all that’s left is to put it all into practice. Can you do it?

Are you trying to keep relaxed at university? We can give you advice on studying without stress.

Editor: Katja Mayer in collaboration with the Karrierebibel