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Personal Time and Project Management Tips From America’s Top Universities
By Nick Nielson

Remember college — and choosing between going to the end of semester party and staying in to study for finals? For many college students it’s not always an easy choice. For the first time in their lives they’re making decisions that don’t have family and teachers spurring them on to self-motivate and stick to their schedules.

Very few students come to college prepared to carry out effective time management and project management (more important in higher level classes). Consequently, they’ll often struggle fighting the dual threats of procrastination and instant gratification. To combat this many campuses have resources to help students improve their self-planning skills.

It seems, however, that some of these lessons from academia don’t often carry over to the business world, or ‘real world’ as graduates like to call it, where the struggles of personal life can also overlap readily with the professional environment. There’s always room for improvement in terms of individual time and project management. The lessons found here can be applied by anyone in an organization’s hierarchy, not just management.

The following tips and methods come from some of America’s most prominent educational institutions:

A unique time management method from Cornell University

Cornell provides a short guide featuring some unique time management advice. Their tips are ideal for people who cringe at the simplistic structure of a to-do list, and view time as an abstract concept (this one’s for you philosophy majors). Cornell’s method, called “Time Management for Right Brained People,” focuses on knowing your goals, eliminating procrastination, creating priorities and seeking help when needed.

Varsity tip: Slow down and rationalize! Stress is a mind killer. Avoid running headlong into battle before you have a clear strategy.

Time management tips from Stanford University

As one of the top engineering schools in the world, it should come as no surprise that Stanford’s time management approach revolves around creating structure. Stanford offers 10 simple rules for planning your daily routine — from tackling large projects to managing your professional environment. This method is great for people who enjoy order and are highly organized.

Varsity tip: Plan rewards into your schedule. Offer yourself an incentive to finish the important activities in your day. Remember how mom gave you dessert after you finished those veggies?

Effective time management tips from Duke University

The Duke approach involves planning from the large scale, and working your way down to the small. Start with your goals and tasks for the quarter (or the year if you’re ambitious) and budget your time and energy until you have a daily plan. Calendars, routines and goals are at the heart of this method — ideal for the super planners among you (Duke even suggests scheduling your meals.)

Varsity tip: Focus on becoming task-oriented rather than time-oriented. Work through your studies in blocks, and focus on accomplishing tasks rather than simply devoting buckets of time to a particular client or campaign. Also, don’t forget to budget for personal exercise!

SMART TIPS from University of Chicago

We all know businesses love acronyms. And here’s a beauty of an acronym from one of the most prominent business schools in the country: SMART TIPS. Simple enough to remember, SMART TIPS offer a great ROI for your brain. Broken down, this method stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely, Take a break, Invigorate yourself, Plan your study space and Set your priorities. OK, so the last few initials might be a bit of stretch as far as acronyms go, but the message rings true: Know your abilities and limitations, and then plan accordingly.

Varsity Tip: Make tough decisions and stick by them. It’s better to move forward and learn from experience (and failure) than to languish in indecision.

In the professional world, we often forget the lessons of college and academia. While these management methods were developed with students in mind, the majority of their principles hold true for the business world as well. The need for self-improvement is continuous and carries on long past higher education. Hopefully, applying a few of these basic methodologies will help improve project and time management in your workplace.

Nick Nielson works at LiquidPlanner, an online project management tool with predictive schedule and dynamic collaboration.

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