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The UnCollege Blog

Scheduling, Balancing, and Juggling: Hacking Your Schedule When You’re Way Too Busy

Today you have to work out, study, attend class, catch some sleep, take a test, go to your job, call your mom, answer all 37 (and counting!) emails in your inbox, wash your clothes, walk the dog, and hopefully find time to see some of your friends. And do you know what the worst part of it is? You have to do it all again tomorrow. If you feel like a hamster stuck on a wheel, or that you can’t pick between the options in this infamous dilemma, you may want to reconsider how you are approaching the necessities. In the coming months, ensure that you don’t just toe the line of procrastination, but make it all the way to productivity with less stress by checking out these pointers I’ve picked up along the way.

Stack your opportunities.

This is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten for hacking a busy schedule; it seems to exponentially decrease my workload and stress. “Stacking” simply means effectively completing a few tasks at the same time. For example, when I’m at the gym or doing laundry, I listen to podcasts on subjects I want to learn. When looking for a job, I looked for something that would allow me to build the skills I needed for university and also provide me with necessary money for school. By choosing activities that can be done at the same time, or that reinforce each other, you may be able to kill two birds with one stone.

Don’t disregard travel time.

Travel can eat up large chunks of time each day, but if you plan a little, it can have a big impact on reducing the load of your schedule. If you’re in school, bring along your textbook or download Khan Academy lessons here and complete them while offline on the subway, bus, or waiting for class to begin. Drafting email responses can be done while sitting and waiting for public transportation, and your ears can be occupied with an audiobook or podcast while walking, driving, or biking. While these are effective ways to take advantage of the time spent traveling, it may be worthwhile to look at ways to reduce it, too. Finding jobs close to your living space or on campus can really cut down on hours spent in traffic or waiting for the bus, and choosing to travel at non-trafficked hours (like rush hours at the beginning and end of work days) can reduce pointless rush-hour time.

Batch what you can.

Batching, which is the practice of dedicating chunks of time to similar tasks, has been proven to be a highly productive way of getting stuff done. Emails provide possibly the best example, and are an excellent case in which everyone can use this technique. Rather than continuously checking and responding to emails throughout the day, which results in getting distracted from other work and wasting time checking an empty inbox, it is more effective to check email at a few designated times and respond to everything in one block. Your brain remains motivated and your concentration stays unbroken for the duration of any activity.

Understand when multitasking doesn’t work.

Studies have shown that multitasking, while seemingly a perfect solution to the too-much-to-do, too-little-time issue, is not as effective as one may like to believe. Unfortunately, you can’t stack everything. To really bang out some necessary work, it can be useful to turn off music, the TV, or notifications on your phone and simply concentrate all of your brain on the task ahead.

Here’s the basic takeaway: think intentionally about all your actions, especially the consistently repeated ones in your day, week, and month. For more tips like these, visit UnCollege’s Hackademic section!

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