One of the major skills necessary to achieve financial independence is the ability to manage your time, regardless of which career path you are on. As I mentioned in Juggling Work & School Demands, the importance of learning time management cannot be overstated. Trust me, learning to manage time will equip you to handle a variation of both work and personal crises.
Let’s face it, being an efficient and effective time-manager does not come naturally to everyone. Therefore, the younger we begin to develop this skill, the better.
As a child or teenager, many begin to hone this skill after realizing that it is better and less stressful to finish homework before heading out to go hang out with friends or to complete a household chore before plopping down on the couch to watch TV.
Learning how to focus on the task on hand is the main lesson here. Focusing on one task at a time has—of course—become an increasingly difficult for people of all ages, due to the never-ending world of distractions that are available via the Internet, social media platforms and cell phones.
That said, utilizing these types of technologies isn’t a bad thing. In fact, these technologies can be used to maximize our productivity instead of hindering it. We just need to know how to use them to our advantage instead of becoming immersed in them.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are hoping to improve your time management skills:
Like many people, I first learned time management skills in school. Due to my competitive nature, I have always been someone who strives to go above and beyond expectations. This led me to have only a few friends. As a result of this, I didn’t feel the need to waste time chitchatting with my peers. It also meant that there was often much I wanted to do.
For example, from fifth to seventh grade, I attended an all-boys school because I wanted to learn English. I was the only girl in the whole school, which meant that I was surrounded by eight hundred (yes, eight hundred) boys. Between eighth and eleventh grades, I decided that I also wanted to learn Hindi and Sanskrit, which meant that I had to head to school an hour early every day.
I also participated in debate and public speaking tournaments. More often than not, I was the only girl competing in these tournaments. I knew that I was fiercer than the competition though and this motivated me to perfect my debating and public speaking skills by studying and practicing like hell. I knew that my hard work would pay off and it simultaneously improved my self-confidence and upped my self-esteem.
My days were long and I was often exhausted, but I learned by trial and error how to schedule my time so that I was able to devote my time to everything I wanted. My determination helped me to achieve all of my academic goals and to outperform the boys.
For me, the biggest challenge of time management occurred during the monsoon season. My family lived in a so-called “Wada” in a small town called Panvel. The Wada was surrounded with walls and had a gated entrance. Inside, there were several buildings where five or six families would live as a small community. There was also a well.
During the monsoon season, it would rain around one hundred and fifty inches in a span of four months. The well would swell to the brim with water and one of the favorites pastimes of the local kids was to jump into the well, crawl out and then to jump in again.
We would pack an hour of fun into every monsoon season morning before heading to school. We would show up to class (on time!) with wet hair since we began our acrobatic well-jumping at 7:15 AM and had to cease our watery activity at 7:45 AM in order to get to school by 8:45 AM. My mother assured me that any shorter amount of time between leaving the well and getting to school would lead to sickness and she was absolutely correct.
Prior to the start of regular school at 11 AM, I attended additional hour-long Hindi or Sanskrit lessons before rushing home to eat lunch and then dashing back to school again.
Maintaining this hectic scheduling was not dissimilar to juggling multiple balls, but it taught me to manage my time well and to fit as many tasks into my schedule as possible. My mother encouraged me in this and she was always sure to help me whenever she could.
In my first year of college, my classes began at 9 AM and continued until 5 PM. It was a long day and it was made longer by the far-from-short walk to and from the college campus to my aunt’s house where I was rooming. After a while, I decided to get a bicycle to cut down my time traveling each day. This decision ultimately not only ended up giving me more time to study, it also gave me extra time for myself. How liberating!
The time management lessons I learned in school were valuable ones for me, as was learning how to prioritize and focus on what is important. I discovered that I could achieve whatever I set out to do, as long as I used my time properly. But the price I paid for this popped up in my dreams. Besides struggling to fall asleep, I dreamt about scenarios that revolved around books, classes and exams. One of my persistent nightmares was that I had failed my tests and disappointed my mother. I never confided these nightmares to her, but their existence led me to realize that almost everything can be a double-edged sword.
These days, I am completely financially independent and am helping hardworking young women to get a college education so that they too can achieve financial independence.
Let’s start a conversation about time management. What is important for you? What methods do you use to manage your time effectively? Feel free to share any tips or questions you have!
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