Managing time isn’t easy and it can be especially hard as a college intern.
We may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by the workload we are given when we are working as an intern, on top of our everyday schoolwork and homework. So, how do we get better at managing our time as interns? Here are three tips to help you do just that, so you can be on top of your work and feel less stressed!
1. Use an Organizer/Planner
Having a planner/organizer can make or break your working habits. With both school and an internship, a planner can help you visualize what you need to do, and when, and help you plan according to your school/internship schedule.
According to a study done at the University of Kentucky College, “using a planner reported similar positive changes in their lives: greater sense of being organized, less stressed, better time management, and best of all, improved academic performance.” Use an organizer or planner so you know exactly when you are working, what is on your to-do list, what your workload is like, and cross things out as you go. Doing so will help manage your time better.
Get yourself an organizer that works with your organization patterns. There are many different options for planners you can get. Here are two types of planners good for work and school:
Daily Planners are good to use as a time blocker to visually show when you’re available and when you’re unavailable. There is space for you to write what you’re doing every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or hour increments. Being able to block off a section in your planner and cross out things you’ve finished, really helps to keep a clean space in your mind and manage your time better.
An example of a daily planner is the TimeBoxing Journal. The Timeboxing Journal has hourly increments with a to-do list, view of two days at a time, and end-of-the-day notes to self. This option would work great for you if you like to take each day an hour at a time, with the opportunity to write a to-do list as well.
The weekly planner is my personal favorite because I can see my entire week laid out in front of me. I can schedule and manage my time accordingly for both work and school if I wanted to.
The Le Classique- Papier weekly planner is a great option for you if you want to add a to-do list to your day. It comes with an open writing plan, so you do have to write in the hours of the day when you are busy or it can look messy, but that helps you know and remember your plans. It also comes with blank calendars for each day of the month that you can use.
The CLEVER FOX PLANNER PRO HOURLY (6AM-9PM SCHEDULE) is a great weekly planner if you do not like the idea of writing in the dates and times. It comes with thirty-minute increments for your schedule, as well as goals, work-life balance, and top priorities, all while helping you view your entire week.
If you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a pricey organizer, buy a dollar notebook from the store and use a ruler and your favorite colors and create a planner based on your needs. Pinterest has a plethora of ideas regarding planners, you can also view some examples that Forbe’s outlined in the article, 11 Best Planners To Make 2023 As Productive As Possible to get some examples/ideas. Maybe even add your vision board or some goals you have for yourself on the front of the journal so it is fun to look at when you see it.
If you don’t think using a planner works for you (because sometimes they’re not for everyone), find a way to still take note of what you need and have to do on your to-do list whether that means using writing on a whiteboard, leaving yourself sticky notes, or having a plain sheet of paper next to you that you can write notes to do for yourself.
You can also try mind-mapping. You may be familiar with mind-mapping already. As a kid, I learned how to write essays to gather my ideas clearly. Mind-mapping is like a spider web type of to-do list: the main idea or main task goes in the center, and all the connecting lines are the steps needed to take to get the main task done. Though its primary use is for writing an essay, it could be utilized for planning out time and prioritizing tasks accordingly.
2. Work According to Priority
A great way to prioritize your work is to create a list of projects and assignments that are due and estimate how long each thing will take you.
Sometimes you won’t know how long something will take, so it is always safe to guess a little bit over your exact estimate. Ask your boss how long they believe a task would take to help you gauge what you can accomplish in a given time period.
Depending on the project or assignment, it could take days, weeks, or even months, so keep chipping away at your bigger assignments, write out some goals for yourself, and re-evaluate them weekly to see where you’re struggling in your internship and where you need support from a manager. Communication is key here.
According to the American Psychology Association, multitasking can ruin productivity, so when creating your priority list, decipher what your priorities are and stick to them. Do not multitask. Instead, use your planner to stick to one thing at a time.
For example, when you’re in school you may have an essay due in two weeks and a 250-word discussion board post due tomorrow. Which do you prioritize and why? Most likely, you would do the discussion board post first and then start researching your essay for 15-30 minutes so you are still actively working on a big assignment before the due date.
If you’re struggling with prioritizing school and your internship and don’t know what’s more important, internship or classes, read the article here for more guidance.
I learned of a process called the Eisenhower Matrix during one of my College Counseling courses. It changed my life and it is great for prioritizing time.
Set up a piece of paper and draw one line down the center vertically and horizontally (it should make four squares). Next, write out ‘Important’ on the left square sideways, and ‘Not Important’ on the bottom left square (sideways as well). On the top of the left box write ‘Urgent’ and on the top of the right box, ‘Not Urgent.’ Now you have four quadrants that will help you dictate what needs your attention right now.
The following example is the Eisenhower method reformed by Stephen Covey:
Another great time management method is the ABCDE list technique for setting priorities. Write down your task list and create the importance of each task ‘A-E.’
‘A’ stands for most important, ‘B’ stands for minor consequences, ‘C’ stands for Consequence, ‘D’ stands for delegate, and ‘E’ stands for Eliminate.
If you have a really big task that is the most frightening to do and needs to get done, it is best you delegate it as ‘A,’ and if you have more than one ‘A’ task, label them ‘A1’ and ‘A2.’ The point of this method is to get rid of the toughest job first and then move to the next one. An example of an ‘A’ task is a project PowerPoint slide that is due at the end of the day for a big client, reach out to your boss and let them know if you need support.
Tackle the most extensive project or hardest assignment first, then get the quick non-urgent things done after.
3. Minimize Distractions
A study done by the University of California Irvine (UCI) showed that if you get distracted in the workplace, it takes about 23 minutes to refocus, and workers experience more stress and a heavier workload as an outcome of distractions. Minimizing distractions is hard, but in order to get better at time management, minimizing distractions is a must.
According to a study by CareerBuilder, the most common distractions in the workplace are cell phones (texting), internet browsing, and gossip.
Whether your internship is in person or remote, distractions can occur when you’re just going for another cup of coffee or a snack, then on your way to your desk, you say ‘hi’ to a coworker or family member which turns into a five-minute gossip fest.
Browsing the web on your computer or going on your phone is an obvious distraction. Whether it’s just responding to one person via text or on LinkedIn, looking up cute photos of kittens you want to adopt, and checking Instagram for five minutes, you’re bound to become distracted from your work.
According to an article, “Social media distraction refers to the process by which social media cues draw individuals’ attention away from a task that they originally pursued (e.g., working).” The article also states now that we have access to social media on our smartphones, it becomes much harder to put down and hide from.
Use the ‘Do not disturb’ feature on your phone and take note of how often you stop to go on social media, text, or check the time to stop working to do something else.
A study suggests that “background music can have predictable effects on cognitive performance.” Music can help cancel out distracting backgrounds, so try using noise-canceling headphones with some light study music or classical music. Whatever keeps you in the zone, is a great way to stay focused and manage time better.
“Knowing it can wait,” is an excellent method Duke suggests people take if they want to bounce back after a work distraction. The ultimate goal of “knowing it can wait” is to understand that not everything has to happen right now. If someone asks you to do something that is not urgent, make note of it and let them know you can get back to them after you finish the priority task at hand.
The best way to minimize distractions is to be mindful and work on self-awareness. That way, you can identify your primary distractions while you work. Life is distracting, after all. But you’ve got this!
Lastly, if you’re struggling with overall anxiety as an intern, read our article on how to be less anxious as an intern.
Having time management on your resume is an important skill set to have, especially as an intern. Sign up for Path Match here for free access to interview guides, tutorial videos, learning skills employers are looking for, and much more.