5 Making time to keep up
One of the key skills that you will need to demonstrate during this course – and you may have already discovered this for yourself – is managing your time effectively. If you are working full time, or even working part time and balancing this with other responsibilities such as childcare, you will have only a certain number of hours in the day for your research.
If you are to understand your sector fully, it is important that you put aside a certain number of hours a week for completing this course and for doing the extra work involved. Fortunately, if you follow a small number of steps, you will be able to plan your time so that you can fit any extra tasks resulting from this course around your employment and other commitments.
Start by identifying how you currently spend your time.
Activity 8 How do I spend my time?
The schedule below lists 90-minute blocks of time between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. on the seven days of the week. It assumes that most people sleep sometime between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m., but you can adapt this for your own circumstances. Complete the boxes, showing how you spend the hours within each block of time.
Table 6 My timetable
What do you notice? Are there large periods of time when you are engaged in something that can only be done then or is a really high priority? This might include when you are at work, when you are responsible for other people or dependent on someone else’s availability. This is reasonable and indicates that you will have to think carefully about how much time you can devote to other activities and when that would be. If you print this table, you may want to highlight these times in some way to indicate their importance.
Don’t forget to schedule some time for unforeseen events or activities that you know you will have to do but may not be able to schedule precisely, for example shopping or leisure activities. This is your contingency time. Again, if you print this table, you may want to indicate in a different colour that these times may well be taken up with activity.
You should also bear in mind that people are more or less effective at different times of the day. If you know that you are a ‘morning person’, there is little point in arranging extra activities for yourself during the evening when you may be less alert and receptive. It might be better if you were to get up an hour earlier in the morning and use this hour to do career research at a time when you are likely to get the most out of such activity.
Finally, are there blank spaces that show the times when you have no particular responsibilities and are completely free to decide how you will use the time? This represents your discretionary time and is the best time of all to schedule new activities, such as research into your career sector. If you printed the table, you could use a third colour to highlight this time.
After undertaking Activity 8 you should have a much clearer idea of the time you have available in your usual week. You can hopefully identify blocks of time that would be most appropriate for devoting to either completing this course or starting to undertake some of the activities you add to your action plan at the end of this course. This, however, may not be enough for you to be confident that this will lead to action and you may want to consider undertaking the following additional exercise from the Toolkit.
The Time management tool is an effective way of considering what is on your ‘to-do list’. What is competing on your list for these blocks of free time you have allocated to self-development?
If your overall task seems too big, then this will help you to break down this task into manageable chunks and consider what to commit to doing first.
If you know that you are good at making lists but not so good at getting round to doing the items on the lists, then this tool will help you to think about the things that get in the way of completing your goals and how you can minimise the effects of things that stop you getting things done.
You have now considered how much discretionary time you have in the week and the best time of day for you to do career-related activities. It only remains for you to decide exactly how much time each week you are going to devote to the kind of career research it is suggested you do.
The important thing here is to be realistic. It is better to schedule in an hour a week and know that you will stick to this than to aim to do five hours a week, fail to keep to your schedule and feel guilty as a result. After all, if you find that you can manage the time easily, you can always increase this to two hours!
You can now return to the results of Activity 7, where you identified further areas to research, and start to plan how you are going to fit this work into your schedule.