Despite following a realistic revision plan,

  • do you submit your essays one minute before the 11.59pm deadline?
  • do you try to solve trigonometric equations three hours past your bedtime?
  • do you gaze at Shakespeare’s plays at four a.m. in the morning, praying you’ll survive your literature oral today?

These near-miss deadlines plague 80% of students.

(Note: This is perhaps the most unscientific statement in the world. Before you argue about the exact percentage, please study estimation from your middle school maths book.)

Do you want to belong to the 20% immune to all-nighters and stress? Yes?

I’ll show you two simple tricks to avoid time management blunders and finish work early.

#1: Divide enourmous projects into small chunks

Do you shove a whole pizza down your throat, and swallow it without chewing? No. You take bite, you chew and you swallow a tiny piece.

Similarly, we can break down the process of crafting an essay into lots of tiny steps: choosing a topic, researching, creating an outline, writing, and editing.

Yet few people tackle an essay this way. They sit down in front of their computers, open Word, and magically expect that the words will flow.

Only, two hours later, they’re staring at a blank screen. Why?

Just like you can’t gobble up a whole pizza in one go, you don’t want to combine all the facets of essay writing into one tedious process. It’s unproductive and encourages you to procrastinate.

Because monstrous tasks like writing an essay can seem overwhelming.

But what if we split work into tiny chunks?

Take the word revision. It sounds daunting, but it’s really more something like this:

  1. List all topics that need to be studied.
  2. Identify any subtopics that require special consideration.
  3. Deal with each topic individually, eg. Day 1 = topic #1; Day 2 = topic #2; Day 3 = subtopic #2
  4. Quiz yourself on all topics
  5. Revise the topics you found difficult
  6. Take a practice test.

See how easily we can break complex tasks down into manageable steps?

To simplify our life even further, we can now set a chunk of time for each of these steps.

By making (semi-)accurate predictions for each step, we can avoid grossly underestimating the time we need.

Because when we think of revision , we forget about half of the steps (at least for me), and we spend way more time than we planned for our work.

#2 Use the Factor Technique

I’m bad at estimating. Notoriously bad.

Suppose I say I’ll write an essay in two hours; in reality I need about five.

But fortunately, I found a solution. The Factor Technique.

The Factor Technique is a tool I use to estimate time cost more accurately.

How does it work?

For each big project I work on, I estimate how much time I’ll need. I then track how much time the assignment truly took, and use the difference between the two to predict the length of future assignments.

Here’s the formula:

(Actual time taken/estimated time taken)*planned time for upcoming assignments

Now, let me show you how to apply it.

Imagine I have a 2000 word paper due. I plan 6 hours to do it.

But using the info above, I know that if say I’ll write an essay in two hours, I’ll need five.

Thus, five hours is my actual time to complete an essay that I estimated I’d write in two hours. I’ve planned 6 hours for my upcoming assignment.

Substituting these values into the formula, we get this:

(5 hours/2 hours) * 6 hours

Solving the arithmetic, I should plan about 15 hours for my 2000 word essay.