Massage therapy students studying at table

10 Time Management Tips for Massage Students

One of the most common challenges that students in massage therapy school report is difficulty with time management. Juggling the demands of completing an intensive massage training program while working, maintaining family time, staying healthy, and keeping up with other obligations without getting overwhelmed can be a real struggle. This is why learning how to manage time effectively is an important skill for massage students to master.

What is time management? Time management is how we choose to use and organize our time. It is a combination of techniques, habits, systems and principles to help you get your most important tasks done in less time. Time management tips and strategies for students are designed to help students achieve their goals without becoming overwhelmed. Good time-management skills will help you move through each day with purpose and a sense of accomplishment.

Time is the most valuable resource that we have. It’s even more valuable than money because you can always make more money but you can never create more time. You could even say that time is life, and time management is life management. This practical guide to time management for massage therapy students will provide you with useful techniques that you can start applying and seeing the benefits right away.

In case you don’t have time to read the entire article now, you can scroll down to the bottom for a brief summary and key takeaway points.

Time management concept illustration

Time management challenges for massage students

In a way, being a student in grades 1-12 is easier. These young students have few responsibilities other than school. And they usually have a parent or other authority figure who is responsible for structuring their day. Students in college and career training programs such as massage school are adult learners who often have many other demands on their time.

We’ve asked hundreds of massage therapy students this question: “What is/was the most challenging thing about your massage therapy program?” And here are a few of their responses:

  • “Balancing course load with work and other obligations.”
  • Working full-time while being student.”
  • “Time management with assignments and the number of courses per week.”
  • “The amount of information was a lot to take in, in a short amount of time.”
  • “At times the class schedule has been challenging, as some courses are very short and intensive in comparison to others that are larger and take up more class days.”
  • “Finding time for my clinic hours.”
  • “I would say the most challenging thing about my program would be the amount of homework you have to do since it’s only a 1-year program where I’m going.”
  • “Balancing it with my life. I work full time and attend school practically full time, I volunteer, and I’m trying to be in a relationship while also taking care of myself and it is just a lot to balance!”
  • “The amount of time it requires. Five days a week of sometimes 12-hour days.”
  • “A/P and the strenuous pace. Not enough time to adequately process and retain information.”
  • “Just keeping up with my program while being a single Mom. I am having a hard time keeping up, or alternately getting enough sleep.”
  • “Trying to manage the time to study.”

There are many more just like these, but you get the idea. Students often mention other challenges they face during massage school too, such as memorizing all of the muscles, taking exams, and finances, but the most commonly reported challenge is time management and keeping up with the fast-paced schedule. 

Why learning time management skills is important for students

Learning time management skills is one of those things that will benefit you immediately and for the rest of your life. Not only will the skills be useful throughout your life and in every area of your life, but the results that you accomplish because of these skills can produce long-term rewards. Mastering time management is especially important for massage therapy students who plan on being self-employed. Therapists who have their own massage practice will need to be productive in their non-client time in order to market their business, complete their massage therapy documentation efficiently, and do other tasks essential to being an entrepreneur.

The goal of time management is to maximize the amount of time you have to put towards things that are the most important to you.

Results of Good Time Management:

  • Less stress and anxiety
  • No need to cram for exams
  • Greater feeling of accomplishment
  • More goals achieved
  • Empowering feeling of self-control
  • More time to pursue what’s most important to you
  • Increased quality of life

Results of Poor Time Management:

  • Wasted valuable time
  • Increased stress and frustration
  • Less feeling of control over your life
  • Poor quality of work
  • More feelings of being overworked and overwhelmed
  • Further ingraining the habit of poor time management
  • Less time for more enjoyable things
Time management concept chalkboard

Key concepts of time management

There are several key concepts and principles to be familiar with when learning time management strategies.

Productivity is a measure of how well a person uses their time when completing a task. Productivity is about performance, and making the most out of your available resources. It’s not just about getting more things done in a day, but rather consistently completing your top priorities. A productive massage therapist who owns a massage business will use time between clients to complete important tasks such as marketing their practice or performing essential tasks of running a massage business. Getting productivity tools such as the best massage apps and practice management software will save time and make you more productive once you begin your massage practice.

Efficiency is a similar concept that refers to how well we use resources (such as time) to complete a task. Someone who is more efficient at a task will be able to complete the task with fewer resources and/or time. For example, an efficient massage therapist can clean and prep a massage room for the next client faster than an inefficient therapist. People tend to increase efficiency as they gain experience and skill at something.

Effectiveness refers to the ability to be successful and produce the intended results. An effective massage therapist is one who is capable of achieving their established goals. For example, this could mean achieving treatment goals for clients, or achieving business and income goals when building a massage practice. A massage student may demonstrate effective time management by successfully completing their training program while keeping up with the demands of other areas of their life.

Importance and urgency are relevant to time management because we consider these factors when establishing our priorities and deciding what to do first. Since time is valuable like money, and you are spending or investing your time, make sure you get a good return on investment (ROI). Tasks that are the most important to you will give you the best return on your invested time. The Eisenhower Matrix, also called the importance/urgency matrix, is a useful time management tool that can help in this decision making.

Time management strategies for students

Focus, or concentration, is one of the most important skills that is needed to achieve anything in life. Effective time management is only possible when we can focus our full attention on the one task at hand. This also means closing the door to all distractions while working on a task. Also, we tend to move in the direction of our focus. I took a motorcycle riding class and remember the instructor saying that if you see and focus on the pothole, you will probably hit it. But if you focus on the path around your obstacle, you can navigate around it safely.

When you focus on your problems, you will have more problems. When you focus on possibilities, you will find more opportunities.

Discipline, or more specifically self-discipline, is the ability to regulate oneself for the purpose of improvement. Self-discipline is an essential component of being able to apply good time management strategies. Time management is a form of self-management.

There are two types of pain you will go through in life, the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons

Jim Rohn

Goal setting is the process of identifying something that you want to accomplish, and then deciding on the strategy, tactics, and timeframe to reach this goal. Goal setting can look different depending on an individual’s values and objectives. It is also one of the first steps of time management. The process of setting your goals and priorities will give you direction. It will guide your focus and protect you from distractions.

Massage student planning her day using schedule

Time management as priority management

Setting a priority simply means putting whatever you value most at the top of your list. You can set priorities and optimize your life for whatever you want. Examples of things that people often choose to optimize their life around include family, faith, finances, quality of life, free time, health, a specific cause, or a specific interest or passion.

Priorities often change as we go through life. For example, it’s been said that young people often trade their health for wealth, and older people often trade their wealth for health. For most adult students learning a new career, a top priority is to get as much out of their learning experience as possible, so that they will be prepared to apply what they learned.

An interesting visual metaphor about priorities that I learned from a fellow classmate is known as the Pickle Jar Theory. Several time management experts have used this metaphor in their books to explain how putting your top priorities first is the best way to make sure you reach your goals. Doing all of the less important tasks first to “get them out of the way” usually results in not having enough time to work on your big, important tasks. These high-priority tasks are those things that will create the most positive change in your life and help you achieve your goals.

When determining what you want to prioritize in your life and spend your time on, deciding what not to do is just as important as deciding what to do. There are a million things that you could spend your time doing, but there are only a handful of things that you should prioritize. A skill related time management and prioritizing is boundary setting

Obstacles to effective time management

There are several common obstacles to effective time management. These include:

  • Too many tasks on your to-do list
  • Having too many interruptions
  • Poor organization skills
  • Unclear goals and direction
  • Lack of priorities
  • Fear of failure or rejection
  • Procrastination

Procrastination is one of the biggest obstacles to effective time management for most people. It’s something that we all have to deal with, and it’s been around since the beginning of time. Procrastination is the gap between intention and action. It is usually associated with task avoidance. This task avoidance can have several causes including:

  • We perceive that completing the task will be painful (e.g. doing taxes, going to dentist)
  • There is a lack of motivation or interest (e.g. chores or errands)
  • Overwhelmed at the thought of completing the task (e.g. term paper, studying for exams)
  • Lack of external pressure to complete task (e.g. exercising)

When it comes to time management, procrastination isn’t always a bad thing though. There are times when selective procrastination can be useful. Selective procrastination, or productive procrastination, is when we deliberately put off doing something that we want to get done, because we know is neither important nor urgent (e.g. washing the car). See our article on overcoming procrastination.

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.
Wayne Dyer

Perfectionism is another common obstacle to effective time management. Seeking perfection can cause a person to spend excessive amounts of time on a project. This results in wasted time and increased stress and frustration. For most things, you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns, where you could spend a lot more time and energy but it would result in only slightly better results. Instead, I suggest that you strive for excellence, not perfection.

Time management for massage therapy students

Myths about time management

Myth 1: Everything always has to stay in balance. The reality is that it is ok for there to be periods of imbalance. Most journeys where the desired outcome is growth will encounter trials that test us. There are always going to be cycles and seasons. A time to work hard and a time to relax. Remember that life will not always be hectic.

Myth 2: Multitasking will help you get more done in less time. Seems logical, right? Getting multiple things done at the same time sounds like a good way to be productive. But the truth is that multitasking is less efficient, and results in more errors. In fact, there is a mountain of evidence that indicates that multitasking decreases productivity. This is especially true when performing tasks that require a lot of concentration (like learning a new skill or studying for exams). Every time you change what you’re working on, it requires you to re-focus your mind. Even seemingly innocent interruptions and distractions can cause a 3-4 fold loss of productivity. Check out this article for more research on multitasking and links to further research.

Myth 3: Good time management will help you get everything done. This myth is only partially wrong. Good time management helps you to identify what’s most important to you so that you can get the most important things done. By setting meaningful goals and establishing your priorities, you’ll see that some things that were previously on your to-do list don’t really need to get done at all.

Myth 4: Time management means staying busy. The truth is that being productive and effectively managing your time is not the same as being busy. It’s not about doing as many tasks as possible, or having something scheduled for every minute of the day. There are endless distractions that can keep a person busy but won’t create any progress towards a goal. Good time management means establishing boundaries, and saying “No” to busy work, and only focusing on the most important things.

Myth 5: You have to wake up early to be productive. Being good at time management doesn’t mean that you have to get up at 5AM every day. This works for “morning people”, and it does seem like there are more successful people who get up early, but everyone has their own internal time clock and energy cycles. So choose a wake/sleep schedule that works for you and try to be consistent.

Time management concept clock and chalkboard

10 Time Management Tips and Strategies for Massage Students

The following is a list of specific time management techniques, skills, tips and strategies that can help you get through massage school and begin your new massage career. These techniques can also help you as you create your MBLEx study plan and prepare for the massage licensing exam. Time management strategies are not one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different, so some of these tips will work better for you than others. My suggestion is to try them all and then just stick with the ones that work best for you.

1. Perform a time audit

The best way to start making the best use of your time is by conducting a time audit. A time audit is a written record of how you currently use your time from moment to moment. It can help you identify any non-essential tasks that you may be spending too much time on. The idea is that what gets measured gets managed.

For example, repeatedly doing the same thing like checking the phone, email or social media 10 times per hour adds up to a huge amount of time. Many social media platforms, video games and apps are designed to be addictive in the same ways as a Las Vegas slot machine. They stimulate dopamine production and hog our attention while adding no actual value to our life.

The way to conduct a time audit is to have a continuous log of all activities that you perform during a set period of time. Include the start/stop time for each activity. You can conduct a time audit for one hour, one day, one week or any other time period. Keep track of everything you do during this time (e.g. focused study time, bathroom breaks, meals, sleeping, commuting, browsing on the phone or computer, etc.). There are many free online resources to learn more details about conducting a time audit.

Once you’ve conducted your time audit and identify what distractions are causing you to lose the most time, try taking a 24-hour detox from your biggest time sinks. Repeat this time audit when necessary, or if you find yourself getting off track and not seeing the results you want.

Time management experts also suggest performing a quick daily productivity review every evening to see how you did at managing your time that day. This brief reflection time can help you find opportunities to do better tomorrow. Also, ask yourself at the end of every day, “If every day was as productive as today, what will my life look like in 1 year?”

Pareto principle illustration 80-20

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For example:

  • 80% of sales come from 20% of a business’s clients
  • 20% of your wardrobe is worn 80% of the time
  • 80% of the time you listen to music, it’s to 20% of your playlist
  • 20% of your massage marketing activities will bring in 80% of your clients

The ratio isn’t always 80/20. Sometimes it’s 90/10, or even 95/5. The point is that in many aspects of life, small percentage of your tasks contribute to the majority of your success, happiness, progress, sense of fulfillment, etc. So performing a time audit can help you identify and eliminate things that aren’t moving you towards your goals. Then you can focus all of your energy on the 20% that does produce the results that you want to achieve even greater results.

2. Set clear goals and review them daily

The second time management tip is to set goals for yourself and review them daily. Just getting a lot of random things done and staying busy is not the goal of time management. Having clear and meaningful goals will help to reduce indecisiveness. Goals help us to make better decisions and choices throughout the day. They can help us to stop wasting time on things that don’t help us progress towards what we want most.

A good goal needs to be well-written and meet certain criteria. The SMART goal format that you probably learned in massage school works well for this. Remember that SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely. A good goal should also be inspiring for you on an emotional level.

***Goals about what we think we should do, be or have usually don’t work very well. These goals just aren’t strong enough. But goals about what we think we MUST do, be or have can motivate us to find a way regardless of any challenges.

Some of your goals will be more important to you than others. You can set your priorities by simply arranging your top goals in order, from most to least important. Be sure to review these periodically because your priorities may change over time. Something that was a high priority for you two years ago may not be a priority at all now. Plus, you’ll want to make new goals as you achieve your previous goals.

Time management concept illustration

A goal is a dream with a deadline.

Napoleon Hill

Goals need to have deadlines for their completion. Deadlines are useful time constraints that will help you become more focused and efficient.

An interesting discovery about how our brain handles our attempts to focus and be productive is described by Parkinson’s law. This law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. For example, if you give yourself two hours to complete a task that you could actually complete in 20 minutes, you will probably end up taking the full two hours to complete the task.

One strategy to counteract the effects of Parkinson’s Law is to set tight deadlines for yourself. Then, if you work diligently and end up not meeting your deadline, that’s ok. Just create a new deadline and get back to work.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Douglas Adams

Another interesting phenomenon related to productivity and deadlines is what psychologists call the Planning Fallacy, which states that we have a bias towards being overly optimistic when it comes to determining how much time it will take to complete a task. For example, we may assume that if we sleep 8 hours per night, that leaves us with 16 hours to do productive work. However, researchers who have analyzed millions of hours of working time have found that the average knowledge worker (someone who works with information for a living such as a writer, developer, manager, accountant, designer, etc.) is only productive for 2.5 – 3 hours per day! Being aware of the Planning Fallacy can help when it’s time to create a schedule.

The Planning Fallacy can explain how we can set a reasonable goal, have great intentions, work hard and still not achieve the goal by the deadline. There is a way to reduce the effects of the Planning Fallacy in order to set more accurate deadlines for our goals. That is to take an “outside view” when forecasting how long it will take us to complete a task. So instead of asking yourself, “How long will it take me to complete this task?” Ask yourself, “How long has this task taken me to complete in the past?” Or, “How long would it take someone like me to complete this task?”

3. Get Organized

Getting organized is a huge component of good time management. This includes physical organization such as decluttering your desk and workspace to remove distractions. It also includes mental organization such as arranging your schedule based on your priorities and available time. Getting organized takes a little time up front, but it saves a ton of time in the long run. Here are just a few benefits of getting organized that can help students:

  • Increases productivity and efficiency
  • It encourages better decision-making
  • Reduced stress, frustration and depression
  • Better quality sleep
  • Makes you more likely to accomplish your goals
  • More free time (since you’re more efficient)

One of the best things you can do to start each day right is to prepare the night before. Spending a few minutes the night before to reorganize your to-do list and update your daily schedule will help you wake up with a sense of urgency and purpose, rather than indecision about what you should do first. You will be ready to jump into your most important task for the day. The night before is also a good time to tie up loose ends and get some less urgent and less important things out of the way, like cleaning your desk or tidying up the kitchen.

Organizing and planning ahead can also eliminate frantic time crisis. For example, if you know that you need to give 100 hours of massage to graduate from your massage training program, start this as soon as possible. This will keep you from having to find the time to give a ton of massages during your final months of massage school. Similarly, by starting your preparation for the massage licensing exam early, you will be ready to to take the MBLEx soon after completing massage school.

Break large tasks into smaller, manageable tasks. Most massage students and therapists would consider preparing for a comprehensive licensing exam like the MBLEx a large task. It can be a little overwhelming and intimidating if you consider the volume of content that it covers. This is definitely not something that you would want to wait until the last minute to study for. Students who break their review into small manageable sections, start preparing early, have a solid study plan, and use the right study tools have an excellent chance of passing. This will greatly reduce any stress when it comes time to take the massage exam. Our course Learning Muscles in 60 Days uses this strategy to break down the task of learning the origins, insertions and actions of all the muscles of the body into 60 microlessons.

Batch similar tasks together. The practice of grouping or chunking small, similar tasks together will improve your productivity and efficiency. Organizing your tasks in this way will reduce what is called switching cost. Switching cost is the time loss that occurs when you have to “shift gears” and change from one unrelated task to another. This is why multitasking is a bad idea, and ends up being less productive.

Single-tasking, or single-handling as it’s sometimes called, is a productivity technique that can help with you manage your time more effectively. Single tasking is where you focus on doing and thinking about one task only, without letting any other distractions creep in. This technique reduces time loss that occurs from bouncing back and forth between tasks (switching cost). It requires shutting the door to everything but the single task that you want to complete. It is the opposite of multitasking. One way to facilitate this during a study session is to turn off all notifications on your phone and computer to minimize interruptions.

4. Create a schedule

Creating and sticking to a schedule is one of the best ways to manage your time, become more productive and achieve your goals. A to-do list tells you what you need to do, but a schedule tells you when you are going to do it. Here are a few tips on how to make an effective schedule:

  • Invest in a daily planner or make your own. Paper and digital formats both have their pros and cons, so pick whichever works best for you.
  • Keep everything on one schedule. Avoid having school tasks in one schedule, personal tasks on another, work tasks on another, etc.
  • Use different colors for different categories of tasks (school, work, family, personal, etc.)
  • Put your highest priorities first, along with tasks and events that are not moveable (e.g. class time, sleeping time, etc.)
  • Commit to using your schedule consistently.
  • Include some flexibility in your schedule by not scheduling every hour of the day.

Leave room for the unexpected and for spontaneity by keeping a few time slots on your daily schedule open. There will always be some urgent or important things that pop up, and it’s good to have a time where you can address these. Plus, it’s hard to predict how long some tasks will take. Remember that it’s ok to let things that are unimportant and not urgent remain undone.

Make sure your schedule considers your natural flow of energy. You’ve probably noticed that you do certain tasks at certain times of the day. For example, I am able work on tasks that require more focus and discipline earlier in the day. I save creative tasks and physical tasks that don’t require as much thinking for the evenings. *Most people are mentally the sharpest in the morning after getting a good night sleep. So if this is true for you too, you may want to take the MBLEx in the morning.

5. Use effective time management techniques

There are many time management techniques to choose from. Many of the tips and strategies that we’ve already discussed such as setting goals, prioritizing, batching tasks, and time auditing are also considered time management techniques. This section introduces a couple more techniques to help you increase productivity and resist procrastination. These are especially useful for massage students trying to learn new skills or study for exams.

short study session time pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique is an effective time management technique that uses a series of brief, focused sessions to maximize productivity. It typically involves 25-minutes of work or study followed by a 5-minute break. This is repeated up to 4 times if needed. Then you take a longer break (20-30 minutes). These short work periods will help you stay in peak mental state in order to maintain full focus and attention. The Pomodoro Technique also encourages single-tasking and prevents you from skipping breaks.

Planning and scheduling day

Time blocking is the practice of planning your day by dedicating specific blocks of time to work on certain tasks. During this block of time, 100% of focus goes toward completing this task. A well-structured 40-hour work week can be more productive than a 60-hour unstructured work week. This technique is related to the single-tasking covered in the previous section. Any other things that demand our time or attention that we encounter during a time block should be disregarded until the time block is completed. Time blocking is a great technique to use when creating your MBLEx study plan. Taking a break between time blocks will refresh your body and brain so that you can focus when your next time block begins. Consider going for a walk, taking a brief nap, or meditating between time blocks.

6. Create routines for yourself

Creating routines can help make time management a habit. You can create a routine for any length of time that you need. For example, you can create a 1-hour study routine that looks something like this:

  • (25 minutes) Read and jot down notes on the material
  • (5 minutes) Break
  • (10 minutes) Review and rewrite your notes
  • (10 minutes) Take a quiz on the material to check your comprehension
  • (10 minutes) Review the quiz results and looking up anything you missed

Or if you have enough consistency in your daily schedule, you can create a daily routine that has designated blocks of time for your most important tasks.

A good morning routine can help you consistently start each day right. In fact, many successful people report using a morning routine The way you start each day will affect your productivity for the entire day. Similar to how you sit down to meditate affects your meditation session, or how you open/start a massage affects the tone of the massage. Elements of the best morning routines often include:

  • Expressions of gratitude or positive affirmations
  • Getting hydrated
  • Gentle stretches and exercises
  • Brief meditation
  • A light and healthy breakfast
  • Review of your schedule for today (made yesterday)

There are other parts of your life that you can create routines for, or automate. For example, many successful people wear the same thing every day (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs). These wardrobe minimalists save time, energy and money by using this strategy.

Routines can also reduce the number of decisions that you have to make each day, which results in decision fatigue. By leveraging your previous decisions you can save time and reduce uncertainty because you already know what the result will be.

If you create a routine that works for you and stick with it long enough, it will become a habit. Forming a positive habit is a powerful way to achieve goals and create a better quality of life. In fact, researchers have found that habits account for about 40% of our behaviors on any given day. So good study habits and time management habits are bound to benefit any student. They say it takes about 30 days to create a habit. This will obviously vary depending on the habit and the person, but the point is that once good habits are formed, they make being productive and successful much easier.

Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.

Octavia Butler

7. Delay, delegate or outsource busy work

The next time management tip is to delay (strategical procrastination), delegate or outsource anything that distracts you from making progress towards your top goals. These distractions would be the things that fit into the ‘unimportant’ or ‘not urgent’ categories as discussed above in the Eisenhower Matrix.

Applying the delay component of this time management strategy is pretty easy. But using the delegate component is a little more challenging if you don’t have employees or team mates to delegate to. But there are a few ways that massage students and therapists can apply this strategy. Outsourcing is simply paying other people to do tasks that would otherwise bog you down. Here are a few ideas:

  • Find tools or done-for-you resources that save you time (such as our MBLEx Prep Course)
  • Assign each member of your study group to research a specific topic then share what they learned with the group
  • Outsource your grocery shopping and get it delivered to your door
  • Moms and Dads can delegate household chores to save time at home
  • Outsource your insurance billing if you offer this at your practice

8. Strengthen your concentration and focus

Being able to focus and concentrate are important for time management because it is only through focused effort that we can complete our important tasks and make progress towards our goals. Learning how to focus your attention is perhaps one of the most important skills that you can build to succeed in school or anything else in life. And it is especially important when studying and learning new skills. Fortunately, strengthening your focus is a lot like strengthening a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Building this ability to focus however can be challenging. We’re surrounded by constant distractions that are continually vying for our attention. Tips on how to increase your ability to focus and concentrate:

  • Write things down so you don’t clutter your brain
  • Find out which time of the day that you are able to focus best
  • Begin a mindfulness meditation practice if you don’t already meditate
  • Reduce the distractions around you when you need to focus
  • Keep your study or work sessions short and take frequent breaks

Another aspect of focus is saying “no” to distractions that make you deviate from your goals or your schedule. Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) once explained, “We say ‘no’ to good ideas every day. We say ‘no’ to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose, so that we can deliver the best products in the world.”

Where your attention goes, your time goes.

Idowu Koyenikan

9. Create a reward system for yourself

Creating your own reward system is an effective tool to reinforce your new time management skills. Many people use this technique of training their own behavior when they are trying to stick to a health routine such as a diet of exercise plan. This method of rewarding the accomplishment of goals is based on the science of operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning, also called instrumental conditioning, is a method of creating change that occurs through a system of rewards and punishments. The rewards are used to encourage or reinforce a desired behavior. And punishments (or negative reinforcements) are used to decrease a behavior. We can use this form of behavior modification on ourselves to create the behaviors that we want. For example, we can reward ourself for accomplishing a goal, completing a scheduled time block, or focusing on a task for a desired period of time. The reward can be anything from a cookie, a 10-minute nap, or a cup of coffee, to a gold star in your daily planner.

10. Include downtime in your schedule

Every good time management strategy includes time to rest and recover. In order to stay motivated and energized when it is time to study, you need time to relax and recharge. In fact, research shows clear benefits of taking time off. Time off boosts productivity, creativity and wellness. *Humans perform best and are most productive when alternating between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.

Scheduling this time off is especially important if you’re not naturally inclined to slow down and take a bread periodically. This scheduled downtime gives you the opportunity to pursue your own interests and amusements at your own pace. It will also help you stick to your time management plan without getting burned out. Time off is an important part of self-care for massage therapists. Here are a few ideas of activities to help you physically, mentally and emotionally recharge:

  • Sleep. Get the amount and quality of uninterrupted sleep that you need. Sufficient amounts of quality sleep are crucial to maintain health.
  • Meditate. Meditation can relieve many symptoms of stress-related conditions such as insomnia, IBS, depression, and tension headaches that commonly affect busy students.
  • Exercise. Exercise lowers stress hormones. It also counteracts the sedentary nature of being a student (sitting in class, reading hunched over a desk, etc.). Try to find a form of exercise that you enjoy, whether that’s running, swimming, yoga, dancing, mowing the yard, or something else.
  • Unplug. Constant interconnectedness is a source of stress. Taking some time to unplug from technology is a great way to unwind.
  • Socialize. Getting together with family and friends, especially in person, can keep you grounded and even help you live longer and healthier.

Remember that when all’s said and done, we’re human beings, not human doings.

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Time Management Summary

Time management is often challenging for students, especially adult learners with already busy lives. Learning and applying time management skills will produce numerous benefits in your life, now and for years down the road. Some of these benefits include: decreased stress, better performance at school and work, achieving more goals, and more time to pursue other interests.

Understanding the key concepts of time management such as productivity, priorities, procrastination, importance vs. urgency, and focus will help you to create a personalized time management system that works for you. Time management is not about staying busy all the time, getting up at 5AM or getting everything done. It’s about figuring out what’s most important to you and achieving your most important goals.

Key Takeaway Points

  • Create clear goals and priorities for yourself, and review them daily
  • Perform a time audit to see where you are wasting time
  • Do the most important thing first
  • Get organized and plan ahead
  • Make a schedule that works for you and stick to it
  • Set tight deadlines for yourself
  • Create good routines and habits to keep you productive even when you don’t feel motivated
  • Remember the effects of Parkinson’s Law and the Planning Fallacy when making your schedule
  • Avoid multitasking, it increases stress and is less productive (use single-tasking instead)
  • Use techniques like Time blocking, the Pomodoro technique, and the Pareto principle

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