Time Management During a Crisis
“Are you feeling that 24 hours in a day are not enough? Does it feel like everything is happening too fast and you don’t have enough time to control it?”
With this week’s flurry of presentations, papers, and final exams (on top of the regular stressors of everyday life during a pandemic), it’s a perfect time to re-post some actionable, practical advice given during a March 26, 2020, virtual workshop titled, “Time Management During a Crisis,” which offered tips and guidance for how to mindfully prioritize tasks, maximize your time, and take control of the mere 24 hours you have in any given day.
(Thanks to workshop leader Dr. Jamie Jingrong Huang of the Princeton Leadership Academy, event host Abbe Rosenthal, MBS assistant director and executive coach, and MBS student Kruttika Raman, who chronicled the event.)
[Note: This event took place during the whirlwind, tumultuous early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.]
“Geoffrey Chaucer’s phrase, “time and tide wait for no man,” has never been more apt than now to describe how we all are undergoing changes in all aspects of our lives within a limited time frame.
At the beginning of the session, students expressed their emotions, ranging from being overwhelmed, anxious, tired, sad, disorganized, low-energy, unstructured, and impatient to feeling a loss of control due to wearing many hats—all of which one feels when in crisis. Dr. Huang explained how human behavior is driven by emotions and the way to change our behavior is by changing our thought process. Her strategy for crisis management is to manage our thinking effectively to drive behavior change. She breaks it down as the “Three Ps”- Purpose, Posture, and Present:
- Purpose—It is important to focus on what purpose makes you happy and productive. Stop and ask, “what is the purpose of spending time on what you are doing? Is it helping me to be productive?”
- Posture—During crisis, pause to check your posture. Are you breathing deeply? Is your mind relaxed? Are you sitting upright or standing tall?
- Present—The past is what cannot be changed, but we can focus on the present and utilize our abilities to the fullest. Thus, rather than dwelling on negative emotions from the past, emphasize on creating positive emotions in the present.
As we worked through changing our mindsets, *students shared tips and techniques that they, themselves, had been using to work through their challenges*, including:
- Plan for 50 minutes of productive work for every hour. Use the remaining ten minutes to check in with yourself or finish some quick task
- For enhanced focus, try the Pomodoro Technique , an interval breakdown technique where you create a checklist, work on a task for some time by setting a timer, and then take a short break based on your accomplishment
- Keep a relaxed smile on your face and relax your eyes, which induces the release of endorphins in the brain—so smile as much as you can
- Try to separate your workspace from your areas of leisure/sleep/rest
- Try installing a screen-tinting software such as f.lux or Screen Shader to eliminate blue light from your screen to reduce eye strain when working for long hours
- Block time on your calendar for exercise during the day
- Incorporate deep breathing or a meditation break in between your meetings
- Set an agenda for the goals you want to accomplish for the day, and work through them
- Communicate your work hours (and / or work load) with your team
- Change your working setup during the day. Try a “standing meeting” or even a walking one, if possible.
- Step out to take a breath of fresh air
- Communicate constantly with your teams/advisors/professors and raise any concerns you may have
Toward the end of the session, as we worked through some common crisis-causes, the students felt more calm, confident, energized, and aware of how they can turn around time in their favor. We are sure that sessions like these would help anyone through difficult times, so until the next one, be productive, be focused, be present, and keep smiling.