Time Management

Screenshot 2018-06-15 09.59.34I’m planning to run a workshop for graduate students on how to manage time, both the time when there’s never enough time and the stretches of time when there is all the time in the world (like a sabbatical). I’m still working on this, so let me run it by you all. Maybe you have some ideas? Please post them in the comments.

Time Management Workshop


  • Zen things. Do one thing at a time. Do it slowly and completely. Do less. Put space between things. Develop rituals. Think about what is necessary. Live simply.
  • Find your style, whatever is ego-syntonic. Don’t use this as an exercise in making yourself a better person. Go with who you are and find methods that fit with who you are. Are you a morning person or a night person? Do you like to work at home or do you want to be around other people? Are you happier setting aside time blocks or do you prefer checking off tasks for the day? Do you prefer analog or digital tools to keep track of tasks?

Plot out your work.

  • Set a goal (map each goal separately) and then break it down
  • Develop a loose timeline and then plot it out backwards. If it’s a long-term project this might mean plotting month-by-month from the end to the present
  • Do this with your various goals and make a list month-by-month of what you’d like to accomplish. Plot it out.
  • Then start with month one. List what you would like to get done. Underestimate what you can do. Then start with week one. Don’t micro-manage every week or month going forward. Just focus on that one week in that one month. Give yourself a set of aims for the first week, then divvy them up over the week.
  • Depending on your own personality,
    • If you need a big chunk of time to get into something, aim for one big task a day.
    • If you prefer to work in spurts, spread things out over several days.
  • At the end of each day, be happy if you do even 80 percent of what you hoped to accomplish. And then give yourself some free time to chill. Every morning recalibrate the new day, depending on what you got done the previous day.
  • It’s okay to decide something is no longer important.
  • At the end of each week, reassess. At the end of each month, plot the next month.
  • Structure available time very modestly.
  • Give yourself time to relax and replenish.


  • Digital tools: Pros — there are many apps, always in your pocket, no need to carry around a separate notebook
  • Analog tools: Pros — more physically present and in your face, writing by hand helps mental processing and remembering
  • My favorite tool: For me, digital is handy but easy to forget. I work well with the bullet journal. https://bulletjournal.com/pages/learn; and it’s oddly more nimble than the digital tools I’ve tried. You can use this method with any notebook though a moleskin with a bound edge is nice.

Tips for how to manage time when you are over-extended.

  • Make the most of available chunks of time

Tips for how to manage when you have big stretches of unstructured time.

  • Remember it will be over before you know it.
  • Don’t think all or nothing. Aim to do even a little bit every day you are planning to work.
  • Break big long projects into monthly then weekly then daily tasks.

No matter your style or how much or little time you have, forget about multitasking. Studies show that no one can multitask. Aim for serial monotasking, whether a day at a time or even just 15 minutes at a time. One can get an astonishing amount done in 15 minutes when monotasking. As a piece of this process – but not the whole thing — look up the pomodoro method. Feel free to adapt this for what works best for you.





By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.

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