Rule 1: Form the right habits
It's true that most things we do we do out of habit. The brain tries to save energy, and so we do lots of things automatically. How does one build useful habits that can help us use ourtime more effectively?
Time. Schedule your new useful habit — like jogging in the morning, squats in the evening, eating salad for dinner. All this «putting off» business happens because you don't have it scheduled.
Preparation. Don't frighten your body with sudden changes. If you plan on going jogging in the morning, place a pair of sneakers beside your bed before you go to sleep, not a bathrobe.
Moderation. Don't be hasty — and don't add more than a habit a week. If you burden yourself with your new life too much, then you'd probably return to your old one soon.
Patience. Don't be a maximalist. Start with small changes. Want to take up sports? Start with mild warm-ups in the morning, then add push-ups, squats, etc. You won't even notice how soon you'll find yourself at a gym.
Motivation is like a pendulum. If you suddenly get all motivated and completely change your life, you should expect getting really depressed and tired at the same time. It often happens to people who don't seem to have any serious problems: it's just that they «pump» themselves with motivation, take on several projects at one time, and then they are suddenly lost and unhappy, and sometimes even ill because of all the stress.
Rule 2: Get enough sleep
This may be the best advice of all. It's a lot better to give your social networks a break till morning and go to sleep between 10 pm and midnight. If you want to remember what you've learned, you need sleep — this is when information is processed.
Rule 3: Regularity and frequency
If you takeon something new, you better spend 15 minutes every day on it than several hours once a week. It all the more important if you're learning a new foreign language: daily training of 15−20 minutes can really help form a habit. The results won't take long.
Rule 4: Write your plans down
Write it down so you don't forget anything. If you write down all the tasks for the day, you will no longer have to keep them in your mind. Also, this way you feel responsibility to accomplish these tasks. It will also be easier for you to see possible problems and mismatches.
The method of Dean Allen can help you here: according to this method, all tasks are to be split into three categories. If you can do this task in a minute, do it right on the spot. If you can't, but you still have to do it, assign it to a set time. Thus you can stop thinking about it until you get to it.
Rule 5: Multitasking is a myth!
No one can do several tasks simultaneously — some just switch really fast. And this «switching» takes time and energy. So, if we're talking about combining work and studying, you'd better split them. When you start planning your day in the morning, try to be objective about how much time you need for your homework and how much — for today's part of your work project. Sometimes you’ll find it’s not three hours like you thought, but actually 30 minutes. Thus, you can adjust the time of your deadlines.
Pomodoro app can help you here: you set the timer for 20 minutes, and then completely immerse yourself in your work. As soon as the timer stops — you completely switch to rest. Then, after 3−5 minutes — you set the timer again and work, work, work.
Rule 6: Set your priorities
Use ABC-analysis to manage your plans.
A for the things that are most important and are to be done by yourself only and as soon as possible;
B for important things that can be delegated to colleagues or done later;
C for things that can be quickly done with or delegated.
Then act according to these rules: you don't start doing the B tasks unless all of A tasks are done with. According to Brian Tracy, you'd better «eat that frog» in the morning so you know that you won't have to do it any more. For example, if you have to work with lots of boring documents, do it sooner so as not to suffer all day long.
If you want to know more, you can join an additional course by Anastasia Abramova, a Research Student from ITMO. It combines the basics of the Learning to Learn course from Coursera, and also gives skills of self-management, so you learn to plan your time efficiently.