I think one of the biggest challenges in life, whether you’re a student, working a career, a parent, or any combination of the three, is mastering the concept of time management. Unless you’re born into wealth, time management is integral to living a successful life.

You need to understand how to differentiate between tasks that can be revisited later and tasks that require you to reschedule others. In other words, you need to know how to prioritize. Here are a few tips and tools that I’ve found useful over the years to help you do so.

Calendar Alerts

Thank god for smartphones. I use mine for nearly all my organizational needs. And the number one app I use for those needs is my calendar app. If you have a Google account and use it most for your personal or professional computing needs, grab Google calendar. The UI (user interface) is user-friendly and intuitive.

I actually just started using my Samsung Galaxy default calendar app, which is just as good, to avoid clutter. If you’re old school bust out the paper calendar. Grab one that speaks to you. Random side note- in your office, on your phone, wherever you are- surround yourself with things you truly love. It’ll make mundane tasks like checking your calendar to see what chores are up ahead a little brighter.

Back to the point- use your calendar, if you don’t already, to store events like appointments, social outings, bill due dates, vacations, or article deadlines. Remember when setting your alert to give yourself some extra time if you need it. Sometimes I set up to three alerts for one event. This allows you to put these events out of your mind completely, freeing up your short-term memory and enhancing your long-term memory.

Timers

Again, thank god for smart phones. You run of the mill clock app has two wonderful time management tools, an alarm and a timer. I only use my alarm in the traditional sense- to get up for work every morning. But, I use the timer for everything else. When I call in a pickup order for takeout I set a timer. When I take lunch at work I set a timer.

If I’m trying to clean up before I go out somewhere, but I told whoever that I’m leaving in ten minutes, I set a timer. You get the idea. If you need to do something in x number of minutes, hours, whatever, set a timer. Like with calendar alerts, this frees up your short-term memory. Setting a timer also avoids wasting time and negates losing track of time.

To-Do Lists

Creating a to-do list allows you to plan your day in advance. Planning your day in advance allows you to utilize your time in the wisest, most productive way possible. I used to use my memo app to create to-do lists but recently came across the Microsoft app To-Do. Microsoft’s To-Do is much better suited than the memo app because it allows you to create multiple to-do lists with notes.

Each item on the to-do list can be checked off with one tap, creating a check mark next to the completed task and crossing out the task itself, much like you would do on a pen and paper to-do list. The beats having to go into your memo and having to manually erase the task you’ve completed. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s just faster and more efficient.

Plus, now I can use my memo app for long-term crap that doesn’t really belong in my calendar and isn’t a short-term to-do list, like an ongoing grocery list, a membership number, or an idea for an article. And finally, my last go-to for time management and organization.

Whiteboards

You can get these guys at Target for cheap. They’re magnetic or stand-up and come in whatever size you need. Mine isn’t that big and it’s on my fridge, which is the first thing I see when I walk in the door of my apartment. I also love food, so I’m in that area a lot. Make sure you place your whiteboard in an area that you frequent.

I use this tool for long-term tasks that don’t have a due date, daily reminders, or mantras that help me stayed focused. For example, I have “SCHOLARSHIP” written on mine right now. I want to apply for one. I don’t have to, and although there’s a deadline to apply by it’s not really a pressing issue for me. I also have “DIET” with “GYM: M + W + FRI” underneath (I like to write in caps on the whiteboard because it grabs my attention).

Like the scholarship, these tasks don’t have a due date and aren’t really required of me. But I want them there, so I can think about them every day. “DIET” and “GYM” have been on my whiteboard for about four months. I changed my eating habits two weeks ago and started back at the gym yesterday (4/9/18 Monday). Lastly, I have two mantras on there: “Make It Happen!” at the top of the board and “MINIMALISM” at the bottom.

Again, these have no due date and don’t even need to be done. But, they are still tasks and they are just as important (actually more important in a personal matter) than the Calendar Alert of paying my credit card bill on time. The only difference is priority level in regard to time.

These are four tools that I relentlessly use in my every day life to ensure that I’m getting the most time out of my day, every day. As a student, professional, parent, or any combination of the three, you’re constantly bombarded with miscellaneous deadlines that can be a nightmare to wrap your head around. Hopefully the tips I’ve shared here from my own life experience can help you to overcome and master the giant pain in the ass that is time management.