Time Management Guide

Time management is a process through which we plan and control priorities and responsibilities to effectively accomplish our goals.

Through planning, awareness of our own effective processes and productive time ranges, and management tools, we can maintain control over our work flow and personal lives. This is particularly important in the job search process, as there are a lot of details, deadlines and moving pieces to keep track of throughout. Effective career planning involves spending time on the most important pieces, and being able to prioritize each piece of the process in a mindful way.

For the purposes of career planning and exploration, we have divided time management into four categories, Prioritizing, Scheduling, Delegating, and Resting.


Create a To-Do List
Create a list of the things you’ll need to complete to get into a successful job search.

For instance, preferencing the search for interesting jobs over the development of a solid resume doesn’t make sense—make sure you’re ready to apply when you find the dream job, so that you present yourself as a competitive applicant.

Do the Hard Thing First
As Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Is writing a resume incredibly time consuming for you?  Or is creating a compelling cover letter?  Figure out which elements will take the most time and complete those tasks first.

Urgent vs. Important (Eisenhower Matrix)   4 quadrants of urgent and important (Do); Not Urgent but Important (Plan); Urgent but Not Important (Delegate); Not Urgent and Not Important (Eliminate)
Prioritize those tasks that are both urgent and important.

For instance, updating your resume to reflect skills required for the job with an approaching deadline is both urgent and important

Respect Deadlines
Set them when they don’t exist

Pay attention to deadlines and find a management system that works for you to keep track of them.  Always make it a point to submit applications well before the published deadline.

Set Goals
Establishing goals will set your course of action.

Multi-task Effectively
Deciding which tasks can be completed simultaneously helps you to achieve your goals quicker by using your time intentionally.

For example, while researching companies you want to apply to, make note of mission statements, values and keywords to make your cover letter and resume tailoring easier.


There are many ways to keep track of your time and projects.  Pick a method according to what works for your preferences and work habits, and stick to it. Along with keeping commitments, effective scheduling also includes building in contingency time. Contingency time is unplanned time which allows for some breathing room throughout your day to make room for the unexpected.

During the job search process, scheduling is critically important.  

  • Who’s going to hire the late applicant or the one who never responds to an email in a timely manner?
  • Many recruiters will prioritize applications that come in early—it shows motivation, organization and a sincere interest in the position.

Scheduling Tools and Duke Resources to consider:


Delegation is one of the most important management and leadership tools that should be practiced throughout your academic and professional career. While this is one of the most challenging skills to master, especially for high achievers, it can make the difference between filling your day with business or busyness. Effective mastery of this tool may look like sharing work or responsibilities until you are actually in a strong leadership role, but it can be practiced in with group projects and team assignments.
Delegation requires:

  • Knowing your time’s worth
  • Knowing your resources
  • Being willing to relinquish complete control in order to maximize effectiveness


It is important to also schedule rest time in your career development process.  If the stress of networking, applications and interviews becomes too much, it can affect your performance negatively. Find stress relief strategies that work for you—meditation, exercise, video games, cooking a good meal, being with friends—and make sure to take the time out to do those things so you stay fresh and energized about your process.

  • Get rest
  • Eat well
  • Take care of your health
  • Exercise – replenish energy

Effectively managing time is important in many aspects of life but especially in the job search process. Using the tips and strategies above will help you to develop and enhance your time management skills during your time at Duke and beyond.