IT Teaching Resources

Getting Things Done: Strategies and Digital Tools for Time and Tasks

Understanding personal energy and procrastination to improve productivity

Article Technology

Presenters: Christina Fajardo, Academic Technology Specialist, GSE IT; Kathryn Payne-Gray, Director, Stanford Learning Lab; Mitch Dandignac, Learning Specialist, Stanford Learning Lab
Recording of the session:

Presentation slides

Central Questions:

  • What is personal energy management and how does it impact time and task management?
  • Which time management methods could optimize my schedule and responsibilities?
  • How can digital tools reduce friction and increase efficiency for task management?

Key Quotes:

Our coaching model with the students at the Learning Lab is very unique because we use screening tools, such as the LASSI and the CEFI, to better understand a student’s strengths and areas to develop within their profile. And these screenings reveal information about learning behaviors that may impact learning and academic achievement. (04:22, Kathryn Payne-Gray)

One of the things that is really fascinating about a new way to view time management is to take a look at not just the managing of time, but the managing of time as a finite resource along with one’s energy. And so we really want individuals to think about, very holistically, what they’re trying to do beyond the academic courses that they’re taking or the content they’re studying. (8:07, Kathryn)

Research over the last 5 to 10 years is really showing is that procrastination is more about emotion regulation: the immediate urgency of managing negative moods. (26:24, Mitch Dandignac)

I’d also like to add that building an effective workflow is a deeply personal and iterative process, so sometimes we have to try a lot of methods before we find the one that works. (39:54, Christina Fajardo)


Stanford Learning Lab

  • Guides matriculated Stanford undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students to develop rewarding sustainable academic and professional habits.
  • Promotes research-based practices to support students in using technology and learning strategies toward understanding their unique learning profiles.
  • Mentors faculty to integrate Universal Design for Learning principles into their teaching.

Personal Energy Management

  • Asses personal energy according to four categories
    • Physical Energy: The balance of eating, sleeping, and exercising
    • Emotional Energy: The quality of how you feel and how it equates to how you perform
    • Mental Energy: The quality and quantity of your concentration and focus
    • Spiritual Energy: Derived from understanding that what you are doing is meaningful and it brings you joy
  • Time-blocking method 
    • Color-code commitments and tasks according to personal energy categories
      • Example: Classes are orange for Mental Energy, and Exercise is blue for Physical Energy
    • Use a calendar to schedule commitments and task blocks
    • Schedule routines as well as meals and rest time
  • Quadrant system
    • Divide tasks into four duration categories based on time needed to complete
      • 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 60+ minutes
    • Breakdown 60+ minute tasks into smaller tasks and add to calendar where time allows


  • Emotion regulation
    • Tendency to prioritize short-term (present) reward over long-term (later) reward. (Present bias)
    • Caring too much rather than not caring enough due to fear of failure  
  • Strategies to overcome challenges
    • Engage in activities that confront negative thoughts and feelings 
    • Incorporate time management tools such as the Pomodoro technique
    • Try body doubling: work alongside someone else on a challenging task
    • Use website and app blocker tools to minimize distractions
    • Break down large assignments and projects into smaller achievable tasks

Featured Tools


Additional Digital Tools to Consider