Time management can be a considerable challenge for anyone, and college students are especially at risk of taking on too much. College coursework is more time-intensive than it first appears, since it entails not only classes but also assignments, study sessions and meeting with professors or others for help as needed. Moreover, college students may also be parents or have full-time jobs. Anyone who has been in college knows that time management can be difficult even if classes are your only priority.
Effective time management is a skill worth prioritizing; it can make life feel less chaotic while making it possible to meet deadlines and do well on exams. Amid the competing demands of work, school, family and social life, good time management can provide structure and relieve stress.
How You Can Improve Your Time Management
1. Write it Down
A key component of effective time management is writing down assignments and due dates. This can mean taking notes in a notebook, jotting down the dates in a planner or using the Notes app on your phone. When the professor announces what is due and when, record that information and consider what it will take to complete the work in time. Your course syllabus may enable you to do this proactively at the very beginning of the term. Consider setting alerts and reminders on your phone or a using time management app to help you stay organized.
2. Make Checklists
A comprehensive checklist can enable you to track your progress and stay on schedule. It’s extremely helpful to take larger goals such as exams or papers and break them into smaller chunks. Write down all the steps it will take to complete each assignment or prepare for each test. Then look at those action items and see where they might fit into your schedule between now and the due date. Keep handy a clear, readable list of each step you need to take and get to work. As you complete each task, check it off so you can see that you are making progress. By breaking down the larger projects and exam preparations into manageable chunks, you will see that you can find small pockets of time from day to day to keep moving toward your goals.
3. Prioritize Your Work
After your checklist is complete, assign priority levels to your tasks. Consider the due dates and the amount of time each assignment will take. Prioritize the assignments that have earlier due dates or are especially time-intensive. An alternative strategy is to finish the easy tasks first so you can quickly trim the checklist. However, be sure to leave yourself enough time to accomplish each assignment by its due date.
4. Schedule Breaks
As you plan your study schedule, don't forget to include breaks. Given the responsibilities you may have both as a student and as an employee, parent, family member or friend, you may well have a tight schedule. Your study plans will need to include breaks to fulfill your nonacademic responsibilities. Beyond these working breaks, you will also need to plan downtime to rest, relax and recharge. Respecting the need for downtime makes the time spent studying more focused and productive.
5. Find the Right Space
Distraction makes for inefficient use of time. Finding a good place to study can increase your productivity and enable you to stay focused. Time management is more than scheduling time for your work; that time must be used efficiently. If you are distracted or uncomfortable, you will not be spending enough of your study time getting work done. It pays to find one or more spaces where you can concentrate easily and spend your scheduled study times there.
6. Use Apps
While technology can be a distraction, it can also be a benefit. Many apps are available to support students with time management. A timer can remind you how long to stay with a given task. Some apps can link to your calendar to help you know when a due date or test is coming up. To reduce distractions, you can turn off notifications on your phone or even turn your phone off during dedicated study times.
7. Look at the Calendar
One app that can be especially helpful is the calendar. It may be possible to import coursework due dates into your calendar app. This can help you see how your schoolwork fits around your personal and employment obligations. Learning how to manage your calendar is an essential component of time management. Whether you use an app, a paper calendar or a planner, your awareness of how far away due dates are and you need to be aware of future due dates and allocate your time wisely.
8. Create Routines
Once you get the hang of using your calendar in this way, you can take it up a level and create daily or weekly routines. One effective practice is to block out the same time every day to dedicate to your schoolwork. To do so, you may have to get up a little earlier than usual or shorten your lunch break. However, a routine has the advantage of helping you get into the mindset to study when it is study time. When your body and mind make the connection that it’s time to study, the transition to settling in with the books will be easier and faster.
9. Stay Organized
If your study space, notes and other school-related items are disorganized, you will burn study time trying to get organized or to find the things that you need. This sets you up to be frustrated and unproductive. Keeping organized can start even before class begins by creating folders on your computer for important documents, setting up a calendar or planning system and collecting the supplies you’ll need to complete your assignments. With everything in a place where you can find it, you’ll be able to start each study session productively and efficiently.
10. Find Balance
One way to keep time management from feeling like a burden is to ensure that you have balance in your life. You may have to ask your friends and family to support you by giving you time to do your work when normally you would have other obligations. You may also need to reach out to your professors or advisors for help in getting organized. Asking for help early is a good way to avoid being overwhelmed later.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.