12 Tips for Better Time Management for College Students

Student at a desk with laptop planning out their tasks on a paper calendar

Time management is important for everyone, but particularly crucial for college students. College coursework can be 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 fitting everything in can be difficult, even if classes are your only priority. Since you’ll always have the same 24 hours in every day, it’s essential to learn how to manage your time while in college.

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 perhaps even relieve stress.

In This Article:

How To Manage Time in College

The question of how to have good time management doesn’t need to have a complicated answer. Rather, find a system that works for you and apply actionable tips for time management in college to help establish good habits that can serve you well throughout your life.

1. Write It Down

A key component of how to have good time management in college is writing down assignments and due dates. This can mean taking notes in a notebook, jotting down the dates in a planner or using a notetaking app on your phone or laptop.

As soon as you know 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 using a time management app to help you stay organized.

2. Checklists Support Time Management for College Students

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 a few smaller goals. 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 a clear, readable list of each step needed 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 may find small pockets of time from day to day to keep moving toward your bigger goals.

3. Prioritization Tips for Time Management in College

Learn to weigh the importance of things. Remember, you are going to college for you. The priority should be your journey and your purpose. Things that distract you should be noted and properly addressed.

After your checklist is complete, assign priority levels to your tasks. Consider the due dates and the amount of time each assignment might take. Prioritize the assignments that have earlier due dates or are especially time-intensive.

An alternative strategy is to finish the easy tasks first to 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 can make the time spent studying more focused and productive.

5. Find the Right Space

Distraction can make for inefficient use of time. Finding a good place to study can help increase your productivity and enable you to stay focused.

Time management is more than scheduling time for your work, as that time must be used efficiently. If you are distracted or uncomfortable, you may 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 time there.

6. Use Apps

While technology can sometimes be a distraction, it can also be beneficial when used wisely. Many apps can support good time management for college students.

For example, 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. Others can assist you in practicing time management techniques, like Session, Forest or Toggl Track.1 To reduce distractions during dedicated study times, you can silence your phone or turn it off.

7. Look at the Calendar

One app that can be especially helpful is a calendar app. Tracking your coursework due dates in your calendar can help you see how your schoolwork fits around your personal and employment responsibilities.

Learning how to manage your calendar is an essential component of how to manage time in college. Whether you use an app, a paper calendar or a planner, being aware of future due dates can allow you to 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 may find yourself burning study time trying to get organized or to find the things that you need. This can set you up to be frustrated and unproductive.

Staying organized can start even before class begins. You can work on 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 in college 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 responsibilities.

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.

11. Identify Your Top Time-Wasters

Perhaps you tend to check your phone every time it dings, interrupting your study session, or maybe you’re in the habit of checking your social media feeds multiple times per day. Figure out what you’re wasting time on and work on curbing that habit so that you can be more productive.

12. Try the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique can work wonders for procrastinators. Set a timer app to count down from 25 minutes and focus on working without interruptions during that time. Then, set the timer for five minutes and take a break. Follow that with another 25-minute work interval, followed by another five-minute break.2

After every fourth 25-minute work interval, you can allow yourself a somewhat longer break. This technique works to curb procrastination because it forces you to focus on working for a set amount of time rather than focusing on getting a certain amount of work done.2

How To Manage Work and School

Balancing work and school can be even more challenging, yet it’s still doable. First, figure out which endeavor is your top priority. If you entered college right after high school and you’re a full-time student, then college should be your first priority and work taking second place. On the other hand, if you’re a working adult who is returning, perhaps to finish off an incomplete degree, then you’re likely a part-time college student and work is your first priority.

If school is your first priority, then you’ll need to fit your work hours around your class and study schedule rather than vice versa. Have a frank discussion with your employer about your school commitments and scheduling needs. You’ll likely need to repeat this discussion prior to each semester’s start, as your class schedule might change.

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1 Guinness, H. (2023, April 13). The 6 best Pomodoro timer apps. Zapier. Retrieved March 4, 2024.

2 Sheldon, R. & Wigmore, I. (n.d.). Pomodoro technique. TechTarget. Retrieved Feb. 26, 2024. 

Approved by the assistant vice president of GCU marketing on March 5, 2024.

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. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.