Many students discover they are lacking in time management skills when they arrive at college. In high school, others managed your time for you. Your parents and teachers were involved in making sure that you got where you needed to go and that your work got done. You will learn quickly that in college you will have less in-class time, more work outside of class, and a great deal of freedom. You and you alone, are now in charge of determining how your time is spent.
You must make a commitment to your work and take studying seriously. This means balancing your academic and social activities to ensure that you are able to complete all coursework. Carrying a full load of college credits is basically equivalent to a full-time job. You should plan on 2-3 hours of studying outside of class for every hour spent in class. For a schedule of 12 credit hours, this would mean 24-36 additional hours of outside work to adequately understand the material. If you really like the subject matter or are having trouble understanding it, you may put in even more hours.
In college (and life!) there never seems to be enough time to do everything we need to do. A few time management strategies can help.
- Create a weekly activity planner. Indicate all of your regular academic, work, and social commitments for the entire week. You can now see where free time exists in your schedule. Now schedule specific study tasks where free time exists. Study daily. If you use time each day, you won’t cram. This will help you to keep ahead of your classes and feel more in control of your time. The time left over is your own – for recreation, social activities, etc.
- Set goals. Determine what you want to accomplish and set goals to accomplish it. Setting goals makes you more inclined to follow through with your plans and accomplish your tasks. Your life is a series of choices and decisions. You are actually managing these choices, not the flow of time.
- Prioritize. Once you determine what you want to accomplish, you must prioritize your tasks. Figure out what must be done and what can be put on hold. Focus on the most important tasks before proceeding to the less important ones. Prioritizing makes you less inclined to procrastinate.
- Learn to say no. You can determine how to spend your time or you can let others plan it for you by default. Knowing your priorities helps you to stay focused. You are not being selfish if you chose to schedule your time according to your goals. Be careful with over-commitment and don’t attempt to do too much. Remember that every time you say yes to something, you are automatically saying no to everything else you could have done with that time.
- Let yourself relax. Schedule certain days that are just for you. Don’t study on those days and don’t make obligations to anyone else. Instead, use this time to do something that you really enjoy. It is important to have personal time – it can be very renewing.
- Utilize spare time. If you have to wait in line or for class to start, use the extra time to review your notes or study for an exam. You can accomplish a lot during this extra “found” time. This will allow some extra time to complete larger tasks.
- Know when you are most productive. Everyone has a time during the day when they are most productive. Whether this time is in the morning or at night, use it to tackle your most demanding tasks. Do less challenging activities when you have less energy.
- Put a stop to procrastination. About 40% of college students experience procrastination as a problem. Sometimes it’s difficult to start working. Often times, not starting is related to fear – fear of poor results or negative evaluations – rather than the actual difficulty of the work. Large projects can be overwhelming. This is normal. Subdivide your work into small tasks. Pledge to give 10 minutes to the task at hand. More than likely, the 10 minutes will go by and you’ll be into the task and prepared to continue. When put together, these small tasks result in a finished project and satisfaction for a job well done.
Good time management skills give you control of your time and your life. Luckily, all time management skills are learnable. Learning them will allow you to maintain balance between your class, work, and personal lives.