Time management is a skill that most people don’t bother to learn until it’s too late. The busy schedule of a college student can seem almost overwhelming at times. It’s tough to meet deadlines and keep track of due dates, particularly if you’re a non-traditional college student that has a full-time job and a family in addition to a busy class schedule. College students that have managed to master their time management skills are a step ahead of the crowd because they get everything done punctually and have time to spare.
College can be a stressful time for students, even though movies portray the undergraduate years as a non-stop party. Being away from home for the first time and trying to stick to a hectic schedule without an adult watching over and reminding you of things is enough to get anyone off track initially, but don’t despair! Time management is a great way for students to keep their lives on track.
1. Get a calendar. I don’t think I would have survived college without a student planner. I would buy a new one every fall. I preferred student planners that showed weeks running from Monday through Sunday (instead of the traditional calendar display of weeks running Sunday through Saturday.) Be sure to find one that has big enough squares to write a lot of information: assignment due dates, exam dates, study group meetings, birthdays, dinners, you name it. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re being a bit anal-retentive at first, because writing everything down will wind up helping you out immensely.
2. Try not to overextend yourself. Even the best students shouldn’t try to take twenty-one credits in one semester. You will get overwhelmed. There is more to a college student’s life than school: you may have a part-time job to help make ends meet during college, but it’s not a good idea to agree to start the night shift twenty minutes after your last class ends for the day. You’re going to need time to leave class, change into your work clothes and get to work. If you’re constantly on the go, rushing from one activity to the next, the stress will get to you.
3. Write yourself notes in your calendar before things are due. You may have a ten-page research paper due on November 3rd, so your best bet is to write a reminder in your calendar two or three weeks beforehand in order to schedule in library and computer lab time. Mark down milestones and goals, such as “make sure that half of the research paper is complete” by a certain date.
4. Give yourself some wiggle room in your schedule, and realize that things may run late or get out early. You’re going to have to be flexible. Things come up in life, even if you have a calendar with your schedule planned out. Try not to stress out if something has to change. It helps to write in your calendar in pencil so you can erase your writing in case something changes.
5. Make shopping lists. Buy one of those magnetic pads that hang on your fridge or a notebook small enough to fit in your purse or bag, and write down things as you run out of them. This will save you time and money when you make a trip to the store. It’s best to get what you need in one trip instead of get back to your dorm or apartment only to realize you forgot half of what you needed.
The above-mentioned time management tips are helpful to all college students, but non-traditional college students typically have additional time constraints to worry about. Most non-traditional college students are older than typical students. This means that most of them have full-time jobs. Many also have families and children with their own busy schedules.
Some non-traditional students are starting college for the first time and others are returning to college to complete a degree program that they never finished when they were younger, so time management skills are just as important to non-traditional students as they are to younger students.
1. Most non-traditional students attend classes at night or on the weekends. If possible, leave work or leave the house with enough time to spare on school days so that you will arrive to class on time. See if you can rearrange your work schedule on school days by taking a slightly shorter lunch break in order to leave work a few minutes early. Some employers will allow this. Constantly rushing from work to school will only stress you out, and being late to class may cause you to miss important information.
2. Do not overextend yourself. This is a time management tip for all college students, but it is particularly important to non-traditional college students. You may set yourself up for failure if you attempt to take too many courses and work full-time and raise your children.
3. If you have children, write down their schedules in your calendar in addition to writing down your own. You will not want to forget about a parent-teacher conference, a school concert or play, or any other important event that you will need to attend. Keep in mind that this may be stressful on your children, too. Seeing Mom or Dad go off to school may make them feel funny or disappointed that they won’t get to spend as much time with you.
4. Schedule in relaxation time or fun family activities. If you do not set aside time to do something fun with your kids or your spouse, you may always think that you’re too busy. School and work are important, but your family should come first.
A successful time management system is not set in stone: it’s simply a combination of techniques that work best for you! Tweak your ideas and routines as needed in order to come up with the system that keeps you on track as efficiently as possible. Let us know any other tips you may have tried, and tell us what works best!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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