Learn to Manage Your Time in College

Here are some ways you can balance your time when there never seems to be enough of it.

By Kelci Lynn Lucier, Contributor |Oct. 5, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. US News & World Report

A common perception both among and of college students is that they are always short on money. While this may be true, many college students are also always running short on something else: time.

With so much going on at a college campus, it’s no wonder that students can feel— and actually be—overcommitted when it comes to classes, work, and co-curricular involvement. How can you balance your time when there never seems to be enough of it?

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Manage your academic time: Even though you may have a million other things going on, it’s important to remind yourself why you’re in college in the first place: to graduate. Consequently, your academic work should always come first when it comes to prioritizing your time.

    When looking at your schedule for the week, figure out what your academic commitments look like. What time do you have classes? How much homework do you have to do? What assignments are due? When do you have major exams or quizzes?

    If you need to, work backward: If you have an exam on Friday and think you need 3 hours to study for it, block off an hour on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for study time. And keep those appointments with yourself just like you would anything else on your calendar.

  2. Manage your personal time: It’s an unrealistic expectation to think that you can study, go to class, and work all day, every day. Your brain needs a break, too! Make sure to allow yourself time to go to something fun in the quad, attend a meeting for your favorite club, and just hang out for an hour or so at night with friends over dinner.

    Doing things that make your personal time more enjoyable—and not totally focused on school—can actually improve your productivity when working on projects later. Of course, if you’ve overcommitted yourself with co-curriculars or consistently let your one-hour dinners turn into four-hour gossip fests, you’ll need to adjust things accordingly. Learning to say “No” or “I have to go start studying now” can be one of the best skills you learn in college when it comes to managing your time well.

    When looking at your calendar, write in your personal commitments and make sure to leave some time for just hanging out. But make sure to put in start and stop times, too; knowing that you need to start studying at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, for example, will allow you to have some fun with friends early in the evening but also get your homework done.

  3. Keep your health in mind: When people’s schedules are tight, one of the first things to go is sleep. While it may be common among college students, a lack of sleep is more detrimental than you might think. It can throw everything out of whack: your mental health, your physical health, your stress level, and, of course, your schedule.

    Constantly working at a frenetic pace, especially when you’re sleep deprived, will catch up with you sooner or later. Take a few moments at the beginning of every week to plan out your homework, your social time—and your sleep.

  4. Where to go if you need time-management help: Time management isn’t a skill you pick up right away. It takes—ironically—time to learn and time to master. Be patient as your learn how to manage your college academic schedule, what you can handle when it comes to co-curricular management, and what your body needs to function well in a college environment.

    The most important thing to have for time management is some kind of system. Some students use the calendars on their phones; others use things like Google Calendar; others still use the classic paper-calendar model. If what you’re using isn’t working for you, don’t give up. Just change and try again.

Additionally, many campuses offer help with time management because it’s such a challenge for everyone. Try talking with your academic adviser or an on-campus tutoring center. Additionally, you can tap into resources that your campus health center may offer (especially when it comes to living a well-balance, healthy college life) or even a peer mentoring program. Keep in mind, too, that looking at how other, successful students manage their time can be a great resource as well.


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