To be successful in college, it is imperative to effectively manage your time. How do you currently manage your time? Do you have a good schedule? Do you procrastinate? How can you better prioritize your days?
As most students discover, college is not the same as high school. For many students, college is the first time they are “on their own” in an environment filled with opportunity. And while this can be exciting, these students may find that social opportunities conflict with academic expectations. For example, a free day before an exam, if not wisely spent, can spell trouble for doing well on the exam. It is easy to fall behind when there are so many choices and freedoms.
One of the main goals of a college education is learning how to learn. In this section we zoom in on learning how to skillfully manage your time. To be successful in college, it is imperative to be able to effectively manage your time.
In the following Alleyoop Advice video, Alleyoop (Angel Aquino) discusses what many students discover about college: there is a lot of free time—and just as many challenges to balance free time with study time.
There are three important steps in learning to effectively manage your time:
In the following sections, we will examine these steps in detail.
Click into the activity below and answer the questions to identify whether your time management style more closely aligns with the early bird, the pressure cooker, the balancing act, or the improviser.
Which of the four basic time-management personality types did you select the most? Which did you select the least? Do you feel like these selections match the student you have been in the past? Has your previous way of doing things worked for you, or
do you think it is time for a change? Remember, we can all always improve!
Learn more below about your tendencies. Review traits, strengths, challenges, and tips for success for each of the four time-management personality types.
Now that you have evaluated how you have done things in the past, you will want to think about how you might create a schedule for managing your time well going forward. The best schedules have some flexibility built into them, as unexpected situations and circumstances will likely arise during your time as a student.
Your schedule will be unique to you, depending on the level of detail you find helpful. There are some things—due dates and exam dates, for example—that should be included in your schedule no matter what. But you also might find it helpful to break down assignments into steps (or milestones) that you can schedule, as well.
Again, this is all about what works best for you. Do you want to keep a record of only the major deadlines you need to keep in mind? Or does it help you to plan out every day so you stay on track? Your answers to these questions will vary depending on the course, the complexity of your schedule, and your own personal preferences.
Your schedule will also vary depending on the course you are taking. So pull out your syllabus and try to determine the rhythm of the class by looking at the following factors:
You can find many useful resources online that will help you keep track of your schedule. Some are basic, cloud-based calendars (like Google calendar, iCal, Outlook), and some (like iHomework) are specialized for students.
We all have exactly 168 hours per week. How do you spend yours? How much time will you be willing to devote to your studies?
Student 1: Do I really need to create a study schedule? I can honestly keep track of all of this in my head.
Answer: Yes, you really should create a study schedule. Your instructors may give you reminders about what you need to do when, but if you have multiple classes and other events and activities to fit in, it’s easy to lose track. A study schedule helps you carve out sufficient time—and stick to it.
Student 2: Realistically, how much time should I spend studying for class?
Answer: This is a good question and a tough one to answer. Generally speaking, for each hour of class, you should spend a minimum of two to three hours studying. Thus, a typical three-hour class would require a minimum of six to nine hours of studying per week. If you are registered for 15 credits a semester, then you would need to spend 30 to 45 hours each week studying for your classes, which can be as much time needed for a full-time job. If you think of college as a “job,” you will understand that it takes work to succeed.
One important college success skill is learning how to interact with the course materials. Think about learning a sport or playing a game. How do you learn how to play it? With lots of practice and engagement. The more you play, the better you get. The same applies to learning. You need to engage with the course material and concentrate on learning.
Student 3: Aside from class time requirements, should I account for anything else as I draw up my schedule?
Answer: This depends on how detailed you want your schedule to be. Is it a calendar of important dates, or do you need a clear picture of how to organize your entire day? The latter is more successful, so long as you stick with it. This is also where it will be helpful to determine when you are most productive and efficient. When are you the most focused and ready to learn new things? In the morning, afternoon, or evening?
Student 4: My life and school requirements change on a week-to-week basis. How can I possibly account for this when making a schedule?
Answer: Try creating a variable schedule in case an event comes up or you need to take a day or two off.
Student 5: I am beginning to think that scheduling and time management are good ideas, but on the other hand they seem unrealistic. What is wrong with cramming? It is what I will probably end up doing anyway . . .
Answer: Cramming, or studying immediately before an exam without much other preparation, has many disadvantages. Trying to learn any subject or memorize facts in a brief but intense period of time is basically fruitless. You simply forget what you have learned much faster when you cram. Instead, study in smaller increments on a regular basis: your brain will absorb complex course material in a more profound and lasting way because it is how the brain functions.
Due dates are important. Set your short and long-term goals accordingly. Ask yourself the following:
Your time is valuable. Treat it accordingly by getting the most you can out of it.
Above all, avoid procrastination. Procrastination is the kiss of death, because it is difficult to catch up once you have fallen behind. Do you have a problem with procrastination? Be on your guard so it does not become an issue for you.
Do any of the following descriptions apply to you?
If these sound like issues you have struggled with in the past, you might want to consider whether you have the tendency to procrastinate and how you want to deal with it in your future classes. You are already spending a lot of time, energy, and money on the classes you are taking—do not let all of that go to waste!
Below are some effective strategies for overcoming procrastination:
In the following video, Joseph Clough shares key strategies for conquering procrastination once and for all.
Answer the question(s) below to see how well you understand the topics covered in the section. This short quiz does not count toward your grade, and you can retake it an unlimited number of times.
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