You know how it is… You have a full class schedule, a part-time job, enough homework to make you positive your professors think you live for the sole purpose of doing work outside of their class, a demanding social schedule, and sports practice/yearbook committee/student government meetings to go to. And as if all of those things wouldn't take up thirty-five hours a day just by themselves, somehow you’re also supposed to sleep, call your parents, check Facebook, get in a workout, eat, and take showers. AND you have to pack all of that into a measly not-even-close-to-enough-time twenty-four hours. How in the world do you do that?
Step One: Get Organized
One of my mother’s favorite sayings, and one I heard often while I was growing up, is “Plan your work, and work your plan.” Make a list of all the things you know you need to get done in a given amount of time, like a day, week, or month. I personally prefer to make daily lists, otherwise I forget things (although truth be told, sometimes I forget to make lists, too), but figure out a time frame that makes sense to you and go with that. Not only will it help you remember all the stuff that needs to get done, but you’ll get a great energy boost and sense of accomplishment every time you check off a task.
Step Two: Schedule Your Life
Looking down the barrel of a really full week can be more than a little bit daunting. A perfect way to manage the stress of that is to schedule your days constructively. Get a planner and write down everything, even the little things. Schedule in a set number of hours each day to spend on homework. Set a reminder in your phone for your workouts, and stick to it. Schedule in time to shower and get ready to leave, to spend time reading for fun or watching TV, or to meet a friend for coffee. Find a routine that works for you to get everything done and keep it up. You’ll find yourself being much more productive than if you spend your time just flying by the seat of your pants.
Step Three: Learn How to Study Effectively
If you don’t know already, figure out what method of studying helps you learn best, whether it’s recording the lectures and listening to them later on your iPod, taking copious notes, reading and re-reading the course materials, etc. Make sure that you keep up to date on homework assignments. Know what’s due, what’s coming up, and how much time you’ll need to spend in a week reading and writing. This blog post has some really excellent ideas for ways to make sure you stay on top of your homework assignments. I took a lot of her suggestions and adapted them for my own use, and it’s been incredibly helpful.
Step Four: Keep Your Eye on the Prize
While you’re busy stressing out about midterms, practices, money, significant others, and life in general, it is easy to get bogged down by the little day-to-day details. Don’t let yourself get so drained by the little things that you forget the bigger picture. I created a poster of my long term career goals to help me keep them in mind when I’m stressed out and ready to quit. It’s nothing special, just the word of my chosen career with off-shoot words of why I’ve chosen it. When I’m feeling exhausted, or frustrated from studying, I pull it out and think through all the reasons why the long-term payoff is worth the short-term frustration. Find something that will help you refocus on your goals, and go back to that whenever you start to feel the burn.
Step Five: Don’t Forget How to Have Fun
In all of the craziness that is college, make sure you take time out every day, or at least a couple of times a week, to just relax and have some fun. That can come in whatever form you want, be it a party, dinner with friends, watching TV by yourself, etc. In order to keep your sanity, and enough mental energy to focus on classes and everything else you have going on, you need to allow yourself break times. Take the time necessary to relax, regroup, and refocus your brain. You’ll be a lot more productive, and have a lot more fun while you’re doing it.
Making sure that you have a great college experience while still getting a quality education can seem a difficult task, but with a few simple changes to help with scheduling and organization, it becomes a much more manageable proposition.
Do you have any tips or tricks for time management that you use already and know work well?