Time management is your ability to plan and control how you spend the hours in your day to accomplish your goals. It helps to have strategies to be successful in managing one’s time. The strategies that worked well for students in high school may, however, fall short in meeting the obligations of college life. Classes, group work, study, and jobs now compete for the limited hours in a semester. The sooner that college students learn to adjust their time management skills, the better their chances of success.

Understanding college students’ challenges

In the spring of 2015 Cengage issued its Student Engagement Insights survey. A number of questions covered time management habits. While most college students felt that they did not struggle with time management, an overwhelming 88 percent admitted to changing their time management strategies from those used in high school.

Unlike the high school years, many students cited family obligations as an added challenge to managing their time. Moreover, age and independence mean that students bear the full responsibility for meeting the many obligations of college life.

What are the biggest time management challenges faced by students? The Student Engagement Survey revealed these top four challenges.

  • Procrastination
  • Distractions from friends and family
  • Spending too much time on non-essentials
  • Over-scheduling

Armed with a better understanding of the challenges faced by students, instructors can construct methods and strategies to help them adjust and learn how to better achieve student success.

Teaching time management

According to Carolyn Hopper, the jobs that students are preparing for today may not exist in another ten years. Therefore, the most important lesson to get from college is learning how to learn.

In her book, Practicing College Learning Strategies, 7th Edition, Hopper covered the skills that students need to address in their first year of college. These skills include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Setting goals
  • Processing information from lectures and textbooks

In an entire chapter devoted to time management skills, Hopper offered ways for students to identify time problems and work on strategies and solutions for mastering their schedule. Activities include construction of a trial master schedule to use as a guide for the semester and the creation of organized to-do lists. She also provided a case study to inspire students to construct advice for a student having difficulty with time management.

One strategy Hopper suggested begins with identifying the small bits of time that are wasted each day. For example, hitting the snooze button in the morning or waiting in line for the morning latte. Each segment of time is a lost opportunity to study, read, or review course materials.

“Those wasted 10, 15, or 20 minutes that you stand in line without studying add up—it’s time you’ll have to spend studying later. And you will discover later that you usually learn more in short sessions than in longer ones. Program your mind; make it a habit to use waiting time,” Hopper wrote.

Through exercises and case study analysis, Hopper’s advice can help students look at their time with a new perspective. The critical thinking feature, Making Connections, can help students analyze and synthesize what they’ve learned, and apply new concepts or skills to other courses or situations.

What strategies do you think best help your students to manage their time effectively? Share your ideas below.

Reference: Hopper, Carolyn H. 2016. Practicing College Learning Strategies, 7th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage.