Time management in college can be challenging—yet it’s absolutely essential to students’ success. With all the assignments, responsibilities, and opportunities that come students’ ways, it’s vital that they learn how to create a thoughtfully planned and consistent schedule that helps them manage their time, energy, and resources effectively.
Today, we continue our series on time management by sharing ten principles that will guide students as they flex their time-management muscles. (You may also find some helpful tips as well!) The principles, summarized from a section in Carolyn H. Hopper’s Practicing College Learning Strategies, Seventh Edition, will assist students in their efforts to successfully complete their work and fulfill their obligations.
Time Management in College: Ten Steps that Will Help Students Succeed
1. Study during the day. It may be more convenient to study at night; and in fact, that may be the only time that’s available to you. However, if it’s at all possible, take advantage of the time you’re typically more alert, and schedule the bulk of your study time during the morning and afternoon.
2. Review material for discussion-based courses right before they start. That way, you’ll come to class ready to discuss important topics, concepts, and ideas. (This tip also works for classes in which the instructor frequently quizzes you.)
3. On the other hand… study and review lecture-based classes right after they end. Review your lecture notes, and jot down additional ideas, questions, or connections in the margins.
4. Keep a consistent study schedule. Treat studying as you would your classes or a job: establish when and where you’ll study, and stick to your schedule. Studying will become part of your routine, and you’ll be more likely to maintain focus and concentration. (For ideas, read our previous posts: “Effective Time Management: An Important Study Skill” and “Identifying an Ideal Study Space.”)
5. Allot two hours of study time for every hour you spend in class. This should give you enough time to review your notes and complete any assigned readings or problems. However, this is just a baseline number: give yourself more time for more taxing courses, or shorten the amount of time spent on the courses in which you’re more comfortable or familiar with the content.
6. Give yourself a break. Don’t attempt to study for hours on end without stopping to rest. Take periodic ten- to fifteen-minute breaks so that you don’t burn out.
7. Prioritize your day’s responsibilities. Make a list of what needs to be accomplished. Note which of these activities are more urgent, complicated, and important, and which are less time-sensitive or demanding. Tackle the tougher ones first, and you’ll be less likely to run out of the time you need in order to complete them.
8. Go with your own flow. Study for your most challenging courses and complete your most difficult assignments when you’re most alert, and use the time when you have less energy to complete work that requires less of your attention and concentration.
9. Don’t overschedule yourself. Though it’s important to maintain a disciplined approach to your studies, it’s not a good idea to pack your day so tightly that you have no “room to move” (so to speak). Give yourself a bit of freedom to account for special events, unusual occurrences, spontaneous coffee meetups, and life’s little mishaps. (Plus, it helps to give yourself a bit of breathing room for rest, relaxation… and a bit of fun.)
10. Keep a time log. Notice where you’re spending time wisely… and when you have a tendency to waste it. Pay special attention to “between times”—the blocks of time you have available between classes, or between school and work. How are you using that time? If you notice that you tend to spend too much of that time on non-essential activities, then try to replace those “time wasters” with activities that help you accomplish your academic goals. (Hopper, 33)
Reference: Hopper, Carolyn H. 2016. Practicing College Learning Strategies, 7th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.