10 Time Management Tips for Busy College Students
Time management can get overlooked when it comes to what you learn in school. But it’s probably the most helpful “soft skill” for your performance and your future career.
As a college student, managing your time wisely can be the difference between a passing and failing grade in a subject with which you’re struggling. More importantly, it can either take you to the top of your future profession or leave you at the bottom of the heap.
In the following article, we’re going to discuss the very best time management tips for college students. Particularly, college students carrying a full-time load and working outside the classroom.
The busiest of the busiest, in other words. If you’re not carrying such a load, it’ll help you a lot, too. Let’s get started!
1. Master the Art of Scheduling.
It’s been said that “blocking” your classes together at once will make you more productive in college. So, instead of trying to spread it all out through each weekday, pick Tuesdays and Thursdays or Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and stack your full-time load during those periods.
While there’s something to be said for this, you have to weigh it against the way your mind works. If you feel like you get bogged down when too much comes at you, then it might be wiser to schedule a few classes each day. Whichever way you prefer to do it, make sure it jibes with your personal mindset.
Not everyone thinks the same way. While you should be willing to experiment with class scheduling, figure out what works best for you as early as possible. Then, turn it into a routine each new semester.
2. Build a Content Calendar.
There is a heck of a lot to keep up with when you start handling a full-time college course-load. On any given day, you could be handling responsibilities like:
Quizzes – both planned and “pop”
Homework – and it always seems like there’s one professor who schedules it in abundance, like theirs is the only class you’re taking that semester
Test dates – these are usually set up with your course syllabus so make note of them quickly
Project and presentation due dates – these large assignments are not something you can throw together the night before, and they often require the participation of other classmates
Think of these items like your own personal blog and social media content. If you don’t keep a calendar, it’s easy to forget about one or a few of them and put yourself firmly behind the 8-ball for the rest of the semester.
We recommend purchasing a physical desk calendar, keeping it in plain view, and writing out all the major dates at the first of the semester when you’re familiarizing yourself with the professor and their syllabus. Then, take a Hi-Res picture and upload it to the cloud so you can access it any place, any time.
3. Assign Priority Levels.
Some work will hold more weight. It could be in your best interests to work on something with a longer deadline if there’s more effort and energy involved to achieve the appropriate amount of understanding.
So, after you’ve developed your content calendar for each class, make sure you’ve prioritized each obligation adequately. A 10-point homework assignment that gets in the way of a major study session where no grade is assigned (at least in the immediate term) isn’t “worth” as much of your time. So don’t give it! At least, not until you’ve put in the right amount of effort.
4. Do Not Put Too Much Effort Into Repetition.
Of course repetition is helpful with some types of information. But when you get into the more advanced-level concepts, it’s time to get in deeper touch with your cognitive abilities. And repetition can mess with that!
How so, you ask? By giving you the impression that you’re making progress when all you’re really doing is busy-work. Don’t be fooled. It’s possible to expend effort without getting any real benefit. Wasting that effort on matters that won’t improve your understanding is a major mistake and will only lead to a lack of understanding in the long run.
Repetition is best-used for informational items. You know, things that can be answered with a quick Google search. Cognition involves listening, deconstructing what you’ve heard, and reconstructing it so that you can place it into your own terms. (Example: solving for x in a quadratic equation.)
5. Break It Up.
Some tasks are simply too large to handle all at once. So take those larger-scale projects and break them down until you’re able to navigate all the action steps in a manageable way. Group presentations, end-of-the-year projects, and 10-page research papers are great examples.
You’re not just going to sit down and hammer it all out in a couple of hours. Grant it, those 120 minutes can be vital to reaching the end. But all they’re going to be good for in the short term is advancing the narrative, organizing your notes, and working toward synthesis of what you’ve just learned.
With such assignments, always start as soon as you can. This gives you the ability to make incremental progress in ways that aren’t too taxing mentally. Ways that don’t prevent you from giving the requisite amount of attention to other assignments, obligations, and subject areas.
6. Try to Attend All Classes.
There is no good substitute for making class time provided your professor is doing his or her job. By simply being there, you’ll be able to grasp key concepts that would take hours to learn on your own.
Attending and being attentive while you’re there gives you several hours of freedom and flexibility when class isn’t in session. It will be easier to recall learning techniques that the professor presents in class. These techniques are much more valuable getting you to an A or B than any boring wall of text you’ll read in an overpriced textbook.
Unfortunately, many students make the mistake of thinking they are “too smart” for class once they’ve made it to college. They look at themselves as the “paying customer” and some end up resenting any professor who makes attendance a requirement on their syllabus. Regardless of your feelings, it’s a good idea to be there.
Being present means being able to follow along with the rest of the class as you go. It means understanding the way the professor handles assignments, grading, and instruction. It means being able to ask questions or reinforce understanding with someone who’s an expert in their field.
7. Choose Your Most Effective Times to Be Engaged.
You’re either a night owl or an early riser. Which is it? Find that period of time and make it work for you. More importantly, don’t let anyone guilt you into being something you’re not.
It’s okay if your brain’s rhythm doesn’t follow the traditional 8-5 model. We’ve got a feeling, with the way work has changed over the years thanks largely to technology, future studies are going to shine a more favorable light on nighttime productivity.
In the meantime, you know you better than anyone else. Make note of the times that deliver the best results. Then, try to schedule the lion’s share of your work/study time at those periods of time. And whichever time of day that is, try not to knock it all out at once.
Work in intervals. Give yourself time to stop, stand up, stretch, and walk around. Usually, 30 minutes is the best amount of time to remain engaged on a work task. Listen to what your body and brain are telling you and try not to overtax yourself in one sitting.
8. Do Not Cross the Streams.
In the original Ghostbusters, there was an ominous warning about what might happen if one “crossed the streams” – the plasma rays our heroes would fire at evil or annoying spirits.
It’s not a bad idea to keep this in mind as you work through the school year. “Crossing the streams,” to us, means mixing unlike work tasks and topics together to where you’re switching from one thing to the next too frequently.
The lesson here is this. Keep work time scheduled together, class time together, and study time – that’s right – together. Doing so will allow your mind to stay focused on one specific type of work at a time so you don’t have to leave your flowstate as much.
9. Log What You Have Accomplished at the End of Each Day.
The practice of journaling isn’t just great for working out your feelings. It also helps to solidify key concepts and allow for instant recall when you resume your efforts. Here’s how you should do it.
Engage in the tasks that you have to handle for the day. When you come to the end of a specific work block, sit down with a pen and piece of paper. Then, freewrite for 5-10 minutes on everything you recall and remember about what you just consumed. This further cements the knowledge in your head.
Next time you go back to the material, read over this little “cheat sheet” before proceeding. It’ll give you a chance to refamiliarize yourself with something you’re missing and it will further solidify what you already know.
10. Handle Homework Immediately.
Some teachers give homework each day. Some give you a heads-up on what will be due in advance. However it’s done, make sure you’re listening for those assignments and due dates.
While homework often doesn’t matter as much to your overall grade, it presents a golden opportunity to get credit for what you do know and to pinpoint the areas where you’re struggling. Waiting until the last moment to do your homework means “catching up” will be more difficult later on.
Keep from falling behind at all costs, even if you’re missing one or several problems along the way. If it gets you closer to an A on the exam, it won’t be as big of a deal if you score a 6/10 on the homework assignment itself.
Time Management Is Every College Student’s Best Friend
Time management may not be a specific part of the college curriculum. But it’s certainly one of the most important things you can learn as a student. Mastering it will help you deal with all the challenges and responsibilities to come. And it will follow you into the workforce as well, making the difference between reaching higher ground or staying with the rank-and-file.
Now it’s your turn, friends. What are some of the best time management tips that have worked for you? Sound off in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Wrike]