In fact, you have a lot of freedom to choose your classes and when they meet. You have to get yourself to class (or not) and then decide what to do with all the rest of your time. You have to eat, study, sleep, shower, possibly work at a part-time job, participate in campus organizations, and if there is any time left - have downtime to relax on your own or with friends.
So let's begin with some common time management principles:
- Write the things you have to do on a calendar or in a planner. With all of the technology available today, it is easy to put things into the calendar on your smartphone or tablet.
- Make sure you have an alarm clock that works, is loud, and remember to set it. (Alarms also work great for limiting your time on distractions. For example, have you ever said, I'm only going to check Facebook for 10 minutes and 10 minutes turns in to an hour?)
- Wear a watch. Use it to help you stay on schedule. (Hint: you must look at in now and then.)
- Have a schedule grid or agenda for the day and for the week; review it everyday.
- Do not over schedule or double book; be realistic!
- Limit your time spent on time wasters such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your new PS4, or hanging out with people who are also trying to avoid doing what they need to be doing.
In terms of your academics, here are some great tips to manage your studies:
- Identify your best time for studying. Are you a morning person? If so, it may be best to study in the mornings versus at night. Not a morning person? Well studying in the mornings may not be the best idea, try the afternoon or evenings.
- Study difficult subjects first. If you find a course difficult, then chances are it is going to take longer to study for that course. When you strategically study for that course first, you are already planning more time to spend on a subject that may not come easy for you.
- Use distributed learning and practice. This simply means take breaks in between studying. You don't want to spend five straight hours studying. Your brain can easily become exhausted so make sure you are taking a 10 or 15 minute break every hour or hour and a half of studying.
- Make sure you are eating and sleeping properly. Managing your time means that you are making time to take care of yourself. Also, you want to make time for doing fun things like exercising or hanging out with your friends.
- Try to combine activities. If you are doing your laundry and like to wait in the laundry room to make sure no one removes your clothes from the dryer, take your notes with you. Maybe you can run on the treadmill and still listen to a lecture of your class. If you take the bus to campus, review your flashcards as you're commuting or waiting for the bus.
Now let's move on to some common TIME MANAGEMENT TRAPS and how to avoid them...
Trap 1: Writing Papers at the Last Minute (or Cramming for Exams)
You use the adrenaline rush of deadline desperation to get your paper written, staying up all night, skipping other classes to work on it, eating junky snacks rather than real meals, not having time to really edit and organize your material well, and then...your printer cartridge gives out as you try to print the paper to turn in, you can't get Blackboard to accept it electronically, your suitemate is irked at you for eating his/her junk food, and you remember that you actually needed to do the reading for a quiz in another class but you are too tired to do it.
Solution: Create a deadline for yourself to have a first draft of the paper days before the paper is due. This may even give you time to take your paper to the Writing Lab (Library, first floor) to get a suggestion or two for improving it. If you must stay up late the night before, at least you will be fine-tuning a paper rather than trying to create it while bleary-eyed. For exams, try a 5-day study plan. Start studying for the exam five days before and each day review a chapter or a portion of the material. This way, you are not studying everything at one time.
Trap 2: Not Using Time Between Classes Productively
Your class schedule gives you several 1-2 hour blocks of time that are not long enough to go home or back to the dorm. You doubt that you can get anything useful done without a huge block of time, so you just linger in the Commons over lunch with your friends or update your Facebook profile.
Solution: Work on small chunks of your big pending projects. Review the notes from the lecture you just attended. Make your time plan for the coming week. Read the first part of the required reading for your class tomorrow. The fact is that even tiny scraps of time - 5 or 10 minutes while waiting for class to start - can be very productive.
Trap 3: Forgetting That You are Taking 4 or 5 Classes, Not Just 1 Class
You receive a low score on a Math (or Physics or Philosophy) exam about a third of the way through the semester and you panic, focusing inordinate amounts of time studying for that course. You figure that the other classes can "coast" or "take care of themselves" and you even skip them sometimes to study for the panic course. What happens is that you still pull only a C in the "panic" course but your other grades (which could have been A or B grades) also slip down to C's.
Solution: Never abandon any of your classes! Keep attending, keep current on assignments, or suddenly you may find that you are earning poor grades in all classes, not just the one that threw you into a panic.
MORE IDEAS AND INFORMATION
Do you need help managing your time? The Office for Academic and Pre-Professional Advising (OAPA), the Counseling Center, and the Learning Resources Center (LRC) all offer workshops and appointments to work with students on time management.
Do you have a smartphone or tablet? There are many time management apps available. Just do a search in your app store and read reviews on different apps.
EXTRA CREDIT DISCUSSION QUESTION
What are some tools you use to help better manage your time?