One of the most obvious differences between being a student in college and life before college is that you take on a huge new responsibility to structure your time. You no longer have bells ringing in the hallways, parents pushing you out the door, or that block schedule you had in high school.
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:
No-Brainer Failsafe Strategies Used From Time Immemorial (whatever that means) That Still Work Because They are so Sensible
1. Write the things you have to do on a calendar or in a planner.
2. Make sure you have an alarm clock that works, is loud, and remember to set it.
3. Wear a watch. Use it to help you stay on schedule. (Hint: you must look at it now and then.)
4. Have a written schedule grid or agenda for the day and for the week; review it every day.
5. Do not overschedule or double book; be realistic!
6. Limit your time spent on time wasters such as Pac Man, playing cards, or chit chatting with people you don’t even particularly want to chat with.
Did you notice how old-tech those ideas were? As children born in the 90’s, you will automatically update those classics as follows:
1. Enter your important tasks into AnyDo or a similar app for iPhone or Android
2. Use your smartphone as an alarm clock. Just remember to set it!
3. Forget the watch. Your phone can be your watch too. But you do need to look at it.
4. Use Google calendar to set up your day—class times, study blocks, club meetings, meals, etc.
5. Do not overschedule or overbook—on a paper calendar or electronic—same idea.
6. Limit your time spent on time wasters such as Facebook, Twitter, computer games, aimless internet surfing, and hanging out with random people who are also trying to avoid doing what they need to be doing.
Now let’s move on to some common TIME MANAGEMENT TRAPS and how to avoid them…
Trap 1: 11th Hour High Wire Act Paper Writing
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.
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.
Wise Closing Thoughts
Finally, courtesy of the folks at www.brainyquote.com, here are some pithy and profound words of wisdom about time management from four prominent people you may have heard of. This is proof that you are not the first or only ones trying to get your minds around the slippery concept of time and how to use it.
All great achievements require time.
Determine never to be idle. …It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.
Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.
If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
MORE IDEAS AND INFORMATION
“Five Stellar Time Management Tips” on the Shriver Center group site, myUMBC
“Top Ten Ways of Wasting Time in College” by Kelci Lynn Lucier on about.com College Life
“Twenty Quick Tips for Better Time Management” by Celestine Chua on Lifehack
EXTRA CREDIT DISCUSSION QUESTION
What have you learned about effective time management during your first year at UMBC?
Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.