Time management can be one of the hardest things to figure out when you're a college student. This is especially true if you're an incoming freshman, but it can be difficult for college students at any point in their academic careers. Time management skills can last you a lifetime because if you can master time management while you're still in college, you may be able to bring those skills with you in any career you pursue down the line.
What follows are six tips to help you make the most of your time so that you can better prioritize those things that need to be done first and foremost, and so that you don't miss any important deadlines along the way.
Tip #1: Technology Is A Lifesaver. Use it.
Nowadays, with the sheer number of digital calendars that are available to us at any given moment, it's practically impossible to miss an important deadline. For instance, Google Calendar is a helpful feature because you can plan out events days, weeks, months, or even years at a time. And what's great about Google Calendar, as well as a host of other calendar services, is that you can schedule reminders as well.
For instance, say you have an important paper due at the end of the semester, and you already know about it because your professor included it in the syllabus that she handed out on the first day of class. You can set an event in your calendar for the day that the paper is due, and then schedule reminders for when you want to be reminded of that paper. So, if you know you'll only really need about a week to work on it, you can schedule a reminder for a week before the paper is due, right down to the exact time you want to be reminded of it.
A digital calendar can be a massive help because it allows you to write down everything you need to know in a location that can't accidentally be thrown away and, even better, can send push notifications to your cell phone. You also don't have to worry about relying on your memory to remember when everything is due. The digital calendar kept it all right there and organized for you, which allows you to see when you have more free time, and when you should dedicate more time to studying and working on those big papers and projects.
Tip #2: When Scheduling, Block Your Courses. Avoid Scattering.
Some students believe that if they schedule their classes throughout the day, with time off in between classes, that this will make them more productive. Unfortunately, this is almost never true. Instead, you'll use that downtime between classes to catch up with friends and social media - you won't want to spend it studying.
As much of a drag as it may seem, you'll do much better to schedule your classes in blocks. Try to take them all within the first three days of the week. This way, you free up Thursday through Sunday to get all of your writing and studying done. And even if you slack off a bit, or go to a Friday night party, you've still allowed yourself enough time to work all day on any of the other days that you don't have to feel as guilty about taking some time off to defrag.
Tip #3: It May Sound Simple But Go To Class
One of the biggest timewasters to affect college students is that they choose to skip class. It may seem like the smartest thing to do - skip a class that you're doing well in so you can use that hour and a half to brush up on the class you're struggling with - but, in reality, you're doing yourself a major disservice because you now have to get caught up on everything you missed.
This can take twice as long if the material that was covered in the class that you missed happened to be something that was more difficult, and that you would have benefited from in listening to the lecture. Now, you have to take the time to teach yourself what you missed and/or arrange to learn what you missed from the professor after-hours, or from a friend, who might not have understood the lecture as well as he thought he did - resulting in bad grades for the both of you on the next test.
Tip #4: Do The Readings. All Of Them. In Advance.
One of the biggest drags of the college experience is assigned readings. Many students blow them off, figuring they'll skip to the highlights by attending the lecture, and then maybe reading them later on when they have time. But you do fill in the gaps when you do the readings, and reading in advance will help you better understand the lecture before you get there.
This can improve your study time, too, because you have already given yourself everything you need - and maybe even learned something along the way - by the time you sit down to study. Instead of feeling lost when trying to answer a question, you'll realize "hey, I already know this because I did the readings!" Also, pro tip: some professors include questions on their tests that are solely from the readings, just to see if you did them. The readings can be boring, and the last thing you want to do, but you only benefit yourself if you take the time to read them.
Tip #5: Don't Take The Entire Spring (Or Winter) Break Off.
It is healthy for the mind and body to get away for a while. Everyone needs a break. But spring and winter breaks in college are so long because, in reality, they hope to be giving you a few extra days where you're not getting new information piled on you so that you can focus on and study the information you have at hand.
By all means, take the first two or three days of your break off entirely. Don't even think about school or so much as nudge open a textbook. Let your batteries recharge. But don't take the full break entirely off. It'll be all that much harder to remember where you left off and to pick it back up again. If you're going away for the break, bring your books with you and squeeze in some studying on your downtime.
Tip #6: Write Everything Down.
How many times have you been poised to leave, bag in hand, when the professor announces the due date for the next homework assignment and the date of the next test? You tell yourself to make a mental note of those dates, only to forget the second you leave the classroom and bump into your buddy, who starts talking to you about the daily gossip.
It probably takes less than fifteen seconds to stay at your desk a little longer and just jot down the dates. Even better is not to be ready to fly out the door the second class is dismissed. Keep everything open on your desk, pen at the ready, to scribble down those last-minute details and save yourself heartache later.
Otherwise, if you rely on your memory, and you forget the dates, then you're either going to a) miss the due date on the homework assignment (which is especially important if homework makes up a major part of your grade), or b) not have enough time to prepare for the test. Sure, the professor may remind you of the test again during your next class, but now you've missed what can be up to a week of additional study time.
Bonus Time Management Tips
Here are some additional tips that can also help you make the most of your time management while in college:
Interested in learning some more time management tips? Our licensed counselors are here to help.