Managing Your Time
College brings with it a myriad of new opportunities and responsibilities, in addition to more freedom and flexibility. Learning to prioritize and plan ahead will be an integral part of success in school and life.
Developing time management skills will also help you avoid those feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction that stem from failing to meet commitments and deadlines. Effective time management requires that you first identify your goals, then apply specific techniques that will help you meet those milestones.
GETTING THINGS DONE
There’s no “one size fits all” solution for managing your time and work. In fact, what works for one person may not work for you at all. The best way to find what works for you is to explore different approaches until something clicks. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Get to know yourself. Are you a morning or evening person? What sort of environment do you like for studying or completing other tasks?
Identify your priorities. Your priorities are specific to you. Take the time to evaluate what you need to accomplish, rate those tasks by importance, and then get to work on the most critical items first. This will keep you focused on time-sensitive and important tasks, so you're not trying to fit them in later.
Make a schedule. This can help you establish patterns and routines, keeping you on task even if you don’t feel like it.
Be realistic and flexible. Make sure you build down time into your schedule, and accept that sometimes things will happen that are beyond your control.
Use a planner. Whether physical or digital, it’s helpful to have one place where all of your tasks, to-dos, classes, and appointments can be found. Write down every assignment and test for the semester, and create a schedule that includes sleep, recreation, and travel. Make sure you keep this plan easily accessible and check it often.
Don’t be afraid to say, “no” and/or delegate. Sometimes we take on tasks that aren’t our priorities and they get in the way of what we really want to focus on. It's okay to say “no”, or delegate tasks to others better situated to do them.
Resist the temptation to multitask. Multi-tasking actually decreases productivity! Focus on one task at a time.
Look into technologies to stay organized. From planning, scheduling, or to-do list apps, to technologies that limit your screen time and other distractions, there are options available that can help.
- Take advantage of downtime. Do a bit of reading or take a short quiz while you're waiting for class to start or the bus to come. You'd be amazed what you can accomplish in little bites.
- Don't get overwhelmed. Break big projects or tasks into smaller steps and focus on one at a time.
- Try the Pomodoro technique. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. It can feel easier to start something if you know it’s for a shorter amount of time.
- Minimize distractions. Turn off your phone and any alerts on your computer. Find a quiet place to work. Download a website blocker so you can’t visit sites you would waste time on.
- When in doubt, just start! Doing even a little bit is better than doing nothing, and sometimes the accomplishment of having done something will make you want to do more
Procrastination is a problem that plagues many students. Too often, you think that by putting something off, it becomes “someone else’s problem.” Plus, the momentary relief you feel putting something off may make you want to procrastinate more.
There can be different reasons for procrastinating. Identifying the “why” can help you avoid the "maybe later".
- “I don’t know how”—having a skill deficiency
- If you’re not sure how to do a task, it’s easy to put it off. Consider asking a classmate or your teacher if you’re unsure of what to do as a starting point, or get help from a tutor.
- “It’s boring”—lack of interest/relevance
- You may not like every class or every assignment in a class. Sometimes the easiest way to solve this is to just get it done first, so you have more time to do what you want to do.
- “I don’t feel like doing it”—lack of motivation
- Know that often, motivation comes AFTER starting and not before.
- It may also help to re-frame the task into something you are motivated to do. You may not be motivated to do a certain assignment, but you may be motivated to pass the class.
- “But what if I can’t do it?”—fear of failure/experiencing perfectionism
- If you fear failing, you won't want to start a task. Understand that even if you don’t do as well as you wanted, failure isn’t final.
- Remind yourself of a time you did something similar and it turned out okay.
- Then aim to do your best, and be happy with that.
- “There’s too much to do”—feeling overwhelmed
- It can be easy to feel overwhelmed when you have a lot on your plate.
- Try breaking down assignments into smaller pieces and create a schedule to work on each one.
LifeHack: Top 15 Time Management Apps & Tools. Anderkam, L. (2016, October). Lakein, A. (2002). How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. New York: Dutton.
Covey, S.R. (2013) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster.
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HAVE QUESTIONS? WANT TO TALK TO SOMEONE?
The Student Success Center is here to help! Please contact us with any further questions at 801-524-8151.