Ever forgotten a quiz? Missed a deadline? Or maybe you’re chronically late to class? Time is elusive, especially for college students. Finding ways to divvy your time appropriately without skipping a beat seems impossible. There must be a better solution to getting everything done than giving up sleep for four years! Think about these five questions to evaluate ways you’re currently managing your time:
- How do I keep up with my time?—Planning for projects, presentations, family events, and life in general is vital to get the best use out of your time. Traditional, paper planners can be a great option for planning your day, but ultimately, use what works best for you. I tried to use a planner for the first few years of my undergraduate career, writing out every deadline for school, hourly shifts at my part-time job, and even incorporating leisure and family activities. However, when the semester picked up, I realized I wasn’t referencing my planner enough, and time was still slipping through the cracks. To this day, I can only use digital calendars I can view on my phone and that send me daily or hourly reminders of deadlines, events, and tasks. Think about how you plan best: are you a visual planner? Maybe a large dry erase calendar in a prominent place in your residence hall room or apartment suits you. Are you a detail-oriented planner? Maybe an app on your phone that allows you to plan hourly is the best way. Find a planning method that works for you!
- How do I waste my time?—While most of your schedule may be full of mandatory duties, there are always some time wasters in your days; things like binge-watching Game of Thrones, browsing all of your friends’ Snapchat stories, or perusing Amazon’s best deals. While these activities may be fun ways to spend your free time, they’re huge time wasters that interrupt what you really need to get done. Try keeping a detailed record of everything you do for the next two or three weeks. Then, go through your current schedule, and circle the time wasters. Some of them may be habits you’ve developed over time that may not seem so bad, but when you see these time wasters consuming huge chunks of time, it’s time to make some changes. Pick one time waster to focus on, and every time you go to do it, replace it with something that must get done. Condition yourself to trade in online shopping or Instagram browsing for studying for a test or cooking dinner. After you conquer one, add a new time waster to focus on until you’re really directing and controlling each hour of your day.
- Where do I maximize my time?—Once you’ve recorded your current schedule, reflect on areas where you’re already maximizing your time. See where your current strengths lie, and play into those strengths. My mother always told me it was easier to get my work done in the morning. Through a lot of trial and error, I realized I hated mornings and was much less productive and self-motivated in those few hours after I woke up. My sweet spot for studying was after dinner. I had a surge of energy and found that I could study for two or three hours without batting an eye. Find the times when you’re most productive or energetic during the day or week. If you know you work well between classes, try to create a class schedule with several gaps. If you get nothing done between classes, try to find classes that are scheduled back-to-back. Plan your schedule around your strengths.
- Do I set goals?—This seems like a simple question, but sometimes it’s easy to forget to set goals. Undergrad was a continuous fluster of juggling assignments, projects, and tests. I focused solely on what was right in front of me: test on Thursday, paper due Monday. Those were my goals. I wish I had set both short-term and long-term goals to keep myself zoned in on what was most important in college. While school assignments are vital parts of goals, there are also professional, career, and personal goals. Think about the big picture of college, and create goals based on that picture. This can be something as simple as honing a particular skill set, developing stronger time management skills, or expanding your network. This might sound like it could create more work and less time in the long run, but the goal here is to be able to provide parameters for any opportunities outside of class. Asking yourself this question can also ensure that every hour is spent on an intentional activity that aligns with your goals.
- Where can I cut back?—This might be the toughest question to ask yourself because no one likes to say “no”. Getting involved is pushed from freshman year till graduation, and while this is a key part of college, over involvement can be problematic. Write down ways you’re involved on campus or in the community. Refer back to your goals, and see how your current involvement fits into those goals. Consider the ramifications if you remove this activity from your life. Think too about how this could open up time for mandatory activities or maybe some much needed breaks. You’ll find that there are some things you can say “no” to and still have a great college experience.
If you answer these questions, hopefully your schedule will look clearer and more purposeful than it ever has before. You’ll notice there is a trend in this article: do what works for you. There are a thousand time management articles full of fabulous tips and tricks, but understanding yourself and how you work best can help you to actually follow through and maximize the time in every day.