A Professor’s Top 5 Time Management Tips for College Students
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Time management is an essential skill for college students. Good time management skills allow you to effectively balance your workload, which can reduce stress and improve academic performance.
Below are some of my favorite time management strategies students can use to help balance coursework and other responsibilities in college. Remember that what works well for one person might not work well for another.
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1. Conduct a Time Audit
First, look at how you spend your time by conducting what's called a time audit. With a time audit, you'll record how you spend your day, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed.
Track the time in half-hour increments over three days. Once you finish your time audit, reflect upon it. What are some changes you'd like to make in your routine?
It's especially important to be aware of how much time you spend staring at screens, whether that's because you're posting on social media, watching videos, or playing video games. You can reduce distractions by turning off notifications, giving you more time to focus on what you need to do.
In addition, you might consider setting timers on apps so you can't use them after a designated amount of time.
For example, my social media apps have a time limit of 30 minutes each day. After a half hour of use, the app turns gray, meaning I have to wait until the next day to be able to use it again.
2. Use a Planner
Using a planner is a highly effective time management strategy. By recording your class schedule, breaks, and meals in a planner, you'll have a better sense of when your free time is and when you can dedicate time to studying and doing homework.
First, write down everything you need to do — for school, for work, at home, etc. — in your planner. Once you've written down what you need to do, mark the tasks with the highest priority and focus on completing those first.
I like to do what I call the Panera pick-three method: You pick the top three things from your list and make a plan to get them done. As soon as the first task is complete, you move on to the second task and then the third.
Once you've completed all three items on your list, choose another item and focus on finishing that. Repeat these steps until you've completed your whole list, or reprioritize the list if needed.
3. Batch Your Time
Another way to manage time is to batch similar tasks. Doing this allows you to concentrate on one type of task at a time.
For example, you might batch reading and writing assignments together since those often go hand in hand. Or you might batch math and science homework together, as those subjects often overlap.
4. Take Advantage of Time Management Tools
Both digital and physical tools are available to help students get organized.
If you're more of a paper-and-pencil person, grab a planner or agenda. You can keep track of all your assignments and other tasks and commitments in this for easy reference.
Alternatively, you might want to use one or more of the following time management tools:
Try out these tools to see which ones work best for you and your lifestyle.
5. Break Down Big Tasks Into Smaller Chunks
It can be helpful to break down large tasks into smaller parts.
For example, if you've got a research paper due in a week, consider this breakdown:
Breaking large projects and assignments into smaller steps allows you to work thoughtfully throughout the week instead of needing to pull an all-nighter. You can also use this strategy when it comes to studying for an exam or preparing for finals week.
Additional Time Management Techniques for Everyday Life
While the above tips can help you manage time when it comes to assignments and coursework, we all have lives outside of class. Here are some extra time management tips to help you navigate other areas of day-to-day life.
Schedule Chore Days
We all know it's easier to study in a clean environment, but how can you find time to clean your living space if all you do is study? Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Spend a half-day each week doing a deep cleaning. This would ideally include doing tasks like dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and wiping down sinks and countertops.
- Assign chores to certain days of the week. For example, maybe you do laundry on Mondays and mop the bathroom on Wednesdays.
Try Meal Prep
Preparing meals each week can help you save time and money. Check out our meal prep worksheet and tips. Whenever possible, order your groceries online and have them delivered to your home so you can save time you would've spent going out shopping.
Carve Out Time Around Your Job
Going back to school and working full time can be challenging — I've been there. My strategy for managing this was to carve out time after my job each day to focus on schoolwork and spend time with my family.
For instance, I'd work on assignments from 5-7 a.m. and have dinner with my family every evening. You could also designate one night a week to stay up later to finish your homework and study for any tests.
Consider Childcare and Your Child's Routine
Balancing schoolwork, a job, and childcare isn't easy. You may have time to study if your child is a student, but what if they're too young for school? See whether a relative or close friend could watch your child for a few hours each week while you're working or in class.
You should also consider taking advantage of your child's routine. Can you work or study while your child takes a nap or eats lunch?
On a similar note, you may want to schedule time around when your child wakes up and sleeps to focus on completing your coursework.