Time management means spending time doing the things that help you achieve your goals and the things that you personally prioritise and value, rather than wondering how you just wasted 3 hours. There are various ways to organize yourself: schedules, timers, daily/hour goals, to-do lists, managing distractions, etc.
As a university students, you will not have classes from morning till afternoon, with only a lunch break, as you did during your schooling. You may have breaks during the day. You may even have entire days with just 1 class, or even no classes! Making time to study on your own is important especially on these days because at the university level you are expected to do readings and supplementary work on your own time. Your professors will assume that you are already prepared for your class and not spend time going over background information, or spoon-feeding you the material.
To help yourself and not spend the entire semester playing catch up, it is crucial to manage your time well. This is especially important because university is also the time for you to explore different activities and interests you might have. It is the time for you to network and develop your plans for the future. It is definitely difficult to do so if you can't manage your time.
The first step to efficient time management is prioritizing. If you can list out everything you have to do, along with the deadlines for these tasks, and organize it in descending order of importance, you are halfway there! Next, divide these tasks into little 30 minute to 1 hour chunks. Now, grab a calendar, or a day planner, or even a plain notepad with dates and times written on it. On this, start organizing the tasks in a way that allows you breaks and a variety in assignments. And there you have it, you have planned out your tasks and made a basic schedule to manage your work.
Tips To Optimize Your Schedule:
- Don't multitask! It is fine to divide up your schedule into smaller blocks of 20-30 minutes, but spend enough time on one activity to be able to focus and get results.
- Take a break. Grab a coffee, go for a walk, or even take a power nap. It is important to let your mind rest after long periods of working. Breaks give your mind the necessary down-time to recharge and prepare for the next stretch of tasks.
- Learn to say no. While you can't tell your professor that you refuse to turn in a paper, you can definitely tell your friend that you can't go out with them 3 nights in a row, or do their assignments for them.
- Keep your to-do list handy. Once you've prioritized your tasks, make a to-do list, then, keep it some place prominent. If it is the background on your laptop, or right in front of your desk, it is hard to ignore.
- Get a study buddy. It is always easier to get through something when you have someone else motivating you and checking up on you. Find a friend who you can study with (without getting distracted!) and make sure you both know each other's study goals. Once you have set those goals, remember to hold each other accountable for them!
Common Mistakes To Avoid:
- Not setting goals. Without having a specific goal, you lose the sense of urgency and also the potential satisfaction of ticking something off your to-do list. Having a specific task to accomplish might help motivate you.
- Procrastinating. While it is easy to lose your drive and get distracted, part of managing your time is prioritizing your tasks and getting rid of distractions. It is very tempting to procrastinate not just by watching a tv show or going out, but by doing random, unimportant tasks. To avoid procrastinating, try breaking the task down to chunks of achievable goals and take lots of breaks.
- Not having a designated work space. It is important to have a work environment which is separate from your regular relaxing environment. This is both so that you minimize distractions and put your brain in 'work mode', and also so that you can fully unwind when you are taking a break. Figure out what works best for you. Can you work better in a library with absolute silence or a cafe with ambient noise? Do you find yourself focusing more easily if you have music playing in the background or is that too distracting? Figure out your work environment and create a space for it.
- Giving up too easily. Time management is a skill you need to develop slowly, through trial and error. You may fail the first few times you try to set a routine. You may feel like everything is easier than the task at hand, or perhaps the task is boring, or you don't understand how to do it. It may even seem too enormous to tackle. The longer you procrastinate, however, the more you will feel worse about the task - and yourself. You may feel discouraged, stressed, frustrated and even rebellious. To get past this, remember that perseverance will pay off. If you are in control of how you are spending your time, you will be able to achieve more, including leisure activities you like, without feeling guilty.
What if I fall behind? Learn to take everything in stride. This is a common problem for students. If you fall behind, it is important to see where you went wrong. However, fixating on it and beating yourself up over it is counter-productive: not only are you wasting time feeling guilty over it, you are also putting yourself in a bad mood which will be detrimental to your focus. If you fall behind, the first thing to do is to determine exactly how far behind you are. Have you missed last week's assignment or are you still trying to figure out what was covered in class a month ago? Once you have figured that out, it is important to make an appointment with your professor. As a university student, you definitely are expected to monitor your routine and manage your own workload, your professor can help you in many ways. He or she may be able to refer you to a counsellor who will help you plan out a routine. You may be granted an extension on any major assignments or deadlines if you ask early enough. A teaching assistant may be recommended to help you with catching up on your coursework. The last step is to do a debrief and figure out where you went off track and how you can prevent that from happening in the future. So, there you have it, our guide on how to manage your time effectively as a university student. What are some of your favorite ways of managing your routine?