College is strange. On one hand, you have infinitely more time out of class than you did in high school, yet it always seems as if you are being blindsided by the deadlines of impending papers and exams. As a junior, between juggling homework, my job, extra curricular activities, and attempting to feed myself and sleep, I often joke that my spirit animal is a chicken with its head cut off. Time management is the most critical skill that you will learn during your college career, and while it may take some time to figure out exactly what works for you, it will save you so much stress in the long-haul! Here are 10 tips I wish I had known coming into college that will (hopefully) make your life a little less hectic.
Establish priorities at the beginning of each day by making a list of the tasks that need to be completed before you go to bed. There are always a few essential things to accomplish, so make sure to star those and number them in order of greatest importance to least. Making a conscious effort to devote the entirety of your attention to the work at hand by avoiding distractions like cell phones and loud spaces will help you to finish tasks quickly and efficiently. Know when you should delegate tasks and when you can set them aside, too.
Stay organized. Not only is it important to set priorities and goals on a daily basis, but it is also very important to be able to plan ahead and create weekly and monthly “at-a-glance” schedules. Doing this will allow you to write down all of your due dates and test dates, along with your work schedule, which will help you plan to finish your work so that you can attend birthday parties and fun events too! You don’t want to realize that you have a test the day that you walk into class, so make sure to consult your syllabus once in a while…your profs actually gave it to you for a reason.
Know how you work best. Are you a night owl or a morning person? Determining this and using it as a guide to help you study during your peak hours of concentration will help you to focus while you work. Just because your best friend studies at a certain time does not mean that it is the best time for you. Schedule your sleep around this study time so that you always wake up refreshed and ready to take on the next day!
Be flexible with your schedule. Build it in such a way that you are getting everything done long before it is due…don’t be that guy that plans to turn in a paper at 11:59pm on the due date and has their computer crash at 11:58pm. Life can get crazy and things pop up that need to be taken care of, forcing you to push your school work aside. Don’t let little things throw you off.
Learn how to say no! Seriously, it is okay. Taking on multiple responsibilities is a great way to learn to manage your time, but more often than not, it can be overdone and result in you putting forth a mediocre effort toward 9 different things. When you are asked to do something, really consider if it is something that you care about and are truly able to handle in your schedule.
Set time aside for yourself. THIS. IS. SO. IMPORTANT. You need 8 hours of sleep to function at your peak. You need to have time to sit down and eat proper and nutritious meals. Get outside and go for a bike ride or a run for an endorphin boost! Read a book that isn’t a textbook. Feed your passions with the things that you love, whether it be art, movies, or a day at the beach. If you work hard, you have got to let yourself play hard too.
Complete homework assignments on time. Even though you may not suffer a big penalty if you don't, it is great practice to be timely and do your work when it is assigned. So many students put off their assigned reading as optional, especially if your teacher doesn't quiz you or call on people in class, but come test day, you will be much more prepared it you actually did read. It will also cut down on your study time later on.
Be realistic. Do you have four hours on just one day allotted to write a 6 page research paper? Space projects out in manageable chunks of time over one or two week periods, instead of scheduling yourself to do it all in one day. Doing this will allow for thorough completion days ahead of the due date. Only you know how you work best, so plan accordingly.
Assess the successes! Did you get your best test grade of the semester after using flashcards to study? Did you rock your history test when you chose to study for 2 hours per day for a week instead of 10 hours the day before the test? Were you more refreshed on exam day when you got 9 hours of sleep instead of 5? Remember those things and use them in the future! Every person is unique when it comes to how we best function. Learn about yourself and use your strengths to your advantage!
Know when to buckle down…even when it’s hard. How does it always happen that exam week is full of great university events beckoning you to attend? While it may seem as if a few hours away from your studies won't be the end of the world, don't compromise your final grade for a pool BBQ or movie night.