Managing Your Time

New college students often encounter the most difficulty managing and prioritizing their time outside of class. There are things to do, new places to discover, and new friends to spend time with; it can get exciting, and it can very quickly eat up the 24 hours we're limited to each day. There's a temptation to "let the class work slide" and “enjoy your new life”; don't give in. To add to this, you also have to regulate your own study time, to determine for yourself when and for how long you will study. I hope that some of these suggestions help.

First, try not to do things at the last minute; it may be strangely exciting to work that way, but you just won't be able to do your best and you may even find yourself missing some assignments. Procrastination, alluring as it may be, can be a college student's most insidious enemy.   So if you procrastinate—and you know who you are—start thinking of tactics that will help you get your work done early and make sure that you stay on pace.

Next, establish and follow a realistic study schedule or plan. Be sure that there is enough time available for all the work you need to do and that it's flexible enough to allow for surprises--an unexpected paper in English, a visit from a friend (in person, via a text message, on Facebook), or a very tempting pizza in the next room. And be realistic, if you've gone to the movies every Saturday night since you've been twelve, don't schedule study hours from 8:00-10:00 on Saturday night. You know you won't be in front of your books come 9:00. But be sure to set aside certain times for study, so you gain some control over your time.  YOU need to do the controlling!!!

Many students find that a weekly or daily planner helps them organize their lives.  It’s often revealing to create a grid for each day or week, mark it up with what you do each hour, and subsequently see how we use our time and where there are opportunities to do some work.  Others find that a “to do list” helps them prioritize.  Hey .. .whatever works!!!

Get in the habit of working on specific subjects at regular times during the week. So on Tuesdays from 1:30-3:30, you'll usually work on History; on Thursdays after Biology class, you'll generally spend an hour reviewing the notes. It establishes a helpful routine and offers you a built-in "check" system. You'll know--and maybe even feel guilty-- if you've missed doing something you have scheduled.

Don't plan to study for too long at anyone time. Schedule one, two, or three hour sessions; otherwise fatigue will defeat even your best intentions, and you’ll find yourself nodding off instead of doing some purposeful studying.  Take frequent short breaks to freshen your mind, your body, and your spirit. So every once in a while, stretch, walk around, have a soda, look out the window, text  a friend, Skype with your family; then get back to work.         

Schedule daytime studying; use the gaps between your classes when distractions should be at a minimum. The Residence Halls aren't jammed with people—loud and friendly; your friends aren't home from work yet, ready to relax or go out. Use this time during the day/between classes wisely and you'll be "up for" whatever social plans might be on for the evening. And you won't feel guilty the next day either.

The hard rule of thumb for college study is that you'll need about two hours of work outside of class for every hour inside the classroom. I know you won't think so right away, but I would plan for it. Time used wisely is your strongest ally; time squandered is your most powerful and unforgiving enemy.

Finally remember that you are in charge of your time. So if you're having trouble with a course that meets only two days a week, who says that you can't study for that course five or six times a week? If you're on a tennis team that practices three times a week, it doesn't mean that you can't also bat some balls around for a while on two or three other days as well, right? You'll get better at tennis, and the same principle applies to math or psychology, marketing or biology.