Managing Your Time in College – 5 Cardinal Rules That Will Help

February 05, 2019
Content managing your time in college 5 cardinal rules

You are on your own now – an independent college student with no adults to help you manage your time. It’s all up to you to stay organized, meet deadlines, get enough sleep, and make time for a social life too.

The temptations are all around you – friends want you to go out for pizza and beer, even though you know you shouldn’t; there’s that movie that is finally on Netflix and you don’t want to wait until the weekend to see it; your roommate wants you to play his new video game with him. Or, you just decide to go over to the gym for some basketball with your buddies.

Ultimately, you find yourself consistently rushing to complete assignments at the last minute, often pulling all-nighters, then crashing the next day and missing classes. This is not a path to good scores and success.

You’re going to have to get organized and develop time management habits.

And there are five rules that will get you there.

Make a List

You may have never been a list-maker, but you must now force yourself to do so. When you begin this habit, make your list on a daily basis. Take 10 minutes each morning and think about what you must get done that day – classes, homework assignments, study group, a club or organization meeting, an appointment with a professor, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.

And if you have long-range assignments, make sure that you schedule some time to work on them too.

Rather than simply put that list in your phone, write it out on paper. Then you will be able to cross each item off and feel the satisfaction that comes with doing so.

Once you have mastered the habit of a daily list, move to weekly lists. One of the best ways to do this is print out a large calendar, put it on a wall, and add items to that calendar for each day. And it’s easier to plan for those longer-range tasks when you can see an entire week at a time. On days when there is less to do, you can plug those tasks in.

You will also be able to see the “slack” times you have for fun/social things.

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Get into the Habit of Saying “No”

Some will ask favors of you; others will try to persuade you to close the books and come on out with them instead. It’s tough to say no to a friend in need or to a fun time. And you don’t want to seem antisocial or unhelpful.

You need to practice how to say “no” effectively, firmly and without offending anyone. Be friendly, briefly explain all that you must get done right now and be sure to say you’re sorry you can’t do or go right now. And when you do have some slack time, be sure to seek those individuals out and offer to help or invite them to go out. Gradually, these others will come to respect your need to focus on your tasks and understand that you do want to help out and to be social whenever you can.

Eliminate Distractions

These are time management killers. When you have the TV going while you are working, it’s just too easy to get distracted. If you have your phone next to you, it’s too easy to answer those calls and check those messages. And when you let that distraction take hold, it takes more time to get back to what you were doing and re-focus.

You know yourself best, and you know what distracts you and what does not. Some students work best with background music; others do best if they snack while they work; and still, others need to work in a social environment, with fellow students. Get yourself into the right environment that works for you and stick with it.

Set Time Limits

When you set a time limit to complete a task, you are far more likely to get it accomplished. Setting that deadline is a psychological motivator that will keep you focused. Make a game of it. If you have research to do for an essay, for example, set a limit of 1 – 2 hours to access three resources and take notes. Then get to it with gusto. When you achieve that goal, reward yourself!

Take Breaks

There are natural break points as you are working. Suppose you finish the outline for an essay you are writing. Great. Now, take a break, fix something to eat, call a friend, check your messages, etc. These things give your brain a “rest” and allow an activity totally unrelated to your work. These breaks make it much easier to get back at it, refreshed and ready.

These time management “rules” do not really change. But you should adapt them based upon what you know about yourself and how you work best. The goal is to develop the right habits so that you get everything done on time and still have time for the other aspects of college life – clubs, activities, social time – that are so important to your total experience.