Entering college means gaining independence. Your days are less structured than they were in high school, and you are in charge of determining how to use your time.
While this less-scheduled environment can be exhilarating, it can also expose any weaknesses when it comes to time management. Make no mistake: college academics are challenging, and you need to allocate a good portion of your free time toward completing homework assignments, writing papers, and studying for exams.
Here are four tried and true ways to build your time management skills:
Use a tried and true process for studying: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you sit down at your desk. Use a repeatable, comprehensive process for studying, and by the time you’ve gone through all the steps, you’ll actually feel prepared for that exam. Snag Signet's signature study method in our Guide to Successful Studying.
Plan your work, work your plan: First, plan your work: Before you dive into homework or studying, take a few minutes to write out a thorough, deliberate plan for that particular work session. By scheduling the session, you can minimize distractions and avoid spending too much time on lower-priority tasks. Next, work your plan: After determining your priorities and sequencing the assignments, do the work according to the order you’ve laid out! Resist the urge to go back and second-guess mid-session; instead, work through the itinerary you’ve created. You can always adjust your approach next time. This strategy also works to plot out what your day or week will look like, and even to sequence larger projects over the course of several months.
Organize more than just your time: Everyone knows that using a calendar to plan your time is important. But if your tasks never make it onto the calendar, or if you are constantly losing track of your planner or your smartphone, that calendar isn’t doing you much good! Think about organization in these four categories: time, tasks, stuff, and energy. Our Guide to Strategic Organization has more information on managing these four components.
Build in breaks. Before you get too ambitious in your scheduling, remember to build some breaks into your day! We all need a little time between activities to switch to a different headspace or simply to take a mental rest. Breaks can also act as a buffer, so that a meeting that runs late doesn’t throw off your entire day. And forget monster study sessions: build in a short break for yourself at least once an hour. We like the Pomodoro Method for studying, which incorporates frequent breaks to recharge your batteries.
When you manage your time well, you have time for everything—taking a stroll across campus, playing an intramural sport, or checking out a concert. The best part of building your time management skills is that you can learn well, study hard, and still have room in your day for the fun stuff!
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