Time management skills – a set of abilities allowing to use the time to your advantage and control it between specific activities. These skills include but are not limited to goal-setting, planning, organization, prioritization, communication, and stress management. When mastered, they make you smarter and more successful, influencing your overall performance and life.
Time management for college students is a perpetual problem.
On the one hand, they study alongside employment and try to get around to their families and kids. On the other, they are ESL students struggling with English grammar and spending hours on tasks their native-speaking peers cope in minutes. But all of them are seeking a magic button to push and defeat that everlasting lack of time and tight deadlines.
Tons of time management strategies are online to help students. But here’s the problem: most of them are so vague and one-size-fits-all that you don’t understand how EXACTLY they can help you.
Here at 99Papers, we’ve upped the ante with college tips and decided to ask experts if they could EXPLAIN time management for college students, sharing the tips that actually work. But first, let us get all this straightened out:
Why is Time Management Important for College Students?
The reasons are many:
- You learn to work smarter – not harder – and get more things done in less time. It leads to better productivity and efficiency.
- You get more opportunities to achieve your goals, get better grades, and therefore beat your fear of failure.
- You have less stress and better professional reputation, therefore avoiding the pressure from relatives who call you lazy or unwilling to spend more time with them.
But there’s much more in time management skills than students might think. Adam Enfroy nails it:
|When I was at Michigan State University in 2006, time management was my arch-nemesis.|
I waited until the last second to submit every assignment. I missed (or skipped) classes that I thought “weren’t important.” I spent more time on my term paper’s font size than the actual words.
Now that I think of it, I probably spent more time perfecting my Call of Duty 4 (the original modern warfare mind you) skills than college courses in 2008. Worth it!
Not. However, the answer was simple – I lacked discipline.
It was only until after I left college that I learned the time management skills to help me launch my career.
The only word you need to know is discipline.
Back when I was 22, I read a book called The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandingo. Chapter one laid the foundation and simply started with, “I will form good habits and become their slave.”
That’s all it takes. True success comes from small daily choices and over time, and these small acts become the foundation of your success.
Studying vs. going to a party. Running 3 miles vs. having that beer instead. Going to class in the morning vs. sleeping in and watching Breaking Bad. Only your small daily choice will guide you. It doesn’t seem like much at the time, but these choices snowball and eventually become who you are.
So the next time you’re thinking of either finishing that paper or watching the 13th rerun of America’s Got Talent, think of who you’d rather become, and make the right choice.
Nothing to add, huh? But here goes the most interesting part:
Even though many of us consider time management for college students one skill, it’s about a set of different abilities for you to master. Now it stands to reason why most tips for college students on time management don’t work, right? They just mix up different concepts, confusing us yet more.
Time management skills to develop:
- Goal-setting. You need to base your every decision upon what you want to achieve in life. Clear goals make solutions faster to come.
- Prioritization. You’ll always have tons of things to do, but not all of them should be done right here and now. Your ability to prioritize tasks and ideas is what helps to manage time wisely.
- Self-awareness. Time management activities for college students are many, but none of them will work for you if you don’t know who you are and what you want from life. The more you know about yourself, the easier you’ll decide how to manage time best.
- Focus. Your problem is not lack of time but lack of direction. All people have 24 hours in a day, but only a few can ignore distractions and focus on significant tasks to complete.
- Decision-making. Which task to do, whom to meet, which essay to write today – persuasive or expository, what courses to start this month… Your every decision affects you and the world around you. If you can’t make decisions, you won’t understand the time and resources you’ll need to succeed.
- Planning. Your ability to plan gives you an idea of how much time you’ll spend on each task and how to organize your day, week, or even month accordingly.
- Communication. It enables you to build relationships with people, explaining to them why you can’t do this or that right now and delegating some tasks when possible.
- Stress management. Your ability to understand when it’s better to prevent the problem than deal with it after it’s occurred saves time by far.
- Organization. Time management is also about deciding the right thing to do at the right time. When you’re not organized, you don’t know where to start and how to use time effectively.
- Patience. Your ability to work with no rush matters, too. Let’s face it, we often have to spend even more time on revising something we did on-the-fly in the hope of time-saving.
Time Management for College Students: Activities
The problem of time management in college jangles nerves of many bloggers. Everyone considers it their duty to write a free essay on this topic because it’s what worries their audience most.
It’s okay. We’re fine with that.
What’s not okay is that most of them share self-same tips or explain them in short and with vague words, so we just can’t understand HOW this strategy works actually.
Let’s change that.
Below you’ll find the most common time management tips. What makes this list different from those you might have read at other publications is the expert explanation of how to implement that advice.
Take care of yourself
Self-Care Coach at Learning To Be Free
|Create a Self-Care Practice: Find what works best for you. I like to look at self-care through the lens of the 8 dimensions of wellness: physical, mental/emotional, intellectual, environmental, spiritual, financial, occupational, and social. You should be regularly practicing self-care in each area.|
Set Boundaries: Setting boundaries means different things to different people so you have to figure out the boundaries that you need to set. The better boundaries that you make, the easier it will be for you to take time for yourself.
Time Blocking: A lot of stress can come from not knowing what is going to happen next. While we can’t always predicate what will happen next, time blocking or setting aside time for a certain task each day can help to mitigate stress and help with planning what “will” or “should” happen next.
Lindsey Marx, Content Strategist at BestCompany agrees with Briana on time blocking, calling this tip spontaneity. “Even with a packed schedule, make sure to plan time for yourself and time to do random things,” she says. “You never know when a project or test will take longer to study for, or you get free tickets to a concert or something. Make sure to include time for yourself to workout, sleep, and have fun. Otherwise, you will burn out and fall behind.”
Make a plan
Alex Strathdee, Co-Founder at inPerson, Author of “Experience Over Degree“
|Planning hack: the to-do calendar.|
Instead of creating a laundry list of things to do, schedule blocks on Google Calendar to complete those tasks. This way, you’re not just deciding what you need to do but already set time aside to get those things done. You’ll automatically get a reference for what you’ll be able to get done in the time you have and not over-commit yourself.”
Stress & Workplace Resilience Coach
|One of the easiest things you can do to gain back time is re-order when you do things.|
It’s little stuff that adds up and makes life feel simpler and less frustrating. Rinse out your blender right after using it instead of having a 3-minute scrub session later. Pick out clothes the night before when you’re not delirious and slow. Pitch stray trash and papers from your bag each night (3 seconds) instead of digging through an increasingly jumbled mess followed by a lengthy cleaning session.
Part of what makes us feel strapped for time isn’t just the hours in the day (which this method does help with); it’s also feeling enraged by the tiny paper cuts of irritation and inconvenience that can accumulate throughout the day.
Identify your productive triggers
Business Coach at True Azimuth, Author of “Make Time Your Superhero Power!“
|Most people focus on time wasters, but productive triggers are more important.|
Productive triggers are those things that motivate you to work harder and stick to your plans and schedules. These also include the activities and habits that make you more productive and bring you closer to your goals. One person may be driven to meet deadlines when working under pressure with a terror boss looking over their shoulder. Another may feel more inspired when working with an understanding and helpful boss in a fun and laid-back environment.
You need to figure out what your productive triggers are if you’re not yet aware of them. Then you’ll be able to evaluate your problem areas and master your time.
Block some cources
Teacher, Founder at Test Prep Nerds. If our SAT guide is not enough, feel free to check Kristine’s blogs or her interview to ESL Authority.
|I recommend signing up for classes as soon as the registrar is open for you to select your courses and their times so that you have the greatest amount of options as to when you take your classes.|
Decide what are the best times for you to realistically attend every class and lab. If you are not a morning person, then, by all means, do not book 8AM classes. The same goes for those who may have regular evening obligations where you will catch yourself considering skipping a class to attend a meet-and-greet or networking event.
College students have a lot more freedom in choice, meaning they can choose whether or not they attend lectures and classes, especially those that do not include attendance in the grade. This makes it significantly more important to book classes that you know work well in your schedule and that you won’t stop going to.
Ask for help
Jeff Neal, Owner at Critter Fam, a reptile network for exotic animals owners. Check his interview to learn more.
|The best thing a college student can do is speak with their counselor.|
When I was juggling a full course load, part-time work, and sports, I needed to make personal and professional deadlines. And I used a variety of tactics to try and keep it all under control. But it wasn’t until I scheduled a meeting with my counselor and explained to him my schedule and goals. He helped me learn how to prioritize tasks. As he explained it, I would get burned out trying to fulfill every commitment 100%. If I had an important test coming up, then that took priority over a part-time, Thursday night shift as a barista. Or, if I needed money to fly home, then it was critical to get in as many working hours, which meant I should do less intramural sports.
So, there are a variety of ways to manage your time, but learning what your personal, long-term goals are will help you prioritize tasks over others.
Productivity Trainer, TEDx Speaker
|Work, in short, 10-minute sprints. This is excellent for brainstorming and generating ideas, outlining papers, or taking care of a lot of small tasks.|
Set an interval timer (free apps available for all phones) for 5 intervals of 10 minutes of work, with a 2-minute break. Take a sticky note and list what you want to accomplish during your timed intervals. This prevents your mind from wandering and keeps you on track. Now get started. Use the first 10 minutes to brainstorm, use the second 10 minutes to flesh out your ideas, use the third interval to go more in-depth, etc.
Use the 2-minute break to get up, move around, and recharge. The short sprints keep your mind active, and the repeated intervals ensure that you accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.
Use to-do lists and checklists
Max Falb, Digital Marketing Strategist at Fueled
Your must-check there: 10 Best Apps to Boost Your Brain
|The best thing I did was not create a set schedule for myself each week but simply created to-do lists. For me, it was a lot easier to simply see the objectives I had to complete during the day and do them when I could instead of trying to plan out my day from when I wake up to fall asleep.|
For me and many other college students, it’s so hard to stay on a strict schedule and often can lead to complications, but having your schedule open and simply having a to-do list made it seem easier and also allowed me to change what I was doing as the day progressed.
Etee Dubey, Content Specialist at Outgrow, agrees:
Time management is tricky. Add the fast-paced schedule of one’s college life, and you’re in a whole new ball game. I think the best way to manage time is creating a daily to-do list and following it religiously. This will ensure that you are prioritizing your work and setting time limits on the same.
Your satisfaction with educational institution plays its role too: environment, facilities, curriculum — they all influence your motivation to study and manage the time accordingly. So don’t ignore student satisfaction surveys in college, share your expectations for the school (or suggest your teachers create such a survey), and your productivity will grow.”
Prioritize your assignments
Therapist at State of Mind
|One of my favorite time management techniques to use with my college clients is called Today, Maybe Today, and Tomorrow.|
You take a sheet of paper and create 3 columns, each titled “Today,” “Maybe Today,” and “Tomorrow.” Use small post-it notes to write each task on, then place them in the column that’s most appropriate in order of urgency: tasks you must get done today, tasks you’d like to get done today, and then tasks that can wait until tomorrow.
Start with the Today column and as each task gets finished, throw the corresponding post-it note away. Once the Today column is completed, if you have any tasks on “Maybe Today,” you can get started on that column with any extra energy you might have. This helps to feel productive and organized in especially busy moments in the semester, like midterms or finals weeks.
Delegate when possible
Content Marketer, Blogger at 99Papers
|Don’t be afraid of delegating some tasks to your family or friends.|
Yeah, they won’t be able to study for you, but they still can help you around the house, for example, or go shopping for you to save some time and concentrate on studies and coursework. Think of the routine tasks you can share, and just ask.
Also, feel free to delegate writing tasks to experts when possible. Time management means nothing when you are physically, emotionally and psychologically drained. Find the balance, as it’s key to your happiness and success.
Extra Tips on Time Management for College Students
As you can see, time management for students is kind of a complicated thing to describe. It takes time and tons of details to master. So we better trust the proven advice from experts who followed it themselves and succeeded.
Here go some extra tips on time management for you to try:
Save your class work
Professor of Criminal Justice at Guilford College
|Every browser has a bookmarks toolbar, allowing you to go to a specific website with one click rather than three or four, or by having to type the URL directly.|
The idea is that you can spend a few minutes setting up a system that makes it easier and faster for you to do your regular tasks. Saving five seconds does not seem like much but if you add up all that saved time over an entire semester, it can be quite substantial.
One more thing: gone are the days where “my computer crashed” was a good excuse for not turning in your work. Yes, computers still crash and data is lost, but a free cloud-based storage service such as Dropbox or Google Backup and Sync allow saving your papers as well as time for their restoring.
P.S. many 99Papers readers have our essay maker bookmarked to quickly receive help when it’s needed.
Provide yourself with a time tracker
CMO at Chanty
|To manage your time better, make full use of the technologies available to you.|
One way I’ve been able to get better at time management is measuring where it goes. I use a time tracker (there are tons of them available for free out there) to measure where my time goes.
As long as you’re honest with yourself, you can find out what drains your time the most. In my case, I found out that emails take me a whopping two hours daily. You may learn that your time on social media is taking away from your time on studying.
For better time management in college, you might want to check this article at Olga’s blog: Here’s Why We Need to Give Up Multitasking. And that’s exactly what our next expert has mastered!
Do one thing at a time
Content Marketer at Venngage
|One time management tip I used to great effect is single tasking or “doing one thing from start to finish”.|
Now, this isn’t always feasible but if you can block a huge chunk of time for each of your assignments and focus on completing them from start to finish with minimal or zero interruptions, you’ll soon realize how much more you’re able to get done vs juggling multiple projects and making barely any progress on each of them. Multitasking is overrated, makes you less productive but even more importantly, multitasking is bad for your health.
Your must-check content at Aditya’s blog: What is Your Teacher Personality Type? Once revealed, you will know if they forgive you missed deadlines or you better think about alternative time management strategies to get high grades from them.
Learn to say NO!
Student/ Grad Assistant/ Entrepreneur at UArts
|Don’t accept every request that comes your way.|
As college students, we want to do everything! We want to be in organizations, clubs, and teams but do not burn yourself out! And once you burn yourself out, it is hard to bounce back. Yes, we feel bad when we say no to people we want to help but it is okay to say no sometimes. If it doesn’t fit into your schedule or align with your priorities, do not overwhelm yourself by taking on more.
Remember about Parkinson’s law
Medical Student, Blogger at Improve Your Grades
|Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”|
This means if you give yourself five hours to complete a task that can be done in two hours, you’ll spend five hours on it. Keeping that in mind, I try to allow the right amount of time needed for any given task. This way I get to spend more time on tasks that deserve it.
Use procrastination right
PhD, eLearning Advisor at The Helpful Professor
|Students often tell me they’ve run out of time because they’re procrastinators. One of the best ways to overcome this is to make the university library feel like your second home. If you have a space that you’re comfortable working at, you’re more likely to return there.|
Every time you have a break between classes or need to study, don’t go home. Instead, go to that secret study spot that’s got your name on it where you get all your work done. You’ll be surprised how often you return to the library once you feel comfortable retreating there whenever the need arises.
Take a small step at a time
CMO at Plannable
|If it takes less than a minute, do it right now. I started building this habit just over two years ago and the results are spectacular.|
A bin full of garbage? Throw it now. The table is dirty? Clean it up. Miss a friend? Message them. Have a question for your teacher? Send that email. We’re always procrastinating no matter what. However, this is a simple solution to being more efficient and feeling better about yourself.
Small step at a time.
Your next small step to take might be checking this list of social media courses at Vlad’s blog and (finally!) choosing one to start learning and getting new skills! Let’s face it: how often do you promise yourself to start but then postpone it for later? Not anymore.
Boost productivity with free apps
Community Manager at G2
|Leverage free apps.|
We are currently undergoing a technological revolution similar to the industrial revolution. Software is changing the landscape of how businesses work, and students can take advantage of these same software apps to make help them work smarter, be more productive, and reach their potential.
From password managers, project management apps, and more – there are thousands of time management apps students should look to download ASAP.
Try the 3-5-7 method
Founder at KyLeads
| A simple process I use to get more done every day is called the 3-5-7 method.|
It starts by choosing 3 tasks that must get done. You don’t stop until they get finished. These 3 require the most thought and will help you manage your time very well.
Next, you select 5 tasks that would be nice to get done but aren’t essential for the day.
Finally, 7 other tasks probably won’t get done but should be on your radar. If you get around to them then you’ve done a good job. Test it, you’ll see the impact it has on your productivity.
So as not to be snowed under with all those tasks, learn more about the productivity drain and strategies to avoid burnouts for more work-life balance in the KyLeads article here.
Time Management for Students: Template
Time management activities for college students are many, but we know what you need to get the most out of them:
It’s a time management template, right?
To control your daily schedule, you’ll need to organize and plan it right. But first, make sure to have two things:
- A semester calendar, with all major exams, due dates, and meetings that you must do and can’t change. Keep it in a pocket or set corresponding reminders in your planner so you wouldn’t miss anything.
- A weekly schedule, with all the classes, work, exercise routine, housekeeping, sleeping, eating, and any other activities you plan to do each week during a semester. Don’t forget to leave some blank space there for completing assignments.
Once both are ready, you’ll have an opportunity to create a daily to-do list. Make it either when you wake up in the morning or each night before you go to bed. Keep it short (five or six items) and prioritize tasks there to make sure you’ll be in time with everything. Use such lists every day and practice to say “no” to distractions and temptations so you could keep to your schedules successfully.
Feel free to download and use this time management template for your daily to-do lists:
Learn more hints on time planning for students or reveal more secrets on why you waste time and how to change that: Time Management Worksheet, by MCCC.
In a Word…
Time management tips for college students are many, and it stands to reason that you can’t use them all. Some will work for you, others – won’t. All you need is choose those meeting your needs most.
Take the advice of experts and students who have been there. Take the most out of academic resources that help college students balance studies, work, and life. Or, listen to Olly Richards who shares good study habits for lazy people:
Founder of I Will Teach You a Language
|The most important thing to know about time management is that… there’s no such thing!|
Hear me out. You can’t manage time, because everybody has the same quota…you, me, Elon Musk. The only thing that’s in your control is the activities you do in any given block of time.
So here’s what you do: At the start of the day, make a list of all the things you could get done in the day. Get everything down on paper. Then ask yourself: “If I could only finish ONE thing today… what would it be? What would make me feel absolutely AMAZING to get done and crossed off?” Then, turn off your phone, throw shut down your email, lock yourself in the most isolated room you can find… and don’t get up until you’ve finished that one thing. If you do this every day, you’ll always make sure that you’re making progress on the most important things in your life.
Put yourself first during busy periods. Tired of studying at 1am? Go to bed! Wanna take some break and stare at the window? Just do it. It’s all about a more positive attitude toward your workload: evaluate the consequences of your actions, adjust your schedule accordingly – and you’ll make your busyness less painful throughout the semester.