Time management for university students
The aim of managing your time is to spend time doing the things that help you achieve your goals and the things that you personally prioritise and value.
Time management is straightforward – but it takes time. This guide aims to help you prepare the ground for effective time management and then devise a workable system for yourself which meets your needs.
A successful university student is also someone who knows how to manage their most critical resource — time. Here are a few time management strategies to help students like you do the same:
Work time: Assess how long each task will take and how much energy. For highest priority tasks requiring the most energy, you’ll want to schedule that activity when you do your best work. Know yourself. Are you a morning person or do you do better work late at night?
Be healthy: Paying attention to your health may seem basic, but you really do want to give your body and mind its best chance at top performance. Healthy activities include regular exercise. Exercise, among its many health benefits, can help reduce stress. Stress reduces performance, as does lack of sleep. Make sure to keep a good night’s sleep a priority. Rest allows your brain to perform at its peak. Lack of sleep can make the day seem longer and tasks more difficult. Another good strategy is to include a walking/stretching break between study activities. When switching between subjects, walking helps clear your mind and reset your brain for new activities.
Build in flexibility: A university student will benefit from a flexible mindset and schedule. As you consider a return to college with a life already full of commitments, you may want to consider an online course for its scheduling flexibility. An online program allows a student to control when, where, and how they take classes and study. No matter where you choose to go to university, flexibility also means building in extra time to manage unforeseen obstacles (UFOs) on your time into your schedule. Plan accordingly.
Know when it’s survival time: There comes a special time in everyone’s college semester called exam time. Midterms and finals are not a time for moderation when it comes to school. Exam time is when a planned imbalance is essential. Non-essentials need to fall to the wayside as you prepare yourself for these important tests. Schedule outside appointments during other times of the semester. Prepare your friends and family appropriately. Let them know finals are coming up so they can plan accordingly and give you the space you need. Give people the appropriate heads up to know you won’t be returning texts or otherwise — that you need your focus to be on school during this time period. Your friends and family want you to succeed. Let them know how they can help so when you do hit a new milestone, they know they helped play a part in your success.
Know when it’s celebration time: Be sure to celebrate milestones. Acknowledge a job well done. These could include a successful exam, the submission of an assignment, getting a good grade in a course or the completion of a semester. Give yourself and others permission to be proud of your hard work — and mark the progression towards your degree.
Compromise: Sometimes, there’s just not enough time to get things done exactly the way you want it done. Sometimes, you need to trade in excellence for efficiency. Sometimes, you need to know when good enough is good enough. You are in school for the long haul; you want to graduate. Remember, you won’t be judged by one project alone. Learning is a cumulative process.
Organising your time
Different systems work for different people but if you want the best out of yourself in the time you have available do give them a try.
- Start by buying a useful tool, a personal diary or organiser and use it.
- Allocate time every day to organise your activities and forward plan. Some students do this first thing, others at the end of the day. Divide your activities into categories. Then make a list and rank them in order 1-10 in terms of importance and urgency.
Defining what is important to you is crucial because good time management is spending time achieving your goals. Include time to relax and socialise: “all work and no play” will not help you meet your goals. If you build in time to have fun you will be more effective.
Reviewing the way you spend time may have revealed time wasted on tasks which were low on your list of priorities. Ideally less time should be allocated to those and more time to those items higher up.
- Look carefully at what must be done today, should be done today, could be put off until tomorrow or that someone else could do. Make planning your time a part of your routine.
- Get started and avoid procrastinating which can lead to increased anxiety.
- Create a work area which allows you to spread out, which is tidy, well lit and warm. This means that each time you return to it you are ready to start and feel more organised.
- Get into a routine of studying at set times. Others around you need to know when you are working and don’t wish to be interrupted. It is useful to identify how much time you need for different types of work: writing essays or research need chunks of time, and a lot of concentration. Other tasks can be fitted in to odd moments or times when your concentration is poor.
- Break the task up into manageable portions so that you don’t feel so daunted by it.
- Avoid spending an unreasonable amount of time on one thing at the expense of others. It is better to hand work in on time, even though it may not meet your exacting standards.
- When someone asks you to do something, see it in terms of taking time away from something else. Your answer might be “no”, but you might meet your own goals.
- Avoid saying “yes” to something that is unimportant just because it seems far away. The same amount of effort will be needed whether the task is done today or next month.
- Tackle something you want to avoid now rather than tomorrow. This frees your mind and allows you to concentrate more efficiently.
- Reward yourself for time well spent by planning an activity you will enjoy.
- Decide a time to finish as well as start so you know when you are free for other activities.