Have you ever felt that you have no control over your college life? Academic assignments you have to compose, books to read, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, additional studies, labs, urgent projects – this eats up your time, not leaving you a single minute for yourself. Yet there is always at least one fellow student, who submits every assignment on time and is never late for classes. What is most frustrating is that s/he has enough free time for fun and games, social life, and dabbling in personal projects. Is it because s/he is a genius? Perhaps. But the more likely explanation is that this person is simply better at using his/her time effectively. All of us have the same 24 hours a day to work with. Fortunately, effective ways of controlling your time are something you can learn – and this guide will show you how to improve time management for students.
How to Manage Time for Study And Where to Begin?
What is time management? Is the importance of time management unquestionable? Some people associate it with strict schedule and calendar meticulously prescribing what you should be doing at any given moment. For some, it is so, and this method of planning works for them. However, time management is a set of habits that ensure you are always engaged in an activity and do NOT waste time on things that don’t make you closer to your goals. Eventually, you will develop an approach that works best for you. However, in the beginning, you have to try out a few techniques and see which of them best suits your character and temperament.
Time Management Strategies: Grab Your Solutions
Time-based solutions are probably what most people think about when they hear about time-management. You create a timetable and divide each day into periods, dedicating each of them to a predetermined task or a type of task: e.g., 2 to 4 PM – revising for a test, 5 to 6 PM – writing, etc. The main advantage of this method is that it eliminates room for procrastination – if you’ve decided that you are going to start revising for a test at 2 PM, after several successful repetitions you will be able to do it without any reflection or doubt.
However, time-based methods are far from perfect. Most importantly, they are inflexible – once your plan is disrupted by an unforeseen event, it is very hard to get back to business.
Time Management Techniques for Students: Priority-Based Strategies
There is a number of variations on the single principle, but they boil down to the same thing: when you compile your to-do list for a day (a week, a month), you have to define how important each action in terms of moving closer to your goal. The tasks are divided into three groups: A, B and C.
- A’s are crucially important – if you complete just a single one of them, you haven’t lived this day in vain.
- B’s are nice to do but aren’t necessary.
- C’s are the things you may do if you have some spare time left.
The main idea of this approach is to decide beforehand which activities belong to each category and never start on any B’s until you’ve completed all the A’s. As for the C’s, you can mostly safely ignore them altogether.
This approach allows you to keep to your priorities without limiting yourself to a strict timetable – many people find it liberating.
Here’s how ABC prioritization works:
A Priority: Critical AND Urgent (writing the essay due tomorrow)
B Priority: Critical AND/OR Urgent (writing that essay due tomorrow before returning unimportant reads)
C Priority: Neither Critical NOR Urgent (there are not going to be consequences if you don’t deal with C priorities).
GTD stands for “Getting Things Done.” This time management and organization strategy were initially developed for entrepreneurs, but people from all walks of life were very successful in bringing order to their lives with its help. If you are eager to truly learn it, you will want to do further reading online, but basically, it boils down to just a few principles on which you can build a system of your own.
Don’t Hold Ideas in Your Head
Application of GTD starts with identifying all your “open loops” – every item that needs your attention (unfinished projects, things to buy, information to find, etc.). You should empty your head of them and capture them on paper to prevent them from distracting you when you are busy with something else.
Clarification and Organization
Once you’ve unloaded your head, you should clarify what each item means. You should define how a complete success of each endeavor will look like and decide what is the next concrete physical action you have to take to move closer to the completion of the project. E.g., it is wrong to write “Essay on history.” Instead, write down the full topic of the essay and its deadline. Then, decide what you have to do next for this assignment to succeed. If, for example, you know you have to gather some facts about the topic before you start writing, this may be what forces you to procrastinate over this task. So mark it down: “Ask a librarian for a source where I can find information on the essay topic.”
Also, specify the deadlines of all your tasks and add them to your calendar.
Get to Work
Once you have all your projects on paper and organized, once you know for sure you didn’t forget anything, you will be able to open your to-do list, pick what is most relevant at the moment, see what your pre-determined next action is, and simply start doing it without further reflection.
We cannot give you a recommendation as to which approach is the best – the most important thing is to choose what is good for you personally and work from there.
5 Effective Time Management Skills and Techniques for Busy People
Irrespectively of which type of strategy you choose, there are tips and techniques that may come in handy when you try to learn how to improve time management skills.
1. Track Your Time
Many university students have no idea where all their time goes and why they are always late with their assignments. There is a useful practice that can help you better understand the structure of your life. Simply write down everything you do accurate to 5 minutes. If you get distracted – write down what exactly distracted you and how much time you’ve spent on it. For example, you are looking for ideas for your research paper online, and suddenly stumble upon an interesting link you decided to explore. If you proceed with it, write it down. In addition to showing what you really spend your time on, it will create an additional step between you and the distraction.
Run this experiment for at least a week, and you will be amazed how much of your time is wasted on activities like mindless Internet surfing, inane phone chatter, and other types of procrastination. You can simply write down everything you do or use one of many tech tools created for that purpose.
2. Having Rest Is Just as Important As a Part of Your Work Schedule
Pulling an all-nighter can save your skin once or twice, but in the long term, it won’t be good for your education – neither in high school nor in university. Good time management doesn’t mean using your every waking hour to work and taking as much time from sleep as possible. On the contrary, being organized means always having enough sleep to be energetic when you most need it. In addition, when you don’t get enough sleep you are under a high risk of making poor decisions (e.g., “I am too tired to study right now, there will be plenty of time to catch up later”).
3. Always Begin with an End in Mind
Whenever you start a task, take a couple of minutes to decide what exactly you want to achieve. If you are not sure what your purpose is, you don’t know when you are done or whether you need to do it at all. This principle will be useful beyond school – if you start with it right now, you will be more focused and result-oriented for a lifetime, long after you graduate.
4. Schedule Time for Interruptions
Interruptions will happen – it doesn’t matter what kind of planner you use and what steps you take to prevent it. It is your job to take care of three points:
- That you are able to quickly bounce back to work once you’ve dealt with the distraction;
- That you still have enough time to finish the job even if you get distracted;
- That you bring the number and time of distractions to a minimum.
5. Block Distractions
It is incredibly important for your results and your development as a specialist. Chances are, later on, you are going to work in an environment that is just as distracting as the one you currently study in, if not more. Make it your constant practice to block distractions while in college, and it will help you immensely throughout your career. Contrary to popular belief, most people who don’t get distracted from work, don’t possess iron will. They simply don’t expose themselves to temptations. For example, it is highly tempting to take a glance at your phone or open a tab with social media when you are in the middle of writing a paragraph of a boring paper. Especially if all you have to do is to pick up the phone or make a single click. You can make this distraction harder by using tools like LeechBlock or RescueTime to block access to certain sites and apps for a certain period. They won’t prevent you from doing it if you are truly determined, but will make it harder – and usually, this is just the option that one needs to make a rational decision and keep working.
Time management is not a one-time solution that you need to apply to be always organized in the future. It is a set of habits that needs to be constantly practiced for a lifetime to truly master. And the earlier you start doing it, the better results you are going to achieve in life.