Time Management

A successful academic semester is the result of a well-developed schedule that considers long term and short term goals. A good schedule includes four activities every day: sleeping, eating, studying (in and out of class), and leisure time (including exercise).

If you do too much of one of these and skip another, your schedule will be unbalanced. When this happens, you end up being less productive in the things you do choose to do. In fact, most freshmen cite poor time management as the number one reason they fail to achieve at least a "C" average during their first semester at college. Organize yourself and manage your time effectively to meet your own needs and adapt to your own strengths. Use the time at which you are most effective in studying. Everyone has a different cycle for sleeping, eating, studying, and leisure time. You need to develop your own schedule, and stick to it.

It is a good idea to have several schedules:

  • For the semester: At the beginning of the semester, post an academic calendar in a visible place (above your desk, for example) that includes dates when you have tests, papers due, and final exams. (Most professors give these dates on a syllabus they hand out at the beginning of the semester.) This will make you aware of deadlines and prepare you for the weeks when you have many things scheduled. Using colored pens on the calendar for different classes or activities can be an added help. Utilize Semester Planners! You can also grab a printed copy in the Shepard Academic Resource Center.

Semester Calendar (PDF)   Semester Planner (Blank PDF)

  • For the week: Have a consistent weekly schedule that lists class times, study times, and activity time (for exercise or your favorite TV show). You might also develop a weekly "to do" list, noting what needs to be done for the week after consulting your class syllabi and adding personal and social goals. This will prevent you from getting behind in any of your courses and help you to keep a balanced schedule. Utilize Time Budget Sheets to help! To utilize your week as effectively as possible here are a few other tips to try:
    • Set deadlines for things you need to have done. These deadlines help overcome procrastination. To many, a very human characteristic is to want to put things off. If you are going to meet your short-term and long-term goals, you should set deadlines. Meeting these deadlines will enable you to accomplish both your academic and fun goals.

    • Schedule time for yourself. Don’t overextend yourself so that you have so many classes, club meetings, school activities, and job commitments that there is not time to reflect, relax, and think. Different people do these things in different ways. Some people meditate, others pray, others prefer to be alone to just let their mind wander. Make time for these activities.

  • For the day: Some people find it helpful to write a daily list of homework to do, places to go, and people to call or visit. Your weekly "to do" list can be easily converted into a daily schedule. Your daily schedule can also help you identify how much time to commit to daily studying.
    • Be realistic in planning how long it will take to read a chapter in a book. Schedule breaks for yourself during study periods. However, be sure the breaks don’t run longer than the study periods. Plan your favorite activities for after you have completed harder tasks. Otherwise if you do them first, you might be tempted to continue them instead of returning to your studies.

    • Look for "hidden" study time. We waste a great deal of time each day that we could spend studying. Carry a text to read while waiting for the bus, riding downtown, waiting in the health center, or doing your laundry. Study between classes.

    • Plan your major tasks for your most productive time and your most productive environment. If you’re a "night person," then plan your hardest activities for that period and in the location where you work best. If you work best in the early afternoon in a quiet place, then plan to do your most demanding task in that time and place. After identifying your most productive time and place, try to stick with them. Remember, though, that the work that most requires your "mental" energy should be done in the first twelve hours that you are awake - when your mind is most primed to retain it.

When developing your personal schedule, keep two things in mind:

  • Keep schedules flexible: Be prepared for unexpected things like a date, an illness, or a project that simply takes longer than expected.
  • Consider others: Everyone has different cycles, so no two schedules will be exactly the same. Realize that your schedule will affect others, especially your roommate. It's critical to communicate with each other and be willing to accept and accommodate differences.

For more information about time management, make an appointment with one of the staff in the Shepard Academic Resource Center.

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