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Learning Effective Time Management

Now that you know what you want to accomplish, you will have to allocate your time so that you can turn your goals into reality. One thing that you cannot change is the number of hours you have each day. What you can change, however, is how you spend your time. Most students are unaware of where their time goes. You sit down to study and your phone rings. You talk awhile. It rings again. Before you know it, two hours have gone by. Or, perhaps you have been studying and decide to take a short break. You step out of your room and your short break turns into a vacation. Does this sound familiar? If so, keep reading!

Time management starts with a plan. You need to write down in a calendar (computerized or paper planner) what you will be doing for each waking hour. Start with all your time commitments. You will want to include your classes, work schedules, and any other regularly scheduled appointments. Don't forget to include time for each meal (including breakfast). Next, note the time you plan to study and do homework for each of your courses (be specific). The rule of thumb is to allocate two hours of study time for every hour you are in class. Try to spread your study time throughout the day in one- or two-hour blocks. Any longer than that is too much at one sitting. Don't forget to note all your exams dates and when papers are due!

Your remaining time is what is left for socializing (yes, you still can have fun) and working out and participating in clubs and organizations. You get to decide how you want to spend your limited "free" time. Be sure to go back to your goals and see if you have allocated sufficient time to accomplish them. If not, you need to rework your schedule. Some suggestions to make the most of your time include:

  • Get up earlier—the most effective time managers are early risers!
  • Divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones.
  • Work on your hardest tasks first.
  • Get enough sleep so that you are refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
  • Learn to say "no" to activities that do not move you closer to your goals.

Here comes the hard part. You actually have to follow your schedule. No one will call you up and say, "You are supposed to be studying for history right now!" You are the one who will have to say "no," if friends invite you to play pool when you have scheduled some study time. Although this is difficult at first, you will feel much better if you are on top of all your assignments and enjoy your free time that much more. Try following your schedule for two weeks and, if necessary, make adjustments. Remember, it is your schedule! Managing your time effectively is a skill that you will use in your future career and throughout your life so working on it now will have continuing benefits.

Helpful hint: Enter an earlier due date for research papers or other large projects. Finishing your assignments early will reduce your stress (think how great it will feel watching everyone else scramble to get done). Also, it provides you with a cushion in case the unexpected happens—your printer dies, or you get a terrible cold. Exercise: Draft a schedule for this term, incorporating two hours of study time for each of your courses.

One of the key aspects of good time management is prioritizing. Each day you should make a "To-Do" list of all the things that you want to accomplish. Be specific. For example, if you have an hour scheduled for studying French, specify that you want to review chapters 3 & 4. In addition to your scheduled activities, include errands and other tasks that you need to do. Make sure to indicate the most critical items to accomplish each day and spend your time on those first. You can always move less important items to the next day's list. Exercise: Write a "To-Do" list for tomorrow. Indicate which are the most critical to complete. Check off each item as you complete it.