The exact time management skills you need for success
This post is all about time management for college students.
Time management for college students looks a little different than in high school or even the professional world.
You have so much going on in your life!
Your classes are incredibly demanding.
You have some profs that are amazingly understanding, and others with high expectations.
There’s so much to think about. So much to do.
You don’t understand how other people seem to keep it together so well; how they seem to stay on top of it all.
I can honestly say that college has been the most challenging season of my life when it comes to time management. And I’ve experienced all this:
- graduating high school with honours while maintaining a social life AND working my customer service job 40+ hours per week
- Working a 9-5 office job for a year and a half before college
- Taking a full course load in college while working part time
It’s hard to predict how much work each course will require outside of class and how long each assignment will take. On top of that, you’re surrounded by friends all the time AND trying to live a sustainable, independent adult life.
It’s a lot. I’ve been there. I’m still there. I feel you. So, let’s team up to tackle time management for college students!
Here are the tips I’ve learned that have helped me consistently stay on top of EVERYTHING in college.
This post is all about time management for college students.
BEST TIPS ON TIME MANAGEMENT FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS:
1. Do one thing at a time
It’s so easy in college to get overwhelmed because you always have a million things to do. Try not to think about it. Just pick what to start with, prioritize that and don’t think about the next thing until it’s done.
It’s easier said than done. But you won’t finish everything on your to-do list when you’re overwhelmed and panicked about it all at once.
[RELATED POST – Study Tips for College: 19 Tips to Ace Every Class]
2. Understand where everything fits
In college, there are so many different aspects of your life that you need to think about.
- Social life
- Health and fitness
- Part time job
- Internships or events to advance your career
Perhaps not all of these apply to you, but most college students have all or most of these categories in their lives.
It’s easier to balance everything when you can determine which category it falls into. When you see everything all together, it’s overwhelming. But when you can assign a category to each element of life that takes up some of your time, it feels a lot easier to manage.
3. Use a calendar, and colour code it
Use a calendar. I cannot stress this enough.
Digital or paper, whatever works for you. I like using a digital calendar because it’s super easy to rearrange things and add travel time & locations.
This is related to the last point because when you understand which category things fall into, you can colour code your calendar according to the category. This makes it so easy to see at a glance things like:
- How many hours you work this week
- How much school work you have
- How many hours of class you have
- What extracurriculars and events are going on
- Your social life and time with friends
Here’s an example of a week from my colour coded calendar:
4. Create daily and weekly to-do lists
If you’ve been around the iamLVD community for a while, you may have heard me say this before. Having one long list of to-do’s can be incredibly overwhelming. So, I prefer to break down my weekly to-do list into a few smaller daily to-do lists that work according to my schedule. Honestly such a game changer!
5. Standardize your routine
Standardizing your routine means establishing habits, improving your sleep schedule so it’s consistent, and practicing self care as best you can every single day. Usually, this is easiest if you have really solid routines that make you feel good and help you de-stress!
[RELATED POST – College Student Self Care Ideas: 21 Ideas for Students]
6. Schedule in your self care
If you have solid morning and/or evening routines, you’re probably already doing a great job in the self care department. But let’s be honest, some days you just need a little extra relaxation. So, make sure you schedule in some self care time at least once a week where you can drop your worries and JUST relax. It might be a whole day, an afternoon or even just an hour.
Because I’m a Christian, I like to do this by keeping every Sunday as a Sabbath day of rest. I know it sounds ambitious to take a whole day of rest as a college student, but I promise it’s possible (and so so worth it).
[RELATED POST – Keeping the Sabbath Holy as a College Student (5 Benefits)]
7. Develop a few really good habits
If you’re being honest, you can think of a few good habits you’d really like to develop. Or at least bad ones you need to drop.
It can be overwhelming to commit to all the good habits you want to create at once. So, start by just picking a couple really good habits you can focus on and practice them until they become habits you can’t live without.
How does this help with time management? Well, having bad habits (or lacking good habits) often takes up a lot of time or makes us a lot less efficient.
Let me call you out on a couple:
- The Instagram scroll? Time-wasting habit.
- Staying up late? Exhausting habit.
- Buying a coffee on your way to class every day? Expensive, time-wasting habit.
- Being consistently late to class? Stress-inducing, productivity-killing habit.
- Socializing when you should probably be studying? Productivity-killing, grades-damaging habit.
- Leaving your assignments to the last minute? Time-wasting, productivity-killing, stress-inducing, grades-damaging bad habit.
[RELATED POST – Morning Routine for School: 8 Habits College Students Need]
8. Always write down your homework
This might sound obvious, but with every syllabus online these days, you might not take the extra effort to write down your assignments. You can just check it out on the syllabus later, right?
Bad idea. Writing down your assignments and their due dates in one central notebook or planner will not only help you remember what’s due when, but will also save you the time it takes to hunt down the assignment description and due date in the syllabus when you go to work on it.
Plus, writing it all down in the same place gives you a better sense of clarity that will allow you to stay on top of your work in a timely fashion.
9. Fill in social time around your responsibilities
This is easiest to do when you habitually use a calendar.
Every week, schedule out your classes, part-time job, extracurriculars, events, and the time it will take you to do the assignments and readings you know you have due soon. Don’t agree to social plans with anyone until you know exactly what your week looks like.
To be clear: social time is essential in college. It’s important. But it is the most flexible aspect of your life. So, save yourself from double booking and ensure you give yourself enough time to complete assignments on time. Schedule out your classes and work first, then commit to social gatherings.
If a friend asks you to make plans but you haven’t scheduled out your week yet or checked what you have to do, let them know that you’ll have to check if you’re free and get back to them. Easy as that.
[RELATED POST – How to Make Friends in College: The 7 Tips You Need to Know]
10. Prioritize things based on urgency and time
For example, if I have a 1 page reflection worth 2% of my mark due on Tuesday and a huge midterm assignment worth 30% of my mark due on Thursday, it’s wisest to put priority on the midterm. Even though it’s due at a later date, it’s worth way more marks and will probably take me a lot longer than the 1 page reflection.
This is obviously quite an extreme example, but you get the picture. Prioritization doesn’t just mean doing the thing that’s due soonest. It means budgeting for how much time and effort it’ll take you to do each assignment and prioritizing accordingly.
11. Check the late penalties for every class
Let me make one thing clear: I am NOT suggesting that you should even consider handing in your assignments late.
HOWEVER, we all know that college gets crazy at times. So, this goes back to the point about priorities from earlier in this post. If you have a class where the late penalty is 1% per day, but another class where the late penalty is 10% for being even a minute late, and the assignments are due on the same day, you’ll probably want to put more urgency on the assignment with the bigger late penalty.
You STILL need to budget enough time in your schedule to finish BOTH. But it’s less stressful to do the assignment with the 1% penalty last minute. You know that it wouldn’t impact you quite as much as finishing the other assignment late.
12. Netflix AFTER studying, 10 times out of 10!
Have you ever gotten home from class with the intention of studying, but you realize you’re really tired and you want to watch an episode of your favourite show first?
Dangerous! Once you’ve settled into relaxing over Netflix, it’s SO HARD to work your way back into productivity.
If you need a break, then take a 20 minute break. You can stretch it out, text a friend, make a coffee or even take a power nap. But do NOT fall into the Netflix trap before studying!
13. Meal prep frees up so much of your time!
If you’re in a dorm room on a meal plan, you don’t have to worry about this one as much. Just make sure you keep your dorm room stocked with snacks and fruit.
If you’re living in an apartment and cooking all your own meals, you need to hop on the meal prep train if you haven’t already. Scheduling out your major meals for the week and making as much of them as you can in advance is honestly a massive help!
It means you can just spend an hour or two cooking at the beginning of the week, rather than making something every day.
If you’re a crazy planner like me, you might even like to schedule out each meal for each day of the upcoming week so that you don’t have to spend precious time or energy on deciding in the moment!
[RELATED POST – Tips on Meal Prep (+ 3 Cheap Breakfast Ideas for Students)]
14. Try to group your classes together
I know it’s not always possible to choose the most ideal schedule. We have some say over our class schedule, but there are definitely times when you just have to suck it up and take a sucky class time.
As much as you can, try to group your classes together. You might think you’ll be more productive by spreading them out, but chances are you wont. Think about it: If you have a huge chunk of time on a Thursday afternoon to study, it’s quite likely that will become a productive study day for you. But if you have classes each with a 45 minute break between them, you’re probably going to spend that time scrolling, not studying.
15. Don’t study late if you have early classes
I know it seems like pulling all-nighters or even just late nights is a great college trend to hop on, but it’s not. I promise you will get so much more done if you stick to a consistent schedule and get enough sleep. If you have a couple early classes every week, try to still wake up early on the days that you don’t have early classes. Your body will be much happier, more energized and ultimately more productive.
[RELATED POST – How to Wake Up On Time for Your Morning Class]
16. Keep track of out-of-class hours
Keep track of how long you spend on work for each class you take. Doing this at the beginning of each semester will help you schedule out your week according to how long it usually takes you to do work for a certain class or a certain task.
Keep in mind it doesn’t just have to be per class. If you wrote a research essay for one class earlier this semester, and now you’re writing a research essay for a different class, they’ll probably take a similar amount of time. Even though they’re for different classes, it’s the same type of task.
17. When it comes to studying, the more ≠ the merrier
Learn to study efficiently and effectively. Amount of time spent on studying means nothing. What truly matters is how effectively you are retaining information while you study.
Writing out your notes once and then focusing on learning the information and applying necessary concepts will help you a lot more than if you simply wrote out your notes 3 times over. Reading your notes through 20 times does nothing if you haven’t actually tried to focus on and learn the information. See what I mean?
18. Halt all else during exam season
People understand when students are in the heat of exam season. If you have to turn down dinner with your grandparents so you can study, you can do it just this once. You can say no to social gatherings, extracurricular meetings and volunteer opportunities that you normally would have taken. You can even book some time off work to get in some extra study hours. Don’t feel bad. People understand.
19. Confront anxiety and stress, don’t study through it
One of the worst things you can do is just try to ignore your stress and push through it for the sake of productivity.
If you’re super overwhelmed or anxious, take a 20 minute break to calm down. Go journal, breathe, stretch, or sleep. Working through it is useless if you don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to be fully invested in your studies.
20. Understand ahead of time what your assignment asks of you
Have you ever finished an assignment, but then you realize there’s another part to it, or an aspect you overlooked?
Most. Frustrating. Thing. Ever.
Do yourself a favour and go over the assignment description multiple times BEFORE you start. If you’re still unclear, ask peers in your class or ask your TA/professor. But don’t start if you don’t know what you’re doing, and never skim through the description!
21. Reward yourself 🙂
Reward yourself for finishing assignments, exams and ESPECIALLY for finishing a semester! Binge that Netflix, eat your favourite meal, drink to it (in moderation) and spend some time with your best buds! You deserve it!