Hello, wanderers! As you might know, I’m now in college. For anyone entering college (or surviving high school), I have some thoughts from my first year and a book by Julie Morgenstern: “Time Management from the Inside Out.” The book’s great, but sometimes the advice feels geared towards a working mom and not a struggling college student. Thus, I’ve combined the advice from Time Management and my struggling college student experience to bring you “Time Management for College Students.”
The hardest thing about college time management is, well, college. By definition, college life is never consistent. There’s always new events, friends, clubs, opportunities, tasks, and boatloads of homework that pop up unexpectedly. Your friends from the first month might not talk to you next year. You can’t eliminate the unexpected, but if you stay focused on your goals and don’t let distractions daunt you, you’ll have an easier first year.
- What is important to you?
If you manage your time well, what do you want to do more of? Knowing what you hope to get out of college (and life) can save you a lot of pain, debt, and waste.
- What is your big-picture view?
This applies to student and senior alike. What is your big picture view? Why do you get up in the morning, go to the gym, and study for those boring general education classes? A big picture view motivates you to tackle even tasks you don’t like as much. For a student, this might be: What is my reason to live; what do I want my life to be about? Lots of personal reflection might be needed to answer this question. After that, how do you feel called to express this purpose in your life? This requires thought about the kind of career you want after college. And the career you want after college is directly affected by what you do in college.
- What stops you from getting to the important things?
Maybe you want good grades, but stuff just keeps getting in the way. Analyze your situation with common errors people fall into with time management.
On the technical side, your problem could be:
– you didn’t set aside time or set aside for what you want to do.
– you set aside the wrong time (like studying before bed when you fall asleep)
– you miscalculated how long the task would take
– the task is too complex. “Getting an A in calculus” sounds terribly daunting and you don’t know how to begin, so you don’t do anything.
– you can’t remember what you have to do
– your space is disorganized
– you have no planning time
– you have an unrealistic workload
There’s external realities that might affect your productivity as well.
– you have a health problem (depression, chronic pain, etc).
– you are in transition (A major life event like a breakup, marriage, family situation or job change could be happening)
– your environment is full of interruptions
– other people’s chaos affects your ability to work.
And psychologically, barriers can include:
– unclear goals and priorities
– the chaos makes you feel comfortable
– you fear failing or succeeding at your goals
– you have a fear of “downtime.”
If you said yes to any of these, don’t worry– most solutions involve understanding yourself and your boundaries. “Technical” errors can be easy to fix–just schedule a planning time, buy a planner, or start tracking the way you use your time. But letting these problems fester will stop you from ever achieving your goals or a balanced schedule.
- Implement a weekly planning time. Regularly review your 5 year plans, monthly, and yearly dreams. Write deadlines and schoolwork requirements each month; put test dates in your planner.
- Organize your time like you organize your space.
- Have clothes, backpacks/books, library returns, meals, or files ready to go. Have an “errand section” to place items that need to be returned.
- File the important stuff
- Understand how your days will go. Take everything into account when planning. Do you have chapel Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday? Will it rain on Friday? Although you can’t plan for everything, knowing the shape and pattern of each day will allow you to prepare for contingencies effectively.
- Know your time limits. Next to tasks, time is important to consider when achieving your goals. How long does it take you to do homework? How can you finish your tasks more efficiently and quickly? Time yourself, and calculate how much time you must devote to tasks daily to free up time for the things you want to do.
- Don’t neglect boundaries. What are the goals you started off the year with? Are you achieving them or failing–and if so, why?
Chances are that your management of schoolwork needs an error check, or you’ve chosen to spend your time with the wrong people or activities. Enforce boundaries seriously. Are the people you’re around discouraging your hopes, or encouraging them? Does one person affect your other friendships, ability to concentrate, or motivation? It’s hard to learn, but people don’t always want the best for you. Sometimes they won’t listen even if you’ve told them your boundaries. And sometimes they may want the best for you, but can’t control themselves enough to respect your boundaries. The best way to solve this is early, clear communication and perhaps more importantly, distance. Involve yourself with encouraging communities. Never sacrifice community for one person, no matter how much they want to spend time with you alone. One person can’t be everything for you, so if they are leading you to rely on them as you would a community, it’s time to stop, communicate, and distance yourself before you become dependent on them. Achievement of goals requires community; friends can either help you or drain you.
Until next time,