How to manage your time as a student
Updated: 8 January 2023
Time management is critical when you’re a student. This is not only because of its correlation with academic success but also because it’s a skill you’ll need in the working world.
But let’s face it: managing your time isn’t easy for most people. It might actually be harder for students because they’re newer to it and have less experience with independent time management than most working adults do.
Since studying, writing papers, etc. are often not among the most exciting things to do, it’s really easy to get bored. Even when you’re not bored, there are so many distractions to pull you off task and chew up lots of time you can’t get back. With all the technology we have today, there are more distractions at hand than ever before.
And then there’s procrastination. Who hasn’t ever kept putting something off until you’re suddenly pressed for time as a deadline approaches and the stress builds? Then you say you’ve learned your lesson…only to procrastinate again next time.
Following are some time management tips for students (and really for anyone else trying to get some work or study done).
Keep things organized
It’s hard to get started when everything’s a mess. Before you begin working or studying, tidy up the area in which you’ll be working. A neat, orderly appearance creates a calming atmosphere conducive to getting work done.
Also, make sure you have everything you need. Making multiple trips about the house, dorm, or wherever else you are to get things you forgot is distracting and wastes time. Having to make such trips to the store because you don’t have some items at all is even worse.
When you have all you need and everything’s organized, you’ll find that you work more efficiently, and probably better, because you save time and stay on task.
This is one of the toughest because there are so many distractions and some of them are beyond your control.
Some things you can control are distractions from phones, screens, music (unless you work well with background music, as some do), etc. Shut them off and put them away, even if it means putting them in another room if that’s possible. If you’re using a computer, close all tabs you aren’t using and fight the urge to open new ones; they’re distractions!
What you can’t control include barking or attention-seeking dogs, other people, outside noise, and so on. However, you can put a pet in another room, tell people you’re studying, and use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to deal with the sounds of traffic, lawn mowers, etc.
Eliminating or reducing distractions, like keeping an organized workspace and having everything you need, helps you work and study more efficiently.
Prioritize what’s important to you
There’s always an order of importance to things, and figuring out that order is crucial for good time management. What needs doing as soon as possible? What can wait until later?
How you prioritize is up to you. Maybe you like knocking off smaller tasks first, or maybe you like saving them until the end because it feels like an easy finish. Maybe you want to do your preferred tasks first or cross the less desirable ones off the list early
If the task is studying, then a study plan can be helpful. With one, you can identify key subjects and prioritize around them.
Are you revising a paper? Have your preferred revision technique down pat so that you save time and concentrate on important areas.
Whatever manner in which you prioritize, as long as it works for your habits and your needs, it will help with organization and time management.
Take regular breaks
Not all distractions are bad. Sometimes distractions are good things!
Here, we’re talking about taking regular breaks. One of the best approaches is to schedule timed breaks. A popular way to do this is via the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks the time available to you up into organized periods.
How many breaks you schedule and how long they are is entirely up to you. Some people benefit from a quick break of 5 minutes or so, and some need much longer. Just make sure you’re allowing yourself to finish your study session or other task on time; hour-long breaks might not be good when there’s a test the next day!
Regular breaks give your body and your brain a rest. They help you maintain energy, focus, and good spirits.
Don’t do it last-minute!
We mentioned procrastination earlier and are going to mention it again because it can be so damaging.
Staying up all night and cramming for an exam is a time-honored [bad] tradition, but it doesn’t work for most people. Instead, it exhausts them, leaving it hard for them to focus during the exam the next day. Exhausted people also make more mistakes.
A better approach is scheduling regular study sessions throughout a course, unit, etc. Review older material so that it stays fresh. Reinforce newer material so that you know you’ve mastered it.
If there’s an assignment due, especially if it’s a big one, break it up into smaller units over a number of days. This keeps the time and the work manageable.
When you try to finish a big project the night before it’s due, good things rarely result. More likely, you’ll make careless mistakes, produce sloppy work, or overlook some of the requirements. Worst of all, you can run out of time and fail to complete the work by the time it’s due.
Plan for tomorrow
As you wrap up your work or study session, start planning the next one.
What needs more attention? What could go better next time? What needs to be covered the next time around?
Asking questions like that helps keep things organized and on track, showing good time management.
These things won’t all come easily right away, and some will take a lot of work. However, if you follow them and practice them, you’re bound to find managing your time as a student easier and less stressful. Good luck!
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