The Essential Time Management Tools For College Students

Time management skills for college students.

With all the activities going on at college, it's easy to lose track of your time. You may wake up one morning and realize that you have an exam or paper the next day, and you're not prepared. Time management skills are easy to learn and will serve you well the rest of your life.

1. Understand How Your Time Is Spent

Do you really know where your time goes? Do you have a conscious awareness of how much time you spend studying, sleeping, eating, visiting with friends, participating in your favorite college club, and taking care of personal hygiene?

Buy a small notebook and keep a diary for one week, writing down everything you do and how long it takes.

At the end of the week, summarize the information something like this:

Personal Hygiene



Walking to Class

Being in Class


Visiting with Friends

Participating in Sports or Other Activities

Talking on the Phone

(and any other categories you can think of)

Once you have your time itemized, you can get a clear picture of what things take the most time.

2. Establish Guidelines for Activities

Which of your activities have the highest priority? Which of them are lower on the list? What is the best time for you to study?

Make a list, putting the most important activity first and continuing down the page until all activities have been assigned a priority.

3. Decide on Your Goals

Goal setting goes along with time management. What are your goals? Your goals should be performance-oriented, not outcome-oriented. In other words, you should put down what you have to do to achieve the goal, rather than what will happen when you do achieve it. Also, make sure that the goals you set are realistic and not unable to be achieved. Study the subjects that are the most difficult first.

Make your goals at the right level - goals that you can achieve, not goals that are too difficult or too easy. Also, be honest with yourself. Remember that these steps toward better time management are for your benefit, not something you have to do to satisfy someone else.

You should have three sets of goals at all times.

Immediate/Very Short Term Goals: This part of your goal list should include things like errands that need to be run within the next week, exams or papers coming up very soon (the goal would be to pass them), getting your hair cut, and so forth. Put a date that each item must be finished.

6 Month/1 Year Goals: Go through the same steps as you did for your immediate goals.

5 Year Goals: Again, follow the same steps.

4. Plan the Actions You'll Take to Meet Your Goals

On this next sheet, you need to decide exactly what strategies you will follow to meet your goals. If it looks like you really need an extra hour each day, for example, then consider getting up one hour early every day. At the end of a year, you'll have created 365 additional hours for yourself!

While you're making your strategy list, plan what you will do if you are interrupted, for instance. You will get more done if you're not interrupted, so maybe you should turn off the ringer to the phone and the answering machine volume all the way down. Perhaps you need to go to a part of the library where your friends can't find you. Maybe you should lock the door to your bedroom. Interruptions can eat up your day.

5. Establish Good Habits

There are many habits you can establish now, and they will help you for the rest of your life. Don't handle any paper more than one time. When you get mail, either throw it away, file it permanently, or file it in a to do folder.

Have a good filing system for all your lecture notes, exams you've already taken, and so forth.

6. Learn To Deal With Procrastination

Procrastination is the antithesis of time management. It's so easy to procrastinate. You can watch a television show instead of doing your laundry. You might decide to go out to dinner, which will take longer than eating at the Union. You might keep planning an action long after you should have decided what it would be. You might be a perfectionist: nothing is ever good enough. If a task is boring, you will need additional self-discipline in order to achieve it. If you don't like something you have to do, you can procrastinate on this level. Identify the types of procrastinating you do and make goals to change them.

7. Reward Yourself

When you achieve a goal, reward yourself. Go to a movie, out to dinner, or buy a new CD. Knowing that there's a reward at the end of the goal will help you stay on track.

If you follow the above steps toward time management, you will find that you are able to get more done in what seems like (and often is) a shorter period of time than what you allocated. Good time management skills are not inborn; they need to be learned. Later in your life, you'll be glad that you took the time to learn how to manage your time.

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