Time Management: A Guide to Surviving College



So you’re in college. School, clubs, work, social life–If you’re like the average degree-seeker, chances are your life feels like one big balancing act, threatening to come crashing down at any moment. Instead of shrinking, the mountain of things you have to do only seems to grow. You find yourself wondering how you can possibly get everything done.

This is where time management comes in. Budgeting your time. You have things that you want to do, things you have to do, and only so much time to do them. As much as time management is about managing your time, it’s also about managing yourself.  You can lay out the best schedule for yourself, a schedule that guarantees no time wasted, but that schedule is useless if you don’t make the choice to stick to it. Both the intention and the follow-through are critical to managing your desires, distractions, and time in the most effective way possible. With this in mind, let’s look at 5 ways to accomplish more with your time!

1) Plan ahead

Look to tomorrow, next week, next month to get an idea of what you have coming up–shifts, homework assignments, events, everything. Know when you’re going to to be busy and when you’re going to have freedom to tackle your to-do list. Look at the big picture. Big test coming up in a few weeks? Putting in a lot of hours the weekend before? Start studying earlier. You can avoid accidentally leaving yourself no time to complete an assignment if you get into the habit of budgeting your time. Save yourself a headache and many runs to Starbucks simply by planning ahead!

2) Know your limits

Don’t take on more than you can handle. Your time is not unlimited; spend it wisely. You may have several very wonderful opportunities that you would love to take on, but you’re not doing yourself or anyone else a favor if you overstretch your abilities and end up not being able to do your best. I would love to be able to carry a full load of classes (graduating more quickly!) while earning a full-time income. I also know that my grades would plummet and my job performance would suffer. That’s just not something I can do, and that’s okay. Even if you have a really good reason for taking on extra responsibilities–boosting your resume, getting your foot in the door at your favorite company–don’t end up worse off than you started!

3) Take a break

Remember to budget in some time for rest! Your body and mind need to recharge periodically in order to keep up with all the demands in your life. Try your best to get an average of 7-8 hours of sleep a night (a tall order, I know). Take a break now and then to give your mind a breather. Don’t feel disappointed or frustrated with yourself if you get tired after working all day and need some time to wind down. We’re only human! As long as you balance rest with getting stuff done, you’ll be fine.

4) Motivate yourself

Yes, time management is about self-control, but that doesn’t mean we have to work against ourselves! Find out what gets you motivated to finish that last paper when all you want to do is sleep. What helps you to stay focused? If you need peace and quiet, get yourself up and go to the library. What picks you up when you’re feeling discouraged? Tap into those resources and use them to your advantage in your effort to keep yourself on track. I like to keep my spirits up by promising myself a little reward for finishing an assignment in good time (“If I finish this paper by 6:00, I can eat this chocolate” or something small like that). Doing this helps me to avoid wasting time and keeps me motivated throughout the day. Do what makes it easier to get all that stuff done!

5) Prioritize

You have stuff to get done, but it doesn’t all have to get done at the same time. Focus on what’s urgent and put aside the things that can wait a few days. You might really hate a certain project, but putting it off in order to do other assignments that aren’t as urgent won’t do you any favors. Get into the mindset of prioritization, and it will become easier to get the hard stuff done.

If you practice these five time management tips, don’t be surprised if you find yourself pulling fewer all-nighters and getting your stuff done earlier! As a fellow collegian, I know how difficult and overwhelming life can be. Seriously! I had to put all of these tips into practice just to be able to write this article! I can tell you that these habits work. A bit of planning and self-control, and you’re on your way to less stress in college! Added bonus: Time management is a marketable skill. Employers want people who demonstrate that they can keep to deadlines and work efficiently. If you can put time management skills on your resume and back it up by real-life experience, it can only help you in the next life phase: job-seeking. Good luck!