Developing time management skills is a journey that may begin with the guide below but will need more time, practice, and additional direction along the way.
One goal is to help yourself become aware of how you use your time as one resource in organizing, prioritizing, and succeeding in your studies in the context of competing activities of friends, work, family, etc.
Strategies on Using Time
These applications of time management have proven to be effective as good study habits.
As we go through each strategy, jot down an idea of what each will look like for you.
Blocks (of Study Time and Breaks)
As your term begins and your course schedule is set, develop and plan for blocks of study time in a typical week. Blocks ideally are around 50 minutes, but perhaps you become restless after only 30 minutes? Some difficult material may require more frequent breaks. Shorten your study blocks if necessary-but don't forget to return to the task at hand. What you do during your break should give you an opportunity to have a snack, relax, or otherwise refresh or re-energize yourself. For example, plan blocks of time for when you are most productive: are you a morning person or a night owl?
Try It: Jot down one best time block you can study. How long is it? What makes for a good break for you? Can you control the activity and return to your studies?
- Use this convenient weekly outline: 168 Hours in a Week
Dedicated Study Spaces
It’s important to determine a place free from distraction (no cell phone or text messaging!) where you can maximize your concentration and be free of the distractions that friends or hobbies can bring. You should also have a back-up space that you can escape to, like the library, departmental study center, even a coffee shop where you can be anonymous. A change of venue may also bring extra resources.
Try It: List the best study spaces you can think of and would use. What would be your back-up location?
Weekly reviews and updates are also an important strategy. Each week, like a Sunday night, review your assignments, your notes, and your calendar. Be mindful that as deadlines and exams approach, your weekly routine must adapt to them!
Try It: Review last week. What is the best time you could use to review?
Prioritize Your Assignments
When studying, get in the habit of beginning with the most difficult subject or task. You'll be fresh and have more energy to take them on when you are at your best. For more difficult courses of study, try to be flexible. For example, build in reaction time when you can get feedback on assignments before they are due.
Try It: Give yourself a few days to have your next paper reviewed so you can implement changes. What class will you start studying for first this week? What subject has always caused you problems?
Achieve "Stage One"--Get Something Done!
The Chinese adage of the longest journey starting with a single step has a couple of meanings: First, you launch the project! Second, by starting, you may realize that there are some things you have not planned for in your process. Details of an assignment are not always evident until you begin the assignment. Another adage is that "perfection is the enemy of good", especially when it prevents you from starting. Given that you build in review, roughly draft your idea and get going. You will have time to edit and develop later.
Try It: Identify where to begin your next assignment.
Postpone Unnecessary Activities Until the Work is Done!
Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until your school work is finished. This can be the most difficult challenge of time management. As learners, we always meet unexpected opportunities that look appealing, then result in poor performance on a test, on a paper, or in preparation for a task. Distracting activities will be more enjoyable later without the pressure of the test, assignment, etc. hanging over your head. Think in terms of pride of accomplishment. Instead of saying "no" learn to say "later".
Try It: List a few distractions that cause you to stop studying. Use your show or videogame as a reward after completing your assignment.
Identify Resources to Help You
Are there tutors? An expert friend? Have you tried a google search to get better explanations? Are there specialists in the library that can point you to resources? What about professionals and professional organizations. Using outside resources can save you time and energy, and solve problems.
Try It: Write down three examples for that difficult subject above. Be as specific as possible. Hint: Your Lion Life Coach can be a great resource.
Use Your Free Time Wisely
Think of times when you can study "bits" as when walking, riding the bus, waiting in line, etc. Perhaps you've got music to listen to for your course in music appreciation, or drills in language learning? Small segments of "in-between" time are perfect for routine tasks like flash cards, or if you can concentrate, to read or review a chapter. The bottom line is to put your time to good use.
Try It: List one example of where you might be able to apply free time to your studies.
Review Notes and Readings Just Before Class
This may prompt a question or two about something you don't quite understand that you can then ask about in, or after, class. It also demonstrates to your professor that you are prepared and interested in the subject matter.
Try It: Think about your class routine and where you may be able to review close to class time.
Review Lecture Notes Just After Class
The first 24 hours are critical because forgetting material happens within 24 hours without review!
Try It: Think about your class and study routines and determine where you can fit in some review time after your classes.
Select one of the ten applications above and develop a new study habit!
Try something you have a good chance of following through and accomplishing. Nothing succeeds like a first successful try!
Develop criteria for adjusting your schedule to meet both your academic and non-academic needs.
- Create a simple "To Do" list
Creating a list will help you identify a few items, the reason for doing them, a timeline for getting them done. Print your list and post it for reminders.
- Daily/weekly planner
Write down appointments, classes, and meetings in a planner or on your IPAD or laptop.