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Learning Center

Manage Your Time

Think of all the commitments, often conflicting, that you have. First, you attend classes a certain number of hours/week. The average student will spend approximately 15 hours/week in the classroom. You have to prepare for your courses by doing the assigned reading and homework. You have exams and papers due for your classes, sometimes in the same week or on the same day. Some students have part-time jobs that require a portion of the time they have free outside of class. Of course, students have friends and want to socialize and have fun. Sleep and other forms of rest/relaxation are also necessary. Learning to manage your time is essential to your success as a student. Managing your time means developing ways to make sure that you get done everything that you need to, and that you do it well.

If you've experienced even just one of the following, you need to improve the way you manage your time:

  • Feeling like you've got so little time but so much to study
  • Not knowing where to begin
  • Feeling that there's too much to remember
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • The exhausting all-nighter
  • Cramming before an exam

Here are some tips on how to manage your time:

  • Avoid taking too many courses with heavy reading loads in the same semester. For example, you might choose not to take a course in the British novel if you are taking a history course and a philosophy course. Avoid taking more than one course you feel you will have difficulty with in the same semester; for example, if you are weak in math and science, try to avoid taking math and physics, or chemistry and biology during the same time. If you don't like to/are not good at writing, avoid taking too many courses at once for which you will have to do a lot of writing.
  • Schedule time between classes. Try to avoid scheduling too many classes back to back, since by the time you get to the classes you schedule later in the day, you will have a hard time concentrating. Some students try to schedule their classes so that they have one or two complete days "off" during the week. This may not be the best approach. Also, scheduling free time between classes gives you the opportunity to review, do some homework, eat, or relax.
  • Learn to think like a planner! Planning is really a way to visualize your time, a way to gain control over the many responsibilities you have as a student. Even the best students can get overwhelmed when assignments for different classes are due in the same week or on the same day. Planning can help you avoid becoming overwhelmed and anxious (two major reasons why we procrastinate). There are two kinds of planning to master, and both are necessary:
    • The first is shorter-term planning, which applies to class preparation and keeping up with the reading for each of your courses. This kind of planning entails getting a sense of your daily and weekly schedules, learning how much preparation each of your courses generally takes, and a great deal of discipline.
    • The other kind of planning is longer-term planning, which applies to studying for major exams, writing papers, or preparing projects. Because your daily class prep and reading don't cease when you have an exam or paper due in a particular class, you need to be prepared for how to allot and use your time.

An effective way to plan is to use a calendar to map out your time:

  • Get a calendar and record on it when your classes meet and the due dates of all your exams, papers, and projects. Doing this will allow you to visualize the time you have leading up to and between major deadlines.
  • Place this calendar where you will always see it. For example, on the wall above your desk or, if you buy a desk calendar, on your desk. If you use a wall calendar, it is helpful to tear the separate pages off and hang them side by side on the wall so you can see your whole semester at once. Refer to the calendar often; recording dates isn't going to help you unless you refer to it frequently.
  • Get an overview of each week's assignments, and make a plan for what you will study and when you will study it. It may change from week to week, depending upon what work is due or what course is the most difficult. The point is to make a plan in the beginning of the week so that you know what you can and can't do that week. Sunday night may be a good night to plan for the week ahead; it makes a good transition out of the weekend and into the school week.
  • You might develop a system for making major due dates stand out, such as writing them in red ink or in all capital letters.
  • You might also add due dates that you set for yourself, ones that allow you to plan your time in preparation for a due date. For example, if you have an exam on a Thursday, you might note to begin studying the Thursday before, or note day by day which chapters you will cover. Plan ahead for exams, papers, or other big projects.
  • Schedule study time on more than one day for an upcoming exam.
  • As you plan your study time, make distinctions between the kinds of work you need to do and how much time it will take you to do it. Reading chapters, organizing/ rewriting class notes, and doing problems probably require different amounts of time than writing papers or preparing for exams. For example, you may need to dedicate 3 hours for studying notes and 3 hours on two separate days preceding an exam for reviewing homework problems.
  • If you have major social commitments, such as family birthdays, friends' parties, holidays, etc., record them on your calendar. You will be able to "see" that either you do have time for these events or you need to devote that time to studying.
  • Take advantage of small blocks of time. Time between classes can be used for effective study, and can diminish the time you need to spend studying at night.