Let’s be real: college is ridiculous when it comes to time management. The schedule of the average student is nothing short of insane, and usually nothing like the 9-5 job you’re supposed get after you graduate or leave. It seems like you spend all four years developing effective time management habits that you’re just going to have to throw out of the window when you’re done.
Teachers and advisors tell you it’s important to keep a stable sleep and meal schedule, but how are you supposed to do that when literally nothing else in your life is stable? How are you supposed to eat three consistent meals a day when all your classes are scheduled during lunch time and all your extracurriculars and group projects meet during dinner? How are you supposed to go to bed at the same time every night when your Mondays and Wednesdays are insanely busy, and your Tuesdays and Thursdays have nothing?
Most of the time we scramble, shoving ramen and granola bars into our mouths at weird times of the day, sneaking in naps and sleeping until 15 minutes before the next class starts (or 3 minutes if you’re lucky). When we get a day off, we’re so burned out from the scrambling we completely crash, and then it becomes even more difficult to get back on our feet and re-enter the rush.
As a person who decided to cram four years of a double major with honors into three years and tried her darndest to also squeeze in a minor in vain, I suck at time management. But I’ve learned a few things about what effective time management looks like. And what it looks like depends on the person. I can’t tell you specifically what to do because I don’t know you or your strengths. But I can give you some overall mindsets that have helped me and may also help you structure your own personal lifestyle that can get you through college a little easier.
#1 Know yourself
As I said before, everyone is different. You may be like me, the type of person who sections new assignments into small chunks to do every day. Or you may be the type of person who thrives best when tackling the assignment all at once. The important thing is to honest with yourself about how you study best and making efforts to adjust your habits around that.
#2 Know your limits
Don’t be afraid to take breaks. You’re supposed to take a 15-minute break for every 60 minutes of work, and while it’s likely you won’t be able to do that consistently, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that you need some rest. This also applies to those who have a hard time saying no and end up over-working themselves. You don’t have to do everything; in fact, you can’t. Saying no frees up time to put more quality work into your most important tasks.
#3 Keep track of things
It’s helpful to keep track of when you’re busy and when you’re free so you don’t accidentally double-book yourself, but it’s also a good way to monitor your free time. You should schedule some time to yourself everyday if you can (sometimes you can’t, and that’s okay). Having a planner on your phone, or even just a sheet of paper you keep in your backpack, helps you know what’s ahead, too.
#4 Don’t be afraid to push yourself
I know this kind of seems like it’s directly contradicting the last point, but one of my favorite things about college is how it has showed me what I’m capable of. I’ve learned a lot about what I’m good at and what I’m not, and that when I applied myself, I can do more than I had ever expected. I know it’s cheesy, but working hard and push yourself isn’t lame. It’s one of the reasons you’re here, isn’t it?
#5 Be proud of yourself
You’re in college. That’s amazing. You’ve made it this far, and you’re doing so well. Celebrate your accomplishments, whatever they may be. Try every day to recognize something that you’ve accomplished. That may be doing well on an exam, turning in an essay on time or just remembering to drink water. You do amazing things every day.
The gist of this is that it’s hard to come up with time management tips that will work for everyone. Different people have different levels of academic intensity, different amounts of involvement in extracurricular activities and different types of homework or studying styles. Some of you may benefit from a consistent bedtime or from studying in small chunks, and some of you may benefit from sleeping when you can to and doing what you can every day, however much that is. The important thing is to know yourself and know what’s healthy and effective for you. And eventually, after your college journey is over, you can look back and laugh incredulously at how ridiculous and chaotic it was.