One of the most jarring changes for students going from high school to college is the sudden responsibility to manage their own time. In high school, most minutes of the day are decided for you; but in college, you have to learn to schedule your own life outside of classes. Though you will find your college class schedule often allows for more free hours during the day, you will also find those hours quickly disappear if you are not careful to plan them wisely.
Luckily, time management is a skill, and it can be learned. If you are overwhelmed by the prospect of managing your own time right now, just know that with effort and a little extra strategy, you will learn to schedule your life in the most effective way possible while still having time for yourself.
Here is some advice for success in cultivating time management skills for college students. Of course, your time management strategies should fit your personal style, but these tips are generally tried and true, so they will give you a great blueprint if you are unsure where or how to start.
Maintain a Calendar
Whether you are more of a digital calendar on a phone/tablet/computer or a physical day planner type of person, recording all your appointments in a calendar is absolutely crucial to time management. No matter how talented you think you are with remembering responsibilities, the collegiate workload and long list of social activities on campus will catch you off guard at least once, so better to be prepared.
Calendars will help you stay organized, anxiety-free, and more aware of how you are spending your time. You can even schedule studying and hours here and there to get your homework done.
Some college students find it helpful to create a color-coded calendar with a different colored highlights or bullet points for each type of commitment—red for classes, orange for deadlines, yellow for work, and blue for social events, for example. The different colors will help your brain process how your day looks and also alert you to the most important appointments you have throughout the day.
Keep Priorities in Mind
With that said, color-coding can also help you remember which commitments are most important to you. If you want to do well in your classes, you have to make studying and finishing reading and homework assignments priorities. If you know you have a test in one class, prioritize studying for that class and finish the reading for another class later. You can also make sure you prioritize taking time for yourself by making sure to schedule meals, time for exercise, keeping in touch with friends and family, and enjoying activities just for fun.
Schedule Free Time
Though it might seem like you have absolutely no time for yourself while you are in college, keeping your calendar up-to-date will hopefully show you that it is possible to take some moments to just focus on self-care. Even taking five to ten minutes to meditate, exercise, call a friend or family member, watch a quick hilarious video, breathe deeply, or read for enjoyment can make you feel like a new person.
If you do not actually put your free time on your schedule, chances are it will get forgotten in the shuffle of your busy college life. Do yourself a favor and schedule some time for you—even to get to sleep at a decent hour. No matter how productive you think you are being by working constantly on your goals, every human being is susceptible to stress and burnout, and you will find it’s better to prevent it rather than realize your body is shutting down the day before an important test or event.
Another great way to make sure you have the time for the activities that are important to you is to set reminders for yourself. You can set reminders on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop that tell you when to start studying for an important test, visit one of your professor’s office hours, sign up for an elective class, attend a meeting for a new student group, take five minutes to breathe, call your best friend from home, or really anything that deserves a reminder! If you are trying to use less technology, you could try placing sticky notes around your living space or in your planner to remind you of ways you want to spend your time. As the old saying goes, a short pencil is better than a long memory!
Limit Social Media
If you want a great 21st century tip to manage your time more effectively, limit your social media browsing. Maybe you think you already do that, but try timing yourself while you are checking Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc., and you will likely be shocked at how long you actually spend on social media. Although social media serves its purpose, spending too many minutes (or hours) looking at photos and posts from other people is not going to help you reach your own goals or even just get your homework done. Try limiting the time you spend on social media by giving yourself blocks of time in which you have to focus on another tasks like reading or homework.
How is this possible, you ask? You may have heard of applications like Focus, Cold Turkey, Self Control, Offtime, Flipd, Moment, Freedom, and FocusMe that block social media on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. These are simple college student hacks to remind you to make other activities a priority and focus on writing that paper or minimizing the stress that comes with upcoming deadlines. Of course, you can also try keeping track of your own social media time and monitor yourself, but applications tend to be a bit louder, more annoying, and easier to obey.
By keeping these tips in mind, you will find that you are better at managing your time in college than you ever thought possible. As long as you plan to spend your time wisely, you probably will. Everyone slips up now and then, but as long as you work hard to manage your moments, you will get all your work done and still have an hour or two here and there to enjoy yourself.