3 Time Management Tips for Academic Success
Every year during summer orientation, I have the opportunity to gain feedback from all incoming students about their greatest academic concern as they transition to college. And year after year, the most popular concern is this: time management. Students entering college are often used to having their time scheduled for them in a predictable, structured way. Yet in college, they suddenly face the responsibility of how to structure their unstructured time in constructive ways.
Whether we are a student or not, effective time management helps us reach our full potential. It is often the glue that helps us feel more in control, less overwhelmed, and better able to tackle the tasks presented to us. As an Academic Resource Center, we work with students on developing effective time management strategies. Here are three such strategies we often recommend:
How are you using your time? By reflecting on and mapping out your daily or weekly routine, you can get a better sense of where your time goes and adjust accordingly. Employing an 8/8/8 division of a 24-hour day (8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of academic work, and 8 hours of the other stuff of life) may help you assess ways to use academic “work” hours and your other bits of free time wisely.
Are you creating an environment conducive to success? Where are you studying, what time are you most effective at studying, around whom are you studying, and how do you minimize distraction and maximize focus? You will be more productive and use time more wisely in a study environment that suits your needs—for instance, reading intensively in the quiet of the library earlier in the day when you are most alert versus a noisy dorm room at the end of a long day.
How can you break up larger tasks/goals into smaller ones? Breaking up larger tasks into more manageable steps can make the task less overwhelming. For instance, for the six-page research paper due next week, perhaps set daily goals—research one day, the outline the next, and two pages a day for a draft by Friday with time to edit before submitting the final draft on Monday. Similarly, it is to your benefit to distribute study over time in small chunks rather than waiting until the last minute.
What “tools” can you use to help you manage your time? Time management tools such as planners, white boards, online calendars, to-do lists, and so on help keep you organized, see the big picture, master the details and weigh priorities. For the day to day or week to week, mapping out (in writing!) your committed time and free time can help you “see” how much time you actually have. Keep in mind, the right time-management tools are the ones you actually use; be flexible and conscientious about the tools you use and how they serve you.
What are your limits? Consider how you are balancing your academics with other parts of your life—work, social, health needs (sleep, food, exercise, mind/body)—and leave space in your semester plan for the unexpected, such as illness or a malfunctioning computer. Also strive to nurture focus. Know when and how to turn off/tune out technology, minimize distraction and use “life hacks” (strategies to more efficiently use your time) to help you better manage your time to accomplish your academic goals.
What supports are available to help you reach your academic goals? Look for useful people and resources to help you in your pursuit of academic success—for instance, professors, Academic Advisors, reference librarians, additional online resources, classmates and peer tutors, writing specialists and academic coaches. Seeking assistance when needed is a strength, not a weakness, and an opportunity to grow as a scholar.
What effective study strategies can you employ? Work smarter, not necessarily harder. For example, to aid memory, review course materials early and often, and study in ways that reflect how you will need to retrieve the information on tests. In one study, succeeders and strugglers in college spent the same amount of time studying. The difference was their approach to studying.
In a nutshell, taking time to manage your time effectively can greatly benefit your academic success.