8 Time Management Tips for Overloaded College Students


Not only should you sit down at the beginning of the semester to map out longer-term projects, but you should also have a system for managing your shorter-term time: your day and your week. Whether you use a paper planner or a phone app, you need a calendar to help you both plan what to do, and remember what you’re supposed to be doing!Start your weekly calendar by filling in fixed obligations including classes, shifts at work, and meetings. Then plan out what to do with the rest of your time. The rule of thumb for most college classes is that you should spend two hours preparing for each hour of class. So if your English class meets for 60 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, you should schedule in two hours of reading on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.Making your weekly calendar at a fixed time — say, every Friday afternoon — gives you an opportunity to look at your long-term plan every week, too. If your semester plan shows that you have a big project due in three weeks, then you can block out some time this week to think about it and make some notes.You can check your calendar as much as you need, of course, but at a minimum it’s a good idea to look at it either first thing in the morning or the night before.

It is possible to try to be a little too clever when you’re struggling to get everything done. It might seem like a good idea to do your Economy problem set while you’re supposed to be taking notes on a Political Science lecture. But your GPA will probably end up suffering in the end. In an emergency situation, skip class and ask a friend to record the lecture, then catch up on it later.When you’re deciding what to multitask, you should also take into account that some of your schoolwork can probably be done quickly under any circumstances — you can work a single math problem in a few minutes on the bus — but other assignments will be “deep work,” work that needs to be done while you are really focused.There’s no point in trying to read a long Philosophy essay a few minutes at a time while responding to patron requests. Give work like that the time it needs, and do it in a location you find productive — popular choices are the library, a quiet lounge, a coffee shop, or your dorm room desk.

College students tend to become overcommitted. Most are young, ambitious, and enthusiastic, and a lot of students sign up for too many activities, too many classes, and too much paid work. It’s the time management version of your eyes being too big for your plate!If you find that you really have more to do than you can handle, you’ll need to triage. Assess everything you’re supposed to be doing, and figure out what really has to be done now, what can be put off, and what can be cancelled.For most college students, aside from true family emergencies, the order of priorities should be academic work, then paid work, then extracurricular activities. While some people might have good reasons to put paid work ahead of academics, you should think very carefully about this.After all, what good is paying for a college education if you don’t learn what you need to learn, or if your grades aren’t good enough to help you get to your next step? In the long run, you might well be better off taking out an extra student loan and focusing on your studies, as opposed to working many hours a week — especially in a minimum-wage job.By the way, if you do find that you need to put off or drop a commitment, make sure you let all the relevant people know as soon as possible. The faster you get in touch with your professors, coaches, bosses, or club presidents, the more likely they are to take the news well and to help you figure out an alternative solution if you need one. And doing so just shows good manners!

If you feel overcommitted, you might also start to develop symptoms that are close to depression or burnout. Many college students drive themselves so hard that they find themselves tense, stressed, and ultimately unable to focus.Part of good time management is making sure you sleep, exercise, and eat enough. When you have too much to do, it can be very tempting to try to shove through everything and stop taking care of yourself. But ultimately, while an all-nighter every now and then won’t kill you, you’ll work much more efficiently if you are well-rested.It’s not just about the “grown-up” parts of downtime, though. It’s also a good idea to have some fun every now and then! Meeting new people, developing friendships, and enjoying the place you live or the places you can travel to — these are all important parts of the college experience whether you’re an 18-year-old freshman or a 45-year-old commuter student.When you write down your weekly schedule, make sure it has plenty of time for socializing, taking long walks, having long meals, and for whatever relaxing, refreshing activities you enjoy.

Your campus probably has a writing center that will help you with longer papers, and individual departments often have tutoring programs. If you’re finding yourself strapped for time, it may just be that you need some extra help with your classes.While the writing center, tutoring programs, and so on are usually available for everyone, if you have a diagnosed disability — whether a learning disability, a mental health issue, or a physical disability — you may well be eligible for special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Speak to your university’s disability office. Some students are eligible for extra time on quizzes and exams, for note-taking services, and for other services that might help with time management.

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