College can be a stressful time for many students and time management can be one of the most crucial — but tricky — skills to master.
Attending classes, studying for exams, making friends, and taking time to relax and decompress can quickly fill up your schedule. If you often find yourself wishing there were more hours in the day, this guide will offer time management tips for students so you can accomplish what you need to get done, have fun with your friends, and gain back some valuable time for yourself.
1. Create a Calendar
Don’t be caught by surprise by an important paper due two days from now or a dinner with your family the same night you planned for a group study session. Create a calendar for yourself with all your upcoming deadlines, exams, social events, and other time commitments well in advance so you can see what’s coming up.
Keep your calendar in a place where you can see it every day, such as in your planner or on your wall above your desk. If you prefer a digital calendar, check it first thing every day to keep those important events fresh and top-of-mind. For greater efficiency, make sure you can integrate it with your other tools, such as your email.
Digital calendar options include:
2. Set Reminders
After you’ve created your calendar, give yourself periodic reminders to stay on track such as to complete a study guide in advance or schedule a meeting for a group project. Knowing deadlines is important; however, staying on top of the micro tasks involved in meeting those deadlines is just as important. You can set an alarm on your phone, write it down in a physical planner, or add an alert to your digital calendar. The reminders will help to prevent things from slipping through the cracks during particularly hectic days.
Make sure you’ve allotted enough time to study for that big test or write that final paper. Time management is all about setting yourself up for success in advance and giving yourself the tools to accomplish tasks with confidence.
3. Build a Personalized Schedule
Each person’s day-to-day is different and unique to them, so make sure your schedule works for you. Once you’ve accounted for consistent commitments such as classes or your shifts at work, add in study sessions, extracurriculars, chores and errands, and social engagements.
Consider your personal rhythm. If you typically start your day energized, plan to study or accomplish chores then. If you fall into an afternoon slump, give yourself that time to take a guilt-free TV break or see friends.
Having a schedule that works for you will help maximize your time. Plus, knowing exactly when your laundry day is or when your intramural volleyball practice is every week will help you avoid trying to cram everything in one day (or running out of clean socks!)
4. Use Tools That Work For You
Just like your calendar and schedule, the tools you use to keep you organized should be the right fit for you. Some students prefer physical planners and paper, while some prefer going totally digital. Your calendar can help you with long-term planning, but most of these tools are best for prioritizing from day to day.
Explore what best suits your needs with some of the following suggestions:
Planners can help you keep track of long-term deadlines, such as important essay deadlines, upcoming exams, and appointments and meetings. They often provide a monthly overview each month, as well as day-to-day planning sections, so you can stay ahead.
If your schedule is jam-packed and you have trouble figuring out what to do and when, scheduling day by day—and sometimes even hour by hour—can help you slot in everything you need to do with less stress.
From class to study sessions to errands, keeping track of everything can feel overwhelming. Keeping everything in one place, whether on the go or at your desk, can help keep you organized.
Sometimes there really is too much to do with too little time. In these instances, take just a few minutes to evaluate your priorities. Consider which deadlines are most urgent, as well as how much energy you have.
If you are able to complete simple tasks first, try getting them out of the way before moving on to tasks that require a lot of focus. This can help to alleviate some of the pressure by checking a couple things off your to-do list without getting bogged down too early.
If you are struggling to fit everything in your schedule, consider what you can postpone or what you can simply say no to. Your friends will likely understand if you have to meet them for coffee another time in order to get in a final library session before a challenging exam.
6. Make Time to Have Fun — And For Yourself
Time management isn’t just about getting work done. It’s also about ensuring that you can put yourself and your mental wellbeing first. Consistently including time for yourself in your schedule helps to keep your mental health and your life in balance. It can also be helpful to have things to look forward to when going through stressful periods.
Whether it’s going for a bike ride along the river, spending time with your friends and family, or simply sleeping in on a Sunday, knowing you have space to relax and do things you enjoy can provide better peace of mind.
7. Find Support
Preparation and organization can sometimes only get you so far. Luckily, you have plenty of people rooting for your success. Keep yourself and your classmates on task by finding an accountability partner or study buddies. Remind your roommates when you need extra space to work on a paper.
Your school’s academic resource center is also there to support you and point you in the right direction if you need additional help. Getting—and staying—organized is a collaborative effort and no one can do it on their own.
8. Be Realistic and Flexible
Sometimes unforeseen circumstances will come up or you simply may not be able to get to everything you set out to do in a given day. Be patient with yourself when things don’t go exactly to plan. When building your calendar, schedule, and priorities list, be realistic about what you can accomplish and include buffer time if you’re unsure. This can help to reduce obstacles and potential friction.
Time management isn’t just about sticking to a rigid schedule—it’s also about giving yourself space for change.