Thank you Dell and Intel for partnering with me to help college students manage their time!
Alright, friends! I know a handful of you expressed concern over whether or not I’d continue to write college posts during my semester off – and while they may be less frequent, rest assured I have a handful on my editorial calendar! After all, this entire blog started as a college blog, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get away from those roots for a while.
Today I want to talk about time management in college – one thing I can say for sure that I managed to rock last semester. Managing your time in college is one of the hardest things you’ll do.
Beyond just going to class students are expected to have jobs, look for internships, get volunteer hours, and still manage a social life. It gets to be difficult, and it can be way overwhelming.
I have done a few time management posts in the past, but I thought I would make this the queen of posts and condense it into a top ten list making it easy and actionable.
1.) Have a plan.
In high school it was so easy for me to get by simply by ‘winging it.’ I’d go to school, then to cross country, and after that I might eat dinner, get on the internet, start talking with friends, and then – oh yeah! I’ve got a test tomorrow. So I’d study for 30 minutes and get an ‘A.’
In college that doesn’t cut it. College students really need to be utilizing planners and scheduling their weeks, at the very least so they can begin to visualize what they need to get done in the coming days.
Using a Planner for Beginners:
- Pull out all of your syllabi and copy down every single due date, quiz, exam, and final into your planner. This is going to take a while, but it’s going to be worth it.
- If you have recurring meetings for clubs or RSO’s, write them in every single week, too.
- Even if you know it’s at the same time every Wednesday, it’s important to copy it down so each week when you look at your planner you’ll be able to visualize that on Wednesday you’ll have less free time.
- Check your planner every morning. Even if you have an easy day or you know what you’re going to do, this is a good habit to get into!
2.) Leave the apartment.
Or house or dorm or wherever it is you live. If you have a ton to do you do not want to be surrounded by distractions. I lived with three other girls who I love, but I loved them a little too much and when I was getting bored with my work I’d go hang out with them.
My boyfriend and I got in the habit of going to the library or the commons to get work done each night and that was great. The biggest problem with that, though, was managing to find outlets. Of course everyone needs to charge their phones and computers so the seats near outlets were highly coveted.
Before I knew I wasn’t going back to school I got a new Dell XPS 13 and was so excited to put it’s eighteen hour battery life to the test during long days and nights doing school work. If you’re committed to working outside of home – a long battery life will make things a million times easier!
Tip: If you can’t leave your apartment for whatever reason, try and get your work done in a quiet, organized area. Chaos is so distracting!
3.) Focus on your health.
Physical, mental, emotional, all of it. This is where I went wrong, but I want to encourage you to get it right. If something is off – get help. Whether you’re not making time to go to the doctor for a bad cold, or you feel like the world is collapsing around you – you’ll be more productive if you get things under control.
If any aspect of your health is lacking – you’re going to feel it in so many ways. You’ll be working less efficiently, focusing is going to be more difficult, and you won’t have the energy that you otherwise would.
Ways to focus on your health.
- Sleep – aim for 8 hours a night – even if it seems impossible.
- Eat well – put down the Wendy’s and cook something healthy for yourself. My favorite satisfying meal is rice and vegetables. It takes 20 minutes to make, it’s delicious and packed with good carbs for energy, and you’ll likely have left overs. Win!
- Get your blood pumping – I don’t work out a ton, but first thing every morning I do a few squats, a minute or two of jumping jacks, and a plank. It’s also great to do this when you’re studying and losing focus! (Just maybe not in public.)
- Get help when you need it. It took me way too long to start getting help for my emotional issues, and I suffered for it. If you even think something might be off, it’s worth going in at least once.
- Set a routine. If you are having mental/emotional problems and they are keeping you from being able to focus make your bed every morning. This simple act let me start out the day in control and in routine. It was very empowering in a strange little way.
4.) Get an accountability buddy.
If you have a friend taking the same classes as you, study with them at an assigned time. This is going to give your day some extra structure, keep you on tract, and you won’t be able to blow it off to procrastinate.
As a word of caution, though, make sure that your buddy is someone that you’re going to be able to focus with, and someone who is as dedicated as you are. If your buddy doesn’t really care or are prone to goof off, you might be better off studying alone.
5.) Set a time to put your computer away.
This one was hard for me, but I’d tell myself I had to get off of the computer at ten. That really helped me focus on doing the things I needed to do as opposed to the fun little things I liked to do to procrastinate.
Usually on days when I put this time limit into play I got my work done way faster than I otherwise would have. Knowing that staying up all night to finish an assignment isn’t an option I was way more likely to buckled down and focus.
Tip: There are Google Chrome extensions you can use that will block all of the distracting websites for you!
6.) Stay put.
Whereas before I would pack up, walk back to my apartment, chat with my roommates, make a snack, tidy my room, and do a million other unproductive things before getting down to business, going straight from class to working kept me in a disciplined mindset.
The building most of my classes were in had these great windows with big ledge that sat right above stomach height, and working from there was great. I really enjoy standing while I work for some reason, so using those windows as an office was amazing.
7.) Use the Pomodoro Technique!
At the very root of things, the Pomodor Technique is a time management technique that has you working for a set amount of time, and then taking a break for a set amount of time.
To set mine up I first started a timer and then started to work, as soon as I felt myself getting way to distracted I checked and saw that I was able to work focused for 24 minutes. I cut that in half and decided for every 24 minutes I worked I’d get a 12 minute break.
Now the Pomodoro Technique has a specific timing schedule, but I really liked the idea of setting my own based on my focus.
8.) Schedule flexibility and breaks.
Managing your time is not the same thing as being super strictly scheduled. I have friends who know what they are going to do from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep and that just seems miserable.
Knowing what you are going to do and a vague time frame of when you’re going to get it done takes a lot of pressure off of you. On the other hand, if you schedule your days too strictly if one little thing goes wrong the rest of your day will be behind and stressful.
I also am a big advocate of scheduling some fun into your day. Every night before bed I watch Netflix (I know, I know) but I love taking my computer into bed with me and just unwinding while I get ready to sleep. It has an amazing infinity edge screen and a great picture display and just watching from my computer is much easier than syncing my computer and TV.