5 Ways I Use Time Management to Stay Sane in College

what life feels like when you aren't using time management
an actual picture of my brain when I have poor time management skills

By the end of the year, everyone in college is either staying afloat to some degree or sinking fast. It all depends on how you adjust and use time management skills. Having to take responsibility for your life can complicate your schedule in crazy ways! One day you’re a high school graduate. Then the next day you have to get to class and work, make time for family and friends, join organizations, and volunteer. Somewhere in there you supposedly find time to do your homework.

A geometric shape that lists many different things college students deal with well or poorly depending on their time management (ex: work, class, family, hobbies)

The amount of stuff that college can throw at you can be scary and overwhelming! And that’s why if you don’t use time management or don’t use it the right way, it might feel super hard! But with time management, you can make things a little more, well, manageable for yourself.

1. The Golden Rule of Time Management (and life)

I’m going to drop examples of how I manage my life throughout this post. But just like with an #fitspo influencer’s workout routine, what works for me might not work for you. Don’t copy me and assume it will work perfectly in your life (though if it does you’re welcome 😉 ). So besides sharing my solutions, I’ll also give you lots of ideas, hopefully not to the point of being overwhelming.

In other words: “Do what works for you!”

Yes, that may take some trial and error. It might be slow-going or confusing at first, but honestly that’s how most of life goes. It’s a little hard before it pays off and gets easier. And it will! You’re overall going to make an improvement on your life if you practice time management techniques.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump into the real stuff!

2. Keep Track

If your schedule’s consistent or not too crazy, you might not have to worry about this. For me however, I have appointments for work, events for organizations and church, and so many things that come up that I need some way to stay on top of that all! So every weekend, I look at the next week to figure out what’s going on and how to schedule it. Here’s a couple of different ways to do that.

Use your phone’s calendar

You can put pretty much anything in here that has an actual time. For me, that’s class, work and church–so I know for sure what times I’m unavailable–special events, and appointments. Other things you could include are exams, volunteering, and org meetings.

Write it down in a planner or bullet journal

These give you the advantages of seeing the big picture and planning out the details. The monthly calendar shows you how your life will be different from week to week. You’ll probably have a weekly page too, which I find useful for my to-do lists, like homework assignments, my blog writing schedule, and little errands I need to do.

Take advantage of your Notes app

Something as simple as personal notes, whether in an app or on paper, can be helpful for keeping track of dates for one specific thing. For example, every semester I make a list in OneNote of all my homework assignments organized by due date. That way when I’m planning my week, I know what to expect in terms of class load. You could also try this for a club’s meeting dates, randomly scheduled appointments, or to-dos that have a deadline.

“He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out the plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.” (Victor Hugo)

This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, so you can use just one of these ideas or as many as you want!

3. Break It Down

It’s good to know what’s coming up in the future. But knowing is half the battle, and the other half is figuring out how you’re going to break your deadlines down into manageable steps! There’s no exact way I can tell you to do this, but it’ll really depend on your week and what goal you’re trying to pull apart.

When you have your week planned, that is, you know what your set-in-stone schedule looks like, take a look at your deadlines: your homework assignments, any work or organization projects, and any other things that need time, but are more flexible on when you can do them. Figure out the steps you need to take for each: if you have a test coming up, what do you need to study and how will you do that? (Visit my test prep post for more information on that!) If you have a paper due, how much will you write every night? Then once you’ve figured out your steps, divide them up between your days. Just make it reasonable based on how time you can spare!

4. Know Your Strengths

One more factor to this equation is knowing how to estimate how much time you’ll need for each task. You can get as technical in figuring this out as you’d like! Maybe you already know that you can get those math or accounting problems out of the way pretty quickly, but you might need a little more time for writing a response to a paper or case study. Or maybe you get a timer and actually track how long it takes you to do different things when you’re intently focused. Maybe you don’t even think about this at all! But trust me, if you take your strengths into consideration when building a daily task list, you’ll have a much more reasonable schedule.

One caveat I’ll add to this however is that the tasks you need to finish will often take as long as the time provided. For example, that long final paper your professor told you about at the beginning of the semester can easily be done throughout the class, but it could be done the two days or even night before it’s due. The difference however is how thorough the work is that goes into it. Don’t skimp on the time needed to do things well!

5. Prioritize

Finally, I’ll admit that even though you could make an amazing schedule, know how much time you need, and even plan a little free time into your day, one of life’s rules is that it often ignores the rules of your schedule. You might have extra homework given to you last minute, have meetings run long, or have a friend that needs help. Some days no matter how hard you try, the to-do list is near impossible to complete.

When that happens, you need to prioritize what you’ve got. If you simply have different classes’ homework and projects that need to be done, prioritize it by the due date and how much time it requires. But if multiple parts of your life have to-dos, I find a time matrix very helpful.

An example of a time matrix
From http://www.mytimemanagement.com/time-management-for-students.html

A time matrix allows you to categorize the things in your life based on urgency and importance. I might do a post on this someday. But for now, I encourage you to look at the link below the example if you’re interested in learning more.

That’s it for this week! If you have any questions or your own time management tips, I’d love to read them in the comments section!

Until next time,
Emmalee

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