The Freshman 15: Time Management Tips

As we make our way through the spring semester, we find ourselves in a bit of a rut. We’re not quite done with classes — there’s still another full month of papers, projects, exams and other obligations — but we’re past our early-semester stage of perfect grades and attendance. We might still be doing well in our classes, but not as well as we did in January, when we started putting our resolutions into practice. It has gotten harder and harder to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning and stumble over to our early classes, and we have more and more difficulty choosing our academics over our social lives.

Therefore, this month’s Freshman 15 is all about getting back into the swing of things after Spring Break! Let’s get back into motion with 15 time management tips for college students. (Tweet this!)

The Freshman 15: Time Management Tips

1. Office supplies are your new best friends.
I’m not just saying this because of my weird fascination with spiral notebooks and post-its. In general, it is important to keep track of your dates as thoroughly as possible so that you never overbook yourself. In my case, that means keeping my zebra datebook in my backback, updating the calendar on my phone regularly, and recording important dates on the colorful dry-erase calendar in my room. If you aren’t as crazy as I am, I suggest at minimum a day planner with calendars and a page for each week, so that you can schedule your days more accurately. Office Max has a few examples.

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2. Maintain a weekly checklist.
This is something I started doing last summer that has worked miracles for me. At the end of each week, I create a checklist of every school task, appointment and club meeting that I have coming up the following week. Then, as I complete those tasks, I check them off. Having this list is a great way to not lose track of certain assignments or obligations.

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3. Maintain a daily checklist.
This may be a bit of an overkill, but if you write down a list each day of what you wish to accomplish, it will help keep you on pace. In the mornings, I create a list on my dry-erase board next to my desk, and then as I complete each task, I erase it. That way, the less writing there is on my board, the more productive I have been. Again, having so manyΒ lists may seem a bit extreme, but for the busiest of us, it can be a lifesaver. This gives you multiple reminders so that you can’t make any excuses.

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4. Learn to multitask.
Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. While we certainly have a lot more free time when we’re doing things efficiently, we still have to realize that the clock is ticking regardless. Because of this, it is important to learn to multitask whenever possible. Take advantage of the time as best as you can. If you have to read for tomorrow’s class but you also have to go to the gym, for example, bring your book and rest it in front of you as you work on the elliptical. If you need to clean your room but you really want to catch up on last night’s episode of Bones, do both. If you know you are going to be sitting around in a waiting room for a while, take study materials with you and prepare for next week’s exam. Find ways to kill two birds with one stone (but not literally, because killing isn’t a nice thing to do).

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5. Sacrifice some of your social life.
Sure, you may want to hang out with your friends tonight, but if you have a paper to write, then you need to say no to your friends. It might sound like a simple concept, but people struggle with this concept all the time (myself included). Realize that you have to come first from time to time, and don’t feel guilty about not joining in on dinner plans. There will always be other social gatherings in the future.

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6. Shut down electronics.
I’m no statistician — Β in fact, I don’t even play one on TV — but I’d venture to guess that at least 85 percent of U.S. college students have procrastinated at one point or another because of their participation in social media (*cough* Facebook! *cough*) or other Internet activities. The resolution? Turn off your computer. Silence your phone. Get away from all the action (ie: tweets and Facebook status updates) and worry about your homework. I promise you can catch up on the virtual world later. (Editor’s Note: …Β But please continue reading this blog!)

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7. Prioritize!
Maybe on Thursdays you’re ambitious. You want to tackle as many things as possible at once, so your list for the day is twice as long as that of any other day. Of course, some tasks on the list are more important and time-sensitive than others, so you can mark those tasks in some way to designate their high priority. For example, you will probably want to finish making flash cards for this week’s exam before you take on an ambitious cleaning project.

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8. Don’t overbook yourself.
If you enroll in 18 credits of classes, take part in several organizations, intern during the week and have a job on the side, you are probably biting off more than you can chew. Of course, this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I know several people who spread themselves thin in college, and it wore them out. Seize the day – take advantage of those clubs and opportunities that interest you most – but don’t fill up your calendar too quickly, either. Make sure you have enough time to do everything you have committed yourself to do, and be able to do it well.

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9. Break things up.
Large assignments can be daunting, so one of the best ways to approach them is to split them into parts. When I have a book to read for my literature class, for example, I count the number of pages in the book in total, then divide that by the number of days I have to read the book itself. That way, I can take on a little bit every day, and not become too overwhelmed by one book. The same goes for projects — do a portion of it daily so that you aren’t saving some heinous assignment until late on Sunday night.

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10. Keep up with the essentials.
If you aren’t eating regular meals or getting enough sleep, you won’t be able to effectively complete your work or meet all of your obligations. Regardless of what is going on around you, you have to make your nutrition and sleep patterns a priority. Otherwise, your body will hate you later and you will be completing your work even less effectively than before.

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11. Be wary of online classes.
Online classes can be a huge gift in the sense that they give you the freedom to work at your own pace (more or less) and allow you to complete your assignments in the comfort of your own home/dorm. However, online classes are easy to forget about because you don’t have a set time to attend, and you don’t have a professor that you meet with face-to-face to discuss your progress or upcoming assignments in the class. Therefore, only choose an online class if you consider yourself a disciplined person or if you are willing to figure out a specific time every day to complete the classwork so that it may feel like a regular class.

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12. Change your location.
Because it feels quite dull to sit in your dorm room all day studying, it becomes easy to find distractions – books, unnecessary cleaning projects, television, etc. – so choosing a new location can be a great way to get a new perspective and forget about looking for other things to do. Bring your books outside on a sunny day, or visit the library, computer lab or a student lounge. Finding a new place to go will make it more difficult to become distracted by your own personal items in your surroundings.

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13. Don’t save your assignments for the morning.
As bad as all-nighters are, half-nighters are even worse. When you stay up late and then resolve to complete your assignment early in the morning (most likely three or four hours later, anyway), you sleep less restfully and you always lose time in the morning. Trust me, you’re never up as early as you plan to be in those situations, and you end up racing the clock when you do finally get started on things. Get a head start on your work early so that you don’t end up in these late night situations — your decision-making is never very good at that point, anyway!

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14. Take a well-deserved break.
Workaholics, when you do get time to relax, please do it wisely. Don’t spend all of your free time in planning mode or else you will go insane. Find a hobby or interest that allows you to rest and do that when you have the chance. You will be much more efficient and lively once you do return to your work if you take breaks when you need to (no more, no less).

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15. Know thyself.
Realize that different tips will work for different types of people, and know that you may be the exception to some of these rules. Maybe you have a better way to manage your time, or maybe these tips don’t work as well for you as you would like them to. These are just a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help you to improve your time management, but there is always something for everybody. Recognize the type of person you are and how your mode of operation affects the way you get things done.

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Questions for readers:

– What is your biggest time management struggle?
– What tips would you offer to those who have trouble with time management?
– What other college topics would you like to see in future Freshman 15 articles?

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