By Jayme McCarty
- DO plan ahead! Have and use some sort of planning tool. Whether it’s an app on your phone or a physical agenda planner, jotting down all the things you have to do will help ensure that you don’t forget anything. As soon as you find out about an event, are given an assignment or schedule a new appointment, add it to your calendar; even if it’s as simple as a lunch date with a friend next Thursday. This will help you stay on top of your work and remind you of upcoming events!
- DO get organized! Color-code each area of your life. Use a different color for each class, work, extracurricular activities, appointments, and personal life to keep all the things in your planner separated and clear. Label your binders, file important paperwork, and sort through the things that you do and don’t need on a regular basis.
- DO set goals! Daily, weekly, monthly – whatever keeps you on track! First things first, set accomplishable goals. Be realistic with yourself and what you are capable of completing within a certain amount of time. Write these goals down where you will see them frequently, like on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator. Keep a to-do list, prioritize what needs to be done first, and cross things off as you complete them. This will help you see how much you’ve accomplished over a particular duration of time.
- DO stay focused! Set a specific time every day that is designated toward working on assignments. Limit distractions by turning off your phone while working on homework and work in an area that doesn’t disturb your train of thought. Find someone to study with who can hold you accountable to actually complete your tasks. Set yourself up to be productive and successful and see how much more you get done in a faster amount of time!
- DO take breaks! Give yourself a “brain break” by setting a healthy study-to-break ratio. This could be set as 45 minutes of studying with 10 minute breaks in between, for example. But find whatever works for you! During breaks, try exercising, getting outside, drinking water, eating a healthy snack, talking to a friend, or rewarding yourself with a few minutes on your phone. Set timers to keep yourself on track! Although it may not seem like it is necessary to take a break that frequently, these few minutes can help you feel rewarded as dopamine is released into your brain in order to make you feel happy and give you a sense of accomplishment.
- DON’T procrastinate! Waiting until the last minute to complete your assignments only puts more pressure and stress on yourself. Once you find out about an assignment or project, start it right away in order to stay on top of things and not let them pile up! This guarantees you will get things done and turned in in a timely manner, perhaps even early! Starting your assignments early also allows you to consult your professor or peers about any problems you might come across before turning it in.
- DON’T isolate yourself! Make sure to reward your good habits of managing your time by scheduling in some free time for yourself. Get out and spend time with your friends when you can. If this isn’t possible, plan to study with a group of friends or meet at a coffee shop to finish up whatever you need to do. Mixing socialization and productivity can be super helpful.
- DON’T cut out necessary tasks! When you’ve got a lot to do and feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, you’ll sometimes find yourself cutting out things to fit in others. Some of the easiest things to cut out include eating, exercising, and showering. But these are also some of the things that are essential to our well-being. Cutting out dinner may make it seem like you’ll have an extra thirty minutes to work, but your brain also needs that energy from a meal to function. Don’t forget that your health (and hygiene) are just as important as that paper you have due at midnight.
- DON’T over book! It’s important to remember that it’s okay to say no to things! Sometimes you have to put yourself and your priorities first. Learn to recognize when you’ve got plenty on your plate and when it would be too much to take on more. If someone asks you to help them, consider whether you will still be able to meet your deadlines in time. It’s okay to put you and your grades first.
- DON’T underestimate! Not everything will go right when you study. This means it’s time to plan for the unexpected. Plan for interruptions, distractions, last minute changes, bad internet and bad lab partners. All of this will add to the amount of time you need for each assignment. This way you won’t miss that midnight deadline anytime.
When you’ve got a lot going on and it feels impossible to make time for everything, make sure to think back and incorporate some of these tips. It’s never too late to build on your time management skills and, hopefully, this blog gave you some ideas on how to organize and prepare better in the future.
Just remember: it’s only good time management when you can actually manage everything. So be realistic, and learn to accept that not everything can be done in just one day.