Time management is the process of organizing and planning how to divide time between specific activities. Good time management enables you to work smarter – not harder – so that more can get done in less time, even when time is tight and pressures are high. Failing to manage time decreases productivity and causes stress.
Effective time management is an important skill for successful college students to practice. There’s often a transition period for incoming students from high school who are unaccustomed to the amount of free time available in college. Even experienced college students may sometimes struggle trying to balance academics, extracurricular activities, and social lives. Learning planning skills and strategies like the ones listed below can help you improve your time management.
- Read your syllabi. One of the first and most important steps in achieving successful time management in college is to read all syllabi carefully. This eliminates the chance of assignments and due dates sneaking up at the last minute. Keep these dates and assignments on a “semester at a glance” or “month at a glance” calendar.
- Plan ahead. Good planning includes reading syllabi and planning ahead for extracurricular and social activities. Creating a plan will help balance work and fun, making it possible to avoid “all-nighters” or unproductive cram-sessions. Make a regular habit of checking calendars 7 days in advance to give you enough time to accomplish tasks or reschedule conflicts.
- Make checklists. Writing out checklists for each class or each day of the week can be a helpful way of remembering everything that needs to get done. Crossing items off the list allows you to appreciate each little accomplishment along the way. Write due dates and reminders from your calendar on your checklist. This way, you’re connecting each of these time management strategies to have the most success.
- Stay organized. Keeping schoolwork organized can be a huge factor in saving time throughout the week. Be sure to keep notebooks, handouts, and study areas organized in a way that always allows them to be easily located.
- Be healthy. Practicing regular exercise and healthy eating can keep energy levels up, resulting in a more engaged mind when doing schoolwork. Additionally, working out and healthy eating decrease stress levels.
- Establish priorities. Discover what you value most. Prioritizing to-do lists can help you see what tasks are more important than others. Some tasks can wait, some need to be finished as soon as possible, and some can be tossed.
- Build in flexibility. Life is unpredictable; building wiggle room into your schedule will help you be prepared in the event of an unexpected change of plans.
Avoid Decision Fatigue
Decision fatigue is the idea that the quality of your decisions deteriorates after a long session of decision making. As a person makes decisions throughout the day, the brain depletes its limited mental stamina and starts employing one of two shortcuts: making rash decisions or altogether avoiding decision making. Adding routine into your daily life combats decision fatigue, because your brain already knows what is coming next. This allows your brain more energy to work through more important decisions throughout the day. Creating a routing gives you stronger will-power, better focus, and the mental energy to make decisions throughout the day.
Tips to Overcome Decision Fatigue
- Make your big decisions in the morning. Your mind is clearer and you’re not worn from the day’s activities yet.
- Choose the simpler option. Depending on the complexity of the issue, decisions will require varying amounts of time. But for more immediate or smaller decisions, picking the simplest solution is probably the better choice.
- Limit your options. If you have too many, narrow it down to three choices.
- Go minimalist. This is particularly good advice when it comes to clothes. Get rid of old clothes cluttering your closet and choose outfits the night before. This way you don’t spend time sifting through clothes in the morning.
- Remove yourself from situations or places that distract. Or at least keep your engagement to a minimum. For example, if social media is distracting you, set the timer for five minutes, then stop browsing when the timer goes off.
- If it’s not on your to-do, then the decision is no (at least for the day). When it comes to getting your most important things done, you’ll need to say “no” to some things. Saying “yes” to everything really means saying “no” to big priorities.
- Make your first decision work. Once you make your choice, follow through with it until the end. If it doesn’t work out or there’s an emergency, move on to your second choice or reschedule action on it.