10 Expert Tips for Time Management
Tackling procrastination, prioritizing, exercising discipline, developing a system, and reaping rewards are key tips to taming the time-management beast.
by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
When students begin to struggle in school, time management is often the culprit. Procrastination, missed deadlines, and not enough time to polish assignments are all symptoms of poor time management.
Without the watchful eyes of parents and the structure of high school, newfound freedom is often behind college students' descent down the slippery slope of bad time habits.
A number of time-honored (pun intended) tips can help keep you on track, prioritize, and never turn in another late assignment.
Here are 10 tips for managing your time effectively.
1. Conquer Procrastination.
Break projects and assignments into smaller pieces so you won't be overwhelmed and procrastinate. If you commit to tackling even the smallest piece of an assignment, you may find yourself doing more.
2. Determine What to Do First.
After breaking an assignment into components, decide whether it's more your style to jump on the easy or hard parts first. Some people are motivated by getting the difficult parts out of the way, while others find it easier to get started if they first attack the less challenging aspects.
3. Get a Buddy.
Find a friend to whom to be accountable for your time commitments. Pledge to your time-management buddy that you will complete X task by X time.
4. Stay Busy.
The busiest people are usually the best at managing time because they have no choice. Staying involved will force you to keep track of your time commitments -- while also giving you a well-rounded college life.
5. But Know When to Say No.
Busy, involved students are the ones most often asked to take on even more. Know your limitations. Yes, stay busy, but don't overload yourself.
6. Develop a System.
Whether a planner, calendar, to-do list, or personal digital assistant (PDA) device, find a system that works for you to remind you of where you need to be and when, as well as when your assignments are due. It is said that it takes 21 days to break old habits and establish new ones, so give any system you try a chance to work for you.
7. Make the Most of Your "Unusable" Time.
Read assignments while commuting on public transportation and listen to audiobooks while driving. Study for tests between classes.
8. Limit Time-Sucking Activities.
Don't let yourself fall into the black hole of spending hours checking e-mail, watching TV, going on Facebook, or sending text messages. Limit those activities to strict time blocks. Students probably spend more time talking on cell phones than any other activity. Don't give that up, but do find ways to limit your conversations. One student we know makes a point of calling his parents between classes. He legitimately can end conversations by saying, "Gotta go. I'm walking into class."
9. Overestimate How Long Projects Will Take.
Decide how long it will take you to complete an assignment or project and then multiply that estimate by up to threefold. That way, you'll ensure that you complete the project in plenty of time to perfect it and will be prepared for any glitches that might unexpectedly pop up.
10. Reward Yourself.
Motivate yourself to meet your deadlines by giving yourself small rewards when you do -- a favorite treat, an evening out at your favorite nightspot.
Final Thoughts on Developing Good Time-Management Habits
Just a bit of discipline and a willingness to keep the freedom of campus life in check can help even the most disorganized student develop excellent time-management habits.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key academic terms by going to our College Success Glossary.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for EmpoweringSites.com, including MyCollegeSuccessStory.com. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). She curates, crafts, and delivers compelling content online, in print, on stage, and in the classroom. Visit her personal Website KatharineHansenPhD.com or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)astoriedcareer.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.