7 Time Management Tips for Insanely Busy College Students
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
Below are some time management tips for super busy college students.
1. Write Everything Down
When you have a thousand things going on, forgetting to do something or missing a deadline is bound to happen. In college though, these things can deal a blow to your grades or to your college experience. Writing down everything you need to do and when it needs to be done is critical. You can use something like Google Calendar for this, or even the Notes or Reminders app on your phone. I use Google Calendar, which has a layout that makes separating a busy work schedule and personal schedule easy with color coating.
If a big task is due (ie. a long paper), I will add a calendar event that says "PAPER DUE" for when the paper is due, and then I'll add a reminder like "REMINDER TO START PAPER" 2 weeks before, that way I know to start working on it.
Every day, I look at my Google Calendar (could be a different tool for you) and decide which tasks I need to complete by the end of the day, and which ones can wait if I don't get to them. I then color code the "urgent" ones so I know exactly what to focus on throughout the day. At the end of the day, I make sure to drag all the tasks I didn't complete to the following day. This way I make sure to always be on track!
3. Balance Work and School
If (like many students) you have to financially support yourself while you’re in school, you probably have a part-time or even full-time job. And yes, that means when you’re not at school, you’re probably at work. How the heck are you supposed to find time to study?
Well, the best advice I can give is to organize your schedule so you’re off work at least two days a week. If you think you can’t make this happen, pick up an extra shift during one of your already scheduled days. Do anything you can to make sure you have at least two days off. Be as productive as possible. Get homework assignments done. Get caught up on your reading. Make up for any breaks you take. We all want to believe we can do everything at once, but the reality is we simply cannot. College is a huge investment, and in order to make a return, you must dedicate enough time to it.
4. Get Enough Sleep
When you don’t sleep enough, your brain doesn’t function at its full potential.
According to a study published by Child Development, students who got less sleep than usual reported more academic problems the next day than they did after they got their normal amount of sleep.
Your parents weren’t wrong when they kept demanding you get more sleep. Why? The REM cycle during your sleep enables your brain to sort through your thoughts and memories, organizing them so they are easy to access. Without proper REM, your brain gets cluttered, making it difficult to focus and retain information while studying or even in class. Time management is about getting the most out of every single minute you dedicate to a task. Lacking good sleep makes it almost impossible to do that!
5. Be Flexible
One of the most important things I ever heard my boss say was that it’s OK if you don’t finish your to-do list. Oftentimes, people exaggerate the amount of work they have to do, which results in feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Be OK with switching some things around.
A to-do list or schedule should be a guideline, not something you’re forcing yourself to complete. Remember, if your to-do list doesn’t get finished by the end of the day, don’t have a meltdown. Tomorrow is another chance to crush it! Things aren’t always going to go to plan, and you have to be prepared for that.
6. Prioritize Extracurriculars
It’s important to be involved on campus. It looks great on a resume, and involvement helps you network and build skills you can use in the workforce. However, it’s imperative you don’t get involved with too many, as it can easily get overwhelming.
Pick a few that really spark your interest, and go for them. It’s better to have a few you can focus your time and energy on than a bunch you don’t fully participate in. Do you really want to go to an interview and get asked, “So tell me about your experience in the American Marketing Association chapter at your school?” if you only went to two meetings because you got hung up at the movie club? Probably not. Prioritizing can help you build skills you can use in the long run and develop your interests.
7. Be Kind To Yourself
This very well could be the most important point on this list. Remember to put yourself first during busy periods. That means if you’re tired of studying at 2 a.m. and want to sleep, then sleep. If you want to take a 30-minute break and stare at the ceiling, by all means, do it. We’re not robots, we need to unwind and take a breath sometimes.
Doing what you need to do will keep you focused and sane — just be sure to evaluate the consequences of those actions afterward and adjust your to-do list or schedule accordingly. Doing things to keep you happy will result in a more positive attitude toward your workload, making the clutter much less painful throughout the semester!