It is a well-established fact that students, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, have too much to do and too little time to do it. It’s something we tell ourselves at 3 am, while pounding back Red Bull and staring at a blank Word document. If only that lengthy term paper (due tomorrow) could’ve been magically written a week ago. Finishing tasks in advance may seem impossible with a student’s non-traditional schedule. We’re faced with a seemingly never-ending list of readings, presentations, and papers. We cross them off just in time for the next hurdle. Nevertheless, we can avoid Red Bull-fuelled all nighters – we can’t use magic, but we can employ effective ways of scheduling and managing our time.
There are many options for organizing your time, so find one that works for you. Tech-savvy students may enjoy Google Calendar or a similar tool, whereas our Luddite friends may prefer a classic agenda.
- Know when you’re most productive and schedule tasks accordingly. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
- Start with big tasks and then go smaller. Use class syllabi to identify key due dates throughout the semester, while listing your readings and smaller assignments on a weekly basis.
- Prioritize the time available to focus on your most important assignments, whether imminent projects or that looming term paper.
- Even the smallest amounts of time can be used for self-care or tiny jobs. Remember to eat! Skipping meals because you’re busy will hurt your productivity all day.
- Organization shouldn’t end with your calendar or agenda. Make sure your workspace is ready to go with printed articles, office supplies, etc. If this is a group project, have all the parts divided with a clear understanding of each member’s duties.
- Don’t be afraid to look for help. The following links provide a wealth of planning ideas:
- Identify your distractions and avoid them. It's hard to be honest with ourselves about how much time we really waste. Try a Chrome/Firefox extension that will block sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr - http://topalternatives.com/google-chrome-extensions-that-help-block-time-wasting-websites/
- If all else fails, turn off your phone and the Internet
- Treat school like a job. Show up every day at the same time, and leave at more or less the same time. Having a separation between work and home is important.
- Multitasking is actually not a great strategy – but thinking ahead is! Give yourself enough time to focus on one job. For example, figure out how long it takes to read X number of pages.
- Break big tasks, like a research paper or final project, into smaller chunks. These are less daunting and easier to accomplish.
- Ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable, keep yourself on track by recording what was accomplished/skipped, and reward yourself for meeting goals (we recommend chocolate!).
- Structured Procrastination - A different approach, or how to get an incredible number of things done while not doing what you're supposed to:http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/
- We're Sorry This Is Late … We Really Meant To Post It Sooner, from ScienceDaily.com - Short review from a 10-year long study about procrastinators. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070110090851.htm
- Procrastination, from the Student Academic Services of the California Polytechnic State University - A very complete and helpful article on the subject, a must-read: http://sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/procrastination.html
- Procrastination, from You Are Not So Smart, a blog against self-delusion - A science-backed depiction of procrastination and a method to counter its effects.. http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/10/27/procrastination/
- Step-by-step method: http://www.articlesbase.com/education-articles/study-skills-ten-steps-to-stop-procrastinating-859309.html
Tips for Staying Healthy
Busy students often put their own needs last, but making time for your health doesn’t have to be difficult!
- You can do quick things to prepare for or prevent illness. For example, getting your flu shot in the fall will greatly reduce your risk of catching the virus.
- Keep over-the-counter medicine (e.g. pain and allergy relievers) readily available at home and school. You'll never be caught off guard again.
- Services like prescription delivery (free from the campus pharmacy) will save time and ensure that you always have the necessary prescriptions.
- Staying on top of health care appointments will prevent further problems. It's important to catch big issues early!
- Pay attention to your posture when studying or working. Good posture will prevent neck and shoulder pain and help you focus. Keep this is mind when setting up your study space! https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/positions.html
- If you have to coordinate your schedule with other peoples', use a master calendar (Google calendar has this option).
- Delegate household tasks if you live with other people. Things like cleaning, cooking, and running errands are easier if you work as a team.
- If you are living alone, don’t neglect household tasks or they may get out of hand. No one wants to be home alone at midnight with an empty refrigerator and broken toilet!
- Create a support network of friends, family, and other students or teachers that you can confide in and go to for help.
This page was created by Hilary Agro, Sarah Babich and Katie Kotar as part of the 2014 Professional Development class.