Suddenly, there is no one pounding on your door or yelling at you to get up and go to school. No one to tell you to go to bed. No one to do your laundry (unless you are like me and did wash in my teen years) and no one to make you dinner.
You are officially adulting, and all the responsibility is on you! On top of all this, you have classes and possibly a job to pay for those classes, and there never appears to be enough time in the day to do it all. Now you know why mom and dad were so tired all the time.
Tips for Time Management in College
Adulting is exhausting and requires some acute time management. So, I want to help you with some tips that are sure to save you time and organize your time wisely.
Calendars are Necessary
Google Calendar, paper planners, class syllabi, alarms, alerts, reminders, and so many other calendar tools are life in college and beyond. There is no way you can live without a calendar to keep track of your commitments and schedule. Use them all, especially Google Calendar.
When your new semester comes out, export your class schedule to your Google Calendar and use a specific calendar for your classes. Look over your class syllabi and create a separate calendar for big tests, quizzes, papers, group projects, mid-terms, and finals. You can set reminders to prepare and not rush the last minute (unless you are one of those people who works better under pressure). This may seem insane, but on weeks when you know you need sleep to pull off a paper or do well on mid-terms, create a sleep schedule to make sure you stop and get the rest you need.
Keep It in View
Print out a semester-long calendar for your dorm or bedroom wall to visualize your months, weeks, and days and celebrate when you have completed a big paper or test. Use a paper planner like the Blessed Is She Mini to write out daily to-do lists and important reminders that you can transfer to your Google Calendar later.
Most importantly, put “Date with Jesus” on your calendar to intentionally spend time with the Lord in Adoration, daily or Sunday Mass, or even 10 minutes of silence throughout the day. If you don’t make your relationship with God a priority, it will not be a priority by the end of the semester. Trust me; you need God in college. Without Him, your life will look radically different.
Your Job is School
Your primary responsibility during your college years is going to class and doing well in school. Why else would you pay thousands of dollars per year and take on the debt of college? And as important as the social aspects of college are, your focus needs to be on your classes.
Don’t skip classes where attendance is not taken, oversleep, or blow a class off. It is appealing when no one is forcing you to get out of bed, throw on some leggings, and rush to class to let it slide, but that is what will happen to your grades; they will slide down, down, down. Many students in their first semester in college end up on academic probation because they prioritize college on their social life verses where their financial investment is of school.
Invest your time where you are invested, and you will succeed not only in your classes but also in life.
Get Into the Zone
Are you a morning person or a night gal? Do you get tired every day around 3 p.m. (yep, that’s me)?
Knowing your peak hours is essential to help you succeed in college and your career. There is typically a time when you can get in a zone and accomplish more than you can at any point in the day. For example, right now, I’m writing this blog at 9:00 am because I am a morning person. I get the most done in the morning hours, I’m less creative in the late afternoon, and by 9:00 pm I am useless. Knowing this, I do most of my original work early in the day.
Figure out your peak hours and use them to your advantage to get in the zone writing your paper or studying for tests.
One of my favorite parts of the movie Up! is Dug, the golden retriever who belongs to Charles Muntz. When he is talking through his collar that translates his thoughts and gets distracted by a squirrel, I lost it laughing out loud in the theater.
This is all of us! We are distracted by email alerts that pop up on the corner of our computer, sound notifications, a buzz on our Apple Phone to move (that is a good distraction), or a text message. We have so many distractions that interfere with our time management.
Take this advice, and when you need to get things done, turn off notifications, put your phone on airplane mode and flip it upside down, put on noise-canceling headphones, and listen to some classical music (or whatever music will keep you focused). Organize your phone apps to keep your priorities straight. Take off your Apple Watch, so you don’t get buzzed, and do not visit any social media like Twitter, Instagram, or Tic Tok for a quick distraction unless you want to lose an hour of your study time.
As much as we all want to say we are a “Jack (or Jane) of all trades,” we must remember that the rest of that phrase is “master of none.”
We all consider ourselves great multi-taskers, but the reality is we are not. Binging The Office while trying to write a paper or study does not work as well as you might think. So, here is some advice. Don’t watch Netflix and study—just study! Schedule in time for things like Instagram, YouTube, and texting your friends’ verses, fitting them in a while trying to finish a project for work or school.
I know that seems tedious, but it will help you stay focused. Plus, you will learn to be more intentional and present in your classes and relationships, which will be a blessing to you and the people who matter most to you in your life.
Keep a Running To-Do List
One of the most effective time management tips I learned is the Top Five, Next Five, Future Five list.
Here is how it works. Every day write out in your written planner (I like to use the BIS Planner or a Monk Manual) the most important five things you have to get done that day or in the coming days. These are the things that cannot be put off, they have a deadline, and it is today or tomorrow.
Once they are completed, you can turn to the Next Five things and pull them up to the First Five.
Next, write down your next five things that need to get done but have a later deadline or need the First Five to be completed to do them.
Finally, write down your Future Five, which can be dreams, future spring break plans, but things you hope to accomplish in the future. They are not something that will happen in the coming week or even month. They could be things like a paper due in three weeks, but I like to reserve at least three things to my future plans, such as reserve an Airbnb for girls’ weekend on my Future Five.
This tool keeps me focused and helps me get my tasks completed by the end of each day.
It’s OK to Say No
There will be so many invitations to be a part of a club, Bible study, sorority, party, or even a date. Discern what God is calling you to do and what you need to have time to do. You can say no to friends and various positions or volunteer opportunities. You can even say no to a date if you are not interested in the guy.
Saying no is part of your time management.
If you know you have a paper due on Monday and you need to crank it out over the weekend and still make time to go to Mass on Sunday, say no to the dinner invitation or the concert you would love to attend. Let’s face it, the Covid-19 pandemic has made this easier to navigate because the typical distractions of events are lessened, but we will return to a time when we go to parties, concerts, and movies again. So, learn now how to say no! It is a necessary skill of adulting.
Keep Your Relationship with God Central
Part of your time management should be factoring in how you will make time for your relationship with God. In the last post in this series, Freshmen Spiritual Training Program, I laid out ways to do just this. I encourage you to read it over to keep your faith in God, the most essential relationship you develop in college and your adult life.
There are a ton of time management hacks out there, but the thing is only you can make it happen. You control your schedule. Either hit snooze or wake up; either you schedule in when you work out or don’t. It’s on you and no one else, and I believe that you can and will do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil 4:13). Now, do it!
What time management tips do you have for collegiate students?