One thing most college students agree on, is the need for time management skills, and the need to learn them quickly upon arrival at college. Even for those who were quite organized during high school, college presents a plethora of new challenges. Because college is usually the first time students have complete control of their schedule and their lives, there is often a steep learning curve.
Time management involves three major activities; tracking, prioritizing, and decision-making. Tracking what you have to do and what you want to do, when. Prioritizing your activities, responsibilities, and goals to use as a basis for decision-making. Making decisions as to what to do and what not to do, allotting time to certain activities and not to others.
Tracking is much the same as what others might call “organizing”, and includes documenting everything you have going on, then continually checking it, updating it, and following it. First, buy a planner/organizer/calendar (or use an electronic device that does it, or buy both), and USE IT! At the beginning of each semester, add each assignment, paper and test on its appropriate date. Next, add meetings and activities you know you’ll be attending throughout the semester. Finally, add recreational and social activities you plan to attend and participate in. Then, as you figure out how much time you need for school, add prep time or study time to your calendar (if possible, specify what you’re preparing for) and literally block off time to accomplish things. If you work, be sure to add your work schedule also.
Now you can see what’s happening tomorrow, this week, this month or beyond. And as long as you regularly update, adjust and use the planner, you can keep track of everything. Each weekend, go over the coming week, and plan accordingly.
Prioritizing involves introspection, and will help to direct the actual choices you make. Actually write down your priorities (put them in your planner too) and post them somewhere you’ll see them regularly. Be honest here. What are the most important things you want to accomplish, both short-term and long-term? For some, an academic goal might be “get good grades”, while others might say “make a 4.0 gpa”. Some goals are difficult to write down, but should be considered anyway. Many have as a goal having a good time or meeting members of the opposite sex, while others may list something related to their faith or community service activities. Also, don’t list something as your top priority unless it really is - your list doesn’t have to be public!
Decision-making is actually pretty simple. All you have to do is make decisions that support your priorities. Then know what the costs are when you choose something else. A lot of it is self-control. Students get into trouble when they serve short-term priorities with their decisions, like having fun or fitting in.
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