Organizing Time in College: 5 Life Hacks

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The start of a new semester is right around the corner and as excitement starts to pile up for many starting a new academic year (whether it be online, in person or with a hybrid modality), the fear and/or anxiousness of what this implies can be exhausting for many. A new academic semester is an opportunity to start fresh, not forgetting what has happened before on your academic journey, but with the hope that your career can reach even bigger heights. One of the best things to do in order to start fresh is trying to let go of college-related personal habits that have jeopardized your academic performance in previous semesters – or even in high school, if you’re a freshman. When reflecting about it, the first bad habit that comes into mind for many of us is poor time management. For any student, how they manage their time in college can define not only how well they do in the classroom, but also how well they’re able to keep their mental health afloat. Even though most people know this, it’s still common to encounter peers who dread the fact that they don’t have the time to do all they have to get done during the day/week, and end up forced into getting things ticked off of their to-do list at the last minute. The truth is that practicing appropriate time management is a difficult thing to do, however it isn’t impossible once you get the hang of it, and it will definitely save you the worrying. To lend you a hand, here’s 5 life hacks to help you distribute and manage your time appropriately, so that you can get everything done on time and with less stress.

1. Buy an agenda and time block everything

Most of the times when people plead guilty of lacking time to do things, they’re not even aware of how much time they’re spending on each activity they do. Instead of spending a certain amount of time on each task, they just start doing things without any amount of specific hours to finish it by, which then inevitably leads to the day coming to an end and the person not having done half of the things they intended to. Time blocking is a practice that promises to ease that tension, since it consists of literally assigning a set amount of time for each activity you will do throughout the day, from your own personal activities (bathing, eating) to your schoolwork (studying, doing homework) and even chores (doing laundry, washing dishes). It may seem impossible to literally schedule your whole day down to the most minimal detail, but as soon as you start to master it, you’re going to quickly notice that you’ll have time to do everything during the day without having to sacrifice the majority of your hours of sleep. Start by buying yourself a trusty agenda that has an individual sheet laid out for each day and using the time you regularly spend on different tasks, try to map out everything you will do throughout the day from the moment you wake up until you go to bed again. While you get the hang of it, you’ll modify the times laid out for each activity as you start to become more conscious of your own schedule and how much time things actually take to get done.

2. Prioritize your daily activities

Another common problem in time management is giving absurd amounts of time into things that aren’t as important as tasks that aren’t poured that much time into. While gaming, watching TV or scrolling through social media are forms of entertainment that can be occupying a spot in your schedule, a week where you have 3 exams and a project due isn’t a week you should be spending many hours a day on these activities. Make a list of all of the activities you have to complete and order them from most important or urgent, to least. Then, assign time blocks based on that in order to get everything done on time. If a project is due next week and the exam is next month, then you may want to spend more hours a day working on your project. Also, don’t be afraid to knock some least important things off the list for a few days until you get things done. You may not be able to watch Netflix during the week while you get your homework done, but as soon as the weekend hits, you can spend more time catching up on your favorite shows.

3. Dedicate at least a little block of time daily to your ongoing academic duties

While removing some activities during the day may be better for your overall outcome, the truth is that there are certain things that you should dedicate time to each day. It’s no secret that waiting until the last minute to study can lead to not so favorable grades, so instead of time blocking 4-6 hours each day on the week of the exam, try assigning 30 minutes to an hour each day for studying and reviewing the material you are being given in the classroom. By putting in that small chunk of time into one task each day, you save yourself the stress of spending a lot of time at the last minute getting things done. This also applies to any activity that you do outside of college to keep your mind relaxed. Leaving entertainment or self-care only for the weekends can cause you to not enjoy your weekdays to the fullest, so even if it’s 30 minutes of daily exercise, reading your favorite book or doing yoga, take some time for yourself.

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, a.k.a., don’t overbook yourself.

In the world of post-secondary education, where opportunities to up your career seem endless yet limited, it isn’t uncommon to see students saying ‘yes’ to more things than they can handle on their plate. The problem is that having many things going on at once can make a person stressed, thus increasing the possibilities of not rendering the desired outcomes in some of them (or maybe in all of them) and leading to the point of burnout. When accepting or declining new professional or academic extracurriculars, take into account what you already have on your hands and how much time you’re pouring into it now. If you believe this new chance is something you desperately want to take and you know your schedule can afford it, go for it. If not, don’t over compromise yourself and remember there’s always more things to do out there. The important thing is not having a lot of things to do, but having the energy and motivation to actively engage in all of them.

5. Don’t multitask

This is going to seem like a contradictory stance to what has been exposed in the rest of the article, but no, multitasking is not an efficient way of getting things done. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot of students than can do it and they perform just fine at it. However, for many, multitasking is a desperate attempt to get things done when there’s not much time left, and more often than not, it’s a practice that can lead to bad results. Not only that, but say that you attempt to read and summarize an article for your humanities class while simultaneously listening to a review video for your math class, then there’s a big possibility that one of those two assignments won’t turn out as good as you want it to. Since you were dividing your focus instead of just concentrating on one of them, this only increases the chances of having to do the task all over again, effectively wasting the time you were trying to save in the first place. If you’ve been adequately managing your time, then there’s a time in your schedule for everything, so no need to do more than one thing at once. Just concentrate on the task at hand and not on the time you have left, so you can increase your chances of excelling.

This advice may not be fully universal, but the main take away here is learning how to effectively schedule your time so that you don’t fall behind on anything. Planning ahead always reduces stress and if we’re already under pressure as it is, we’re not going to let time be our breaking point. Now let’s get those agendas rolling, because class is back in session and no matter what mistakes were made in the past, there’s always a chance to improve, not only for the benefit of your professional career, but for yourself.

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