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As a student enters college or university, whether learning in-person or online, there can be a dramatic shift in autonomy. Faced with the new need to set their own schedules and hold themselves accountable, students may find it challenging to balance staying on top of academic responsibilities with allocating time to the other areas of their life. Additionally, due to current world circumstances, students are experiencing unprecedented, and often, impromptu changes to the way they engage with their professors, course content, and peers. 

Time management is a foundational executive function skill that contributes greatly to a student’s ability to successfully navigate through postsecondary education and into the professional realm. The key to time management is learning to gauge the passage of time and anticipate how long tasks will take to complete. Fortunately, by using concrete time management strategies, this skill can be taught, learned, and implemented into daily routines for lifelong learning success.

The Importance of Time Management for College Students

An estimated 80-95% of college students report engaging in procrastination, which is a common result of poor time management and task initiation skills. Additionally, procrastination and poorer academic performance are highly correlated. Research has found that not only do strong time management skills correlate to improved academic performance among college students, but students who practice time management skills have lower rates of stress and anxiety as well. Once learned, effective time management skills can have long-lasting, powerful impacts on a student’s future and support achievement of their goals.

With the spring semester on the horizon, here are five of Organizational Tutors’ top time management tips for college students.

Time Management Tips for College Students

1. Create routines and schedule breaks. Establishing daily routines is an effective way to develop your awareness of time and conceptualize how to fit classes, assignments, study sessions, activities, and personal time into your schedule. At the start of the term, create a daily and weekly schedule in your phone or laptop calendar, so you have plenty of time to adjust your routines. While focusing on classes and schoolwork are priorities, it is also important to plan time for relaxing, checking in with your support network, and pursuing other interests. Scheduling breaks throughout your day, in-between important tasks and taking time off on weekends, for example, can help you avoid burnout and stay more focused during study hours.

2. Make effective use of time management tools. Clocks, calendars, and planners are powerful tools for keeping track of your time and important dates, such as project deadlines and exam dates. Use the calendar on your phone to set reminders for key dates, block out and label the time frames you do not have available due to class, meetings, study time, activities, etc., and commit to updating your calendar frequently. That way, you will have convenient access to a clear, visual representation of your schedule in a single, centralized location. Alternatively, creating a hard copy depiction of your schedule via wall calendars or physical agenda books may be more your style. We support you in embracing the approach that works best for you. Use a timer to track work/study sessions and breaks so you have an external aid to alert you when it is time to switch from one to the other. 

3. Plan out assignments before diving in. Particularly for larger or longer-term assignments and projects, take the time upfront to identify the component tasks, estimate how long each will take to complete, and map out a plan for reaching each milepost. It can help to start with the due date and work backwards to prepare a timeline of intermediary deadlines. Then, block out space in your calendar for the work so you have a visual representation of the time commitment associated with each task.

4. Proactively limit distractions. It is one thing to tell yourself that you will not check Snapchat, scroll through Instagram, or send Facebook messages during study sessions, but it is much harder to discipline yourself to put your phone away. Sometimes even a quick peek at your social media feed or your email inbox can lead to the Internet Rabbithole phenomenon: You are suddenly completely derailed from your studies and find you have invested a valuable chunk of time in an activity extraneous to the task at hand. If this sounds familiar, consider using a social media or website blocking app to help mitigate the temptation to start browsing. Silence non-emergency alerts on your phone during periods of work. Save skimming news headlines or clicking through that new photo album for one of your scheduled breaks.

5. Support your physical and mental health. College life may bring with it new pressures and stressors. Faced with more responsibility, higher stakes, greater independence, and the uncertainty and changes brought on by public health circumstances, it is more important than ever that you prioritize self-care. Find creative ways to continue enjoying activities you love, stay active, connect regularly with your support network, and prioritize getting the rest you need. Do not forget the basics of staying well-nourished and hydrated. Consider adopting the practice of having water and nutrient-dense snacks on hand during your classes and study sessions so you are always prepared to answer your body’s call to refuel. Taking care of your own health and wellbeing will help bolster your resilience and optimize your college experience.

Have a child who is struggling to manage his or her time effectively at school? Having trouble with time management in college yourself? Contact Organizational Tutors to learn more time management tips for college students and/or discover how executive function tutoring can help you achieve your goals.

OT Team

Author OT Team

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