Anyone who has been to college knows that the most valuable asset they have is time. Time can easily slip away from the college student for a variety of reasons: procrastination, heavy workload, social life, or even just getting enough sleep.
But you, as a responsible student at a good school, want to know how to properly manage your time so that you can balance all of your tasks, especially during graduate school.
How can you do this? A number of strategies exist that can help the college student properly give their time to what is necessary.
Create a Schedule
Perhaps the simplest solution for time management at any level of college is creating a schedule. A schedule will help you remember when an assignment is due, how much time you can allot for work, and how much free time you have to maintain a healthy social life.
Additionally, a schedule has the great strength of allowing a student to prioritize tasks. Do you have a big project due? Then you simply have to give that task more priority than your other tasks. Can something be done easily (but done well) the night before? Give yourself that timeslot for that task, stop worrying, and use the extra time to pursue your other work. A strong-yet-flexible schedule will never hurt you in your journey through college.
On the note of a flexible schedule, make sure that you don’t let your schedule become a statue. Your schedule is to help you manage your time, not perfectly dictate your life choices. Allow yourself some wiggle room that can catch the curveballs of life that disrupt your routine.
A word of caution on flexibility, however, is to not let your flexibility develop into procrastination. While you will want some planned-for downtime, using your wiggle room to be lazy rather than completing schoolwork is a grievous misuse of your time. If you can get the work done early and have more free time later, do so. If a legitimate, unexpected use of your time comes up, then you’ll have have flexibility to handle it.
Let Nothing be Wasted
Another important way to keep your time managed well is to use the little bits of time between events to accomplish your goals. If your professors have assigned you with busywork, use the downtime to finish the little stuff so that your bigger projects can receive the attention they deserve.
This is not to say that you absolutely must work during these little pieces of downtime. For instance, if you find yourself lacking sleep or otherwise exhausted, use your downtime to rest and relax. Burning yourself out can lead to procrastination and misuse of your time just as easily as lacking a definite schedule. Don’t be afraid to take breaks if they’re absolutely needed.
One final area of crucial importance, tied directly to your schedule, is to plan ahead. Planning ahead doesn’t mean just making a schedule for your week or even your month. Planning ahead means plotting out your whole semester based on your syllabi and other class information.
If you plan for tasks well before they are upon you, you can properly accomplish your goals. You can look at a week’s schedule and say, “Nothing is due this week, so I can rest easy.” Looking at a semester schedule, on the other hand, would let you say, “I have nothing due this week, but next week is packed. I should work on this paper now.” Keep the future in mind at all times, as part of your flexible schedule.
Ultimately, your time is your most valuable asset. More techniques exist, from compromise to eating right, but these four techniques can get you started on learning to keep your time carefully managed so that college, and especially graduate school, do not overwhelm you.