Smart Time Management Skills for Students

Updated on December 8, 2019
Michael-Duncan profile image

Michael is an avid content writer and researcher on various topical subjects including personal development and wellbeing.

Time Management Skills for Students

It is true that student needs to invest more attention to working smart, rather than working hard. A lot of students arrive at the point where no matter how much effort and will power they exert in their studies, they always seem to fall short of reaching the goals they set for themselves.

They instead find themselves continually running out of time and it seems the more they try to manage their lives, the more the defeats they experience. This is often a result of focusing on working harder rather than working smarter.

Both schools and colleges can be challenging places to try and organize one's life. One main reason for this is because the supportive structure that was there at home is no longer present and the student now needs to take his or her own initiative.

Parents are no longer there to discipline them into taking their time and responsibilities seriously, whether it is in maintaining a regular schedule, paying attention or getting to class on time.

Moreover, there are professors who will not even take note of who is present or absent from their class. Besides, there is a plethora of social events and activities that can easily displace the attention of the student away from their academic responsibilities.

Here is where the student must get a grip of themselves and especially how they use their time.

Quality education is expensive and many students struggle for a major part of their lives trying to pay back massive amounts of money they owe in the form of student loans. So the worst thing that can happen is to fail and end up both unemployable and stuck with massive debts.

One major factor that leads to student burnout, ineffectiveness and poor performance is a lack of proper time management. Those who work smart have mastered the skill of managing their time. Working smart will enable you as a student to stay ahead of the schedule and accomplish more in less time.

In order for this to happen, you will need to avoid the mistakes that hold you back from reaching your academic goals and learn the principles of proper time management.

1. Begin with an Action Plan

Doing things right is preferred to doing things fast. Haste without intelligence will typically lead to both inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Do you have specific goals that you have laid out for the day? Have you formed a specific process through which you intend to get each one of them accomplished?

Start out your day by planning your work and then working your plan. This will help you create the foundation required to perform and complete what you set out to do.

Identify the time of the day that is best for specific activities. Some students may find that they are the most capable of tackling math or science problems in the morning and then theory subjects in the afternoons and evenings.

Some find that they are better able to develop their skills and talents like playing an instrument or engaging in a sport after they have finished their classes.

Each individual is different in terms of their internal constitution.

Once you have identified the time of the day that is best for each activity, organize your day in such a way that you can do each task at its most productive time. This will enable you to become more efficient in your achievements.

2. Develop a Balanced Approach

Every important aspect of your life requires a measure of time. There are several angles that are connected with each other such that not everything can fit in one bucket.

The different parts of a student's life apart from their academics, include their family, their health, their mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. These are all interrelated and therefore will affect each other at some level.

In Academia, you will need to strike the balance between several competing responsibilities including studies, homework, class preparation, exercise or sports, extra-curricular activities, school organization activities, and socializing with other students.

Keep these consciously in view and avoid spending too much time on one unimportant issue at the expense of other pressing matters that urgently need your attention.

As much as possible, refrain from postponing till tomorrow what can be accomplished today. This only serves to push the responsibility forward and congest the tomorrow's schedule.

Recognize that there is a need for a balanced approach to your life. With proper time management, you will be able to allocate the time required for each in your life. It may not be easy at first, but it will eventually come with both practice and consistency.

3. Rest Sufficiently

Studies have shown that nearly 75% of students find themselves quickly exhausted. Much of this has to do with insufficient sleep, but there are many who still struggle with fatigue despite the fact that they go to bed early.

There is a difference between sleep and rest. One may have 8-10 hours of sleep and still feel exhausted due to the fact that they are not rested. Their sleep does not give them the rest they need. It is not the number of hours. This is a problem of quality rather than quantity.

Lots of students feel constantly stressed throughout the day, with the classes they need to attend, the studies they need to complete, the tests and assignments they need to hand in. They are still carrying this mental state when they turn in for the night. In other words, there is no proper "unwinding" process between the hectic busyness and retiring to bed.

If however, you set aside a period where you properly unclutter and unwind before turning in, you will be able to sleep much better and awaken the next day refreshed and capable of tackling the day with clarity.

So don't just create a plan for what needs to be done, but also what needs to be undone. Take time to relax and let go in the evening so that your mind and body can later use the phases of sleep to replenish and rebuild sufficiently.

4. Track Your Usage of Time

There are several activities that you engage in during the course of a day and so it is important to create a personal survey on the use of your time.

This will help you gain clarity on how much each activity occupies your day or week. It will also help you to detect the activities that are unnecessary and serve only to waste your time.

You will also notice gaps in the course of the day that are spent idly. These are short periods where little or nothing is done. Identify and seize these opportunities for what they are.

It may be the period you spend commuting from home to college and back. Or it may be while moving between lecture halls or waiting in class for the professor. There are other moments as well. How about the time spent taking a shower or organizing your room?

You could creatively maximize the use of those moments to think of additional points to add to your essay, how to resolve a class assignment, or create an outline for your project.

Using your spare moments to indulge yourself in social media or in idle chat or gossip will only make the goal of managing your time more difficult. Account for every spare time you have as a student and be conscious of what activities are involved.

5. Organize Yourself

Be systematic in how you execute your daily duties and responsibilities. Don't try to juggle several things at the same time or try to shift back and forth between tasks. Instead, implement the principle of putting first things first.

Determine what your priorities are and then set out to accomplish them one task after another. In other words, don't move to a new task until the present one is completed.

It goes without saying that if your workspace is congested or cluttered, you will easily become distracted. The state of your work area affects your level of focus and concentration.

Disorganization and a lack of neatness adds to the stress one already has when dealing with stuff that needs to be done and deadlines that need to be met. Your room and especially your study area needs to be clean, the same way that an office desk in an executive area is kept clean.

Recognize that there is a need for a balanced approach to your life. With proper time management, you will be able to allocate the period required for each process. It may not be easy at first, but it will eventually come with both practice and consistency

6. Arrange the Process

Organizing has much to do with other aspects of your life as a student as well. This includes how you arrange your academic journey.

When I was in university, lots of students experienced mounting stress, especially the closer they got to their final senior semester. They were not performing well and there seemed to be always too much to be done.

One thing that became clear is that a lot of this pressure came from simply how they organized their course studies. Like many universities today, we were in an international university where every student received the complete degree program immediately they were enrolled. Apart from a few exceptions, students could choose the order of courses they wanted to pursue during the next four years of the academic program.

Those who found themselves under tremendous pressure were the students who chose to follow the program exactly as it was outlined. They did their freshman courses in the first year, their sophomore courses in the second year, their junior courses in the third year, their senior courses in the fourth year.

So from around the second quarter of their junior year to the end of their senior year, they found themselves besieged with difficulties. This was because they had chosen to take the easy route and finish all the general education requirement courses in their earlier years. Now they were left with nothing but the more complex courses which required much more time and effort.

Those who had a much easier time were the ones who at the very beginning, took time to acquaint themselves thoroughly with the academic materials and allocated their time properly.

They began taking some of the junior and senior courses during their first year, combining these with freshman courses. They continued this trend in their sophomore year. So, in other words, out of a group of five courses they would select to take in an academic quarter, two would be freshman courses and the rest would be the more challenging junior or senior courses.

In this way, they were able to space out their studies and avoid both student burnout and poor grades. By the time they reached their senior year, they had already taken most of the difficult courses and they found themselves with easy freshman and sophomore courses to choose from.

Study your academic materials thoroughly. Be aware of the options available to you as a student. If you are unsure about a decision, enquire at the Academic Affairs office or submit an application. Don't wait till it is too late. Start at the beginning. Be on the lookout for new and better ways to organize your academic life and to avoid burnout and poor grades.

7. Make Personal Notes

Some people find the daily keeping of a journal or personal diary therapeutic. But not everyone finds the time or interest to maintain a journal of what they do every day.

When it comes to time management, you do not necessarily have to go into details concerning how you spent the day if you prefer not to do so. But you can still develop a habit of jotting down some short notes to yourself at the end of each day.

These notes concern how you used your time, the activities that you managed to accomplish, the deadlines you met and what you failed to complete. This will help keep your mind actively involved in the process of managing your time and will nurture the development of the skills that you need for this.

8. Set Manageable Goals

Set specific goals and then study those goals to confirm they are achievable and manageable. If they are neither achievable nor manageable, break them down or subdivide them into smaller tasks which can be undertaken more easily in a day, a week, a month or a semester.

On your calendar or planner, ensure that you place a deadline on each goal you have chosen and then consciously work toward achieving the goal within that time frame. Before you go to bed for the night, write down the targets you intend to reach the next day and the activities involved.

Perfectionism is not a sickness. However, if you want to do more in less time, perfectionist tendencies will need to be controlled. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and nothing you do will ever be absolutely perfect.

Much delay and procrastination comes as a result of perfectionism. The perfectionist is typically not an individual that can be described as being biased for action.

A lot of time slips by while he or she tries to figure out a perfect solution for everything before embarking on a practical course of action. As a student, you need to avoid the trap of haemorrhaging time due to the paralysis of analysis.

9. Learn to Say "No"

Setting priorities is key to good time management. A major part of prioritization is learning to say no to everything that is irrelevant or that is without value. In fact, you cannot be able to prioritize your life without this skill.

Bottom line is that you will not be able to please everyone (including yourself) and still get important things done. You will have to set boundaries and draw the line. Identify what really matters and learn to say no to everything else.

If a friend calls you or comes over and invites you to an event or dinner when you have something important in your list that is pending, you will need to politely decline. Make it clear what you are rejecting is not them, but the proposition. Everything that is insignificant can be attended to later.

Once you have set your mind on organizing your time, a major enemy you will constantly have to deal comes in the form of distractions. They will come at you in all manner of shapes and you will need to prepare yourself on how to deal with them accordingly.

You will need to be firm when saying "No" to those who want you to join them for a party when you have tasks required to achieve important goals. Realize that time is a limited resource, you have an agenda to manage it and that this is something that you need to protect.

Create awareness among your friends and classmates concerning the timetable that you have. Let them know what you are working towards. This will help protect you when distractions arise. Once they know you are committed to a plan they will also have the awareness to organize themselves accordingly and refrain from interrupting you unnecessarily.

10. Adopt the Right Study Method

A lot of time is wasted in school and college because of improper approaches to study. There is a right and wrong way to study. The wrong way will cost you much time and will yield unsatisfactory results.

Opening up a textbook in the library and perusing through it or your class notes is not the best way for you to study. Unless you have an exceptionally high IQ, the brain is not wired to retain lots of information simply by reading.

In order to study properly, you have to switch from passive mode to active mode. You need to be an active participant in the entire process of mental retention.

How can this be achieved?

Acquire a jotter book. When you sit on your desk, place the textbook or the notes you want to memorize on one side and your jotter book on the other.

Read through the paragraphs carefully and then close the textbook and put away your notes. On the jotter book, try to reproduce from memory as much as you can from what you have read. Write down the information in the form of summarized points.

Repeat this process over and over until you are able to easily recreate the main points you are trying to memorize without referring to the text. Once this is done, move on to the next piece or subject.

Now that you have the key points stored in your memory, you can take out your jotter book and practice on a fresh page, whenever you have some free time. This will condition your mind to retain and master the subject matter.

The main objective of this exercise is to capture the core details and store them in your memory. Once you have mastered the core details, you can always be able to expound on each and provide a comprehensive answer in an exam.

This will save you from spending a lot of time reading through textbooks and other resource materials without the ability to retain the information for future purposes.

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