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Smart Time Management Skills for Students

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

Time Management for Students

It is true that a student needs to invest more toward working smart 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 defeats they experience. This is often a result of 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 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 a student and move them away from their academic responsibilities.

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

Quality education is expensive and even after graduating many people struggle for a major part of their lives trying to pay back the huge debts they accumulated in the form of student loans and other liabilities. So the worst thing that can happen would be to fail and end up both unemployable.

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.

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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 suited for specific activities. Some students may find themselves most capable of tackling math or science problems in the morning and then theory subjects in the afternoons or evenings.

Others find 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 suited 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 achieve more in less time.

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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, assignments, class preparation, exercise, sports, extra-curricular activities, school organizational activities and socializing.

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 following day'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 engagement in your life.

This may not be easy at first, but mastery 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.

However, there are many students 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 of the day and actual sleep.

If however, you set aside a period where you properly unclutter and unwind before retiring for the night, 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 fully use the phases of sleep to replenish and rebuild sufficiently.

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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 drain you and congest your schedule.

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 the apartment to college and back. Or it may be while moving between lecture halls or waiting in class for the professor. How about the time spent taking a shower or organizing your room?

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

If you cannot actively read a textbook or jot down notes, you could make use of technology in such moments to get ahead by listening to related podcasts or other audio resources instead.

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 you are spending time in.

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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 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 disorderliness add 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 and uncluttered in the same way a professional office or workspace in an established organization is maintained.

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 else but complex courses which required much more depth of study and a lot more time.

To compound the problem, they were so accustomed to the relatively easier approach to academics they had had during the previous three years in university, they were unprepared for the level of discipline required to tackle these tougher courses.

Those who had it much easier were the ones who at the very beginning, took time to acquaint themselves thoroughly with the academic program and the course descriptions. They recognized the level of commitment required for each course and then set about to arrange their journey accordingly.

They began taking some of the junior and senior courses during their first year. They combined these with some freshman courses. They continued this trend in their sophomore year.

For example, in a given academic quarter they would pick five courses - two would be freshman courses and the rest would be either junior or senior courses which were more challenging.

In this way, their academic journey became scalable. They were able to space out their studies and avoid poor grades and student burnout. By the time they reached their senior year, they had already taken most of the difficult courses.

So while others were struggling, despairing and suffering major drops in their grades, they found themselves with easy freshman and sophomore courses.

I am glad that I took this approach because it saved me a lot of challenges.

Study your academic materials thoroughly. Be aware of the options available to you as a student and what the courseload entails.

You may even realize after you have reviewed the material that the major you are pursuing is not really as suited for you as you first thought it was. You may find another major is more preferable.

In case you find yourself in this situation or if you are unsure about a decision, enquire at the Academic Affairs office concerning what changes can be made to accommodate you.

Don't wait till it is too late. Start at the beginning. Avoid burnout and poor grades by being on the lookout for new and better ways to organize your academic life.

7. Make Personal Notes

Some people find the daily keeping of a journal or personal diary therapeutic.

However, 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.

Still, you could 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.

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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 disease. 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 flawless.

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 hemorrhaging time due to the paralysis of analysis.

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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 without practical 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, comes over, or invites you to an event or dinner when you have something important in your list, 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 with will come in the form of distraction.

This will attack you in all manner of ways and so you will need to prepare yourself beforehand.

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 in order to achieve important goals.

Realize that time is a limited resource. You have an agenda to manage it and this is something you need to protect.

Time is inanimate. It will not manage itself for you. You will need to consciously put in the work.

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.

They will see your resolve and strength of commitment to a plan. They will have the presence of mind to organize themselves accordingly and refrain from interrupting you unnecessarily.

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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 or your class notes and perusing through them is not the best way for you to study.

Unless you have an exceptionally high IQ, the brain is not wired to retain information simply by reading page after page.

In order to study properly, you will have to switch from passive mode to active mode. You need to be an active participant in the 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 original text.

Once this is done, move on to the next piece.

After you have the key points stored in your memory, you no longer need the text book or your class notes. These can be used for reference purposes or just to check the accuracy of what you noted.

Your time should now be focused on the jotter book. Whenever you have some free time, take it out, open a fresh page and begin to jot down all the main points you have studied so far.

If you follow this method, you will save a lot of time that would otherwise be needlessly lost studying textbooks and class notes. You will instead be reproducing your own text and in this way conditioning your mind to naturally retain and master the subject matter.

The main objective of this exercise is to capture the core points and store them in your memory. Once you have mastered these key details, you could always expound on them in more ways than one, thereby providing comprehensive answers in every exam.

This will save you from spending a lot of time reading through textbooks and other resource materials - time which is often lost because it is not compatible with how the brain works and how information is retained.