Many college students try to attempt to juggle too many tasks at once, but this habit of constantly multi-tasking can do more harm than good. I think that one of the most common assumptions students entering college make is that they automatically posses the skills and know-how to manage their time. However, researchers (and myself) agree that time management is a skill that must acquired through practice. The modern student has to balance class; often a part time job, friends, a social life, potentially a boyfriend or girlfriend, extra-circulars, and their family back home. This delicate balancing act requires a lot of practice to make it work.
One of the best ways to deal with an overload of schoolwork is to learn some common time management skills– and here are ten ways to do just that.
1. Create a to-do list.
This is pretty self-explanatory and a really common tip, yet not a lot of students have considered making it a habit to keep note of the important tasks they must attend to everyday. You can’t trust your memory with everything– when you are faced with tons of projects and schoolwork everyday, surely, you will forget a task or two.
Aside from creating a list, make sure you organize it in a way you can understand. Organize your tasks into levels of priority or into groups: tasks for school, work, family, and so on and so forth.
Additional tip: Use different colored highlighters to designate different categories of events (family, class, work, ect.)
2. Break your tasks into chunks.
Breaking your tasks into smaller chunks will help you manage them and know where to begin. Many college students have found it difficult to start with their projects and reports because they find themselves overwhelmed. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore if you apply this easy, helpful tip during your daily work.
3. Organize your backpack and your work station.
The average college student is rarely seen without his or her backpack. After all, it contains his books, paper, pen, laptop and other learning equipment. The backpack is basically where a student keeps everything he needs to learn and pass college.
Now, wouldn’t it save you more time if you could locate anything you needed the moment you opened your backpack?
4. Do not multi-task, but manage your time instead.
Multi-tasking is actually nothing impressive– it’s not a skill, it’s not even helpful! When you multi-task, you divide your concentration on so many things, it actually becomes more difficult for you to retain information or even do anything properly. You exhaust your energy much faster and you risk making more mistakes. Multi-tasking is not only unnecessary, it is also stressful and it encourages ‘cramming’ or doing a variety of things all at once.
At this point, you should forget about multi-tasking completely and focus more on pre-emptive strategies so you aren’t left in a jam.
5. Create a schedule.
It doesn’t have to be a highly-detailed schedule; simply jotting down your engagements for the day in a calendar organizer will help you remember what must be done first and keep you on track.
6. Do your most important tasks first.
Simply put, prioritize tasks that need to be submitted early or tasks that you find extremely important. It is advisable to work on projects that are due early or projects that take a lot of time to finish. Spend at least 5 minutes everyday organizing your tasks (see number 1) and work on your top priorities list.
7. Work during your peak hours.
We all have our own peak hours. Peak hours may be defined as that time of day when you are most alert and active. Once you know your peak hours, you’ll know when to schedule your study or “working” time. For example, if you’re a night person, it might be best to schedule doing all your “toughest” projects at night– at a time when you are most productive.
This doesn’t mean that you should schedule all your projects for the night time. During your free time, you can work on projects that are easy or require little effort.
8. Work slowly but carefully.
How does working slowly connect with time management? When you work slowly yet carefully, you commit fewer errors. Going back to the same project again and again due to little errors will eat up all your free time.
There is a very thin line between working slowly and carefully and working too slowly– the latter is often a symptom of procrastination. When you find yourself working too slowly, pause for a moment and check your to-do list once again and see if there is anything you can do that is fun or effortless. This will give your brain a break before going back to the harder tasks at hand.
9. Work with friends who know what to do.
It wouldn’t hurt to tap out a few friends of yours when working on projects you find difficult to finish. Instead of spending time figuring out the answer to an assignment your teacher asked you to do, ask a friend for a few tips and ideas to get the work done faster.
You might be tempted to borrow (and I use that term loosely) your friend’s answers– when this happens to you, don’t! That’s cheating and will not help you understand the lesson at all.
10. Set deadlines a day early on your calendar or organizer.
At the moment you jot down the new deadline, forget the original deadline and set it for one day earlier. This adds a sense of urgency into your routine. By setting the deadlines a day ahead, you will be encouraged to speed things up and waste little time on other things.
And guess what. When you finish your work early, you get to spend more time for leisure! Now, who said time management isn’t fun?