Establish A Routine
You have to run your college studies like working a job. People show up at work and they know what they are going to do and how they will do it. They have established a certain routine over time that works best for them to get things done.
In college it can be hard to establish a routine. When you are working a job, you are there 8 hours straight.
In college your study schedule may vary hour by hour, many times each day. It takes discipline to shift yourself into study mode and stay there. I call it flipping the switch. You have to be either on or off. Work or fun.
The best way to flip the switch is to establish a consistent daily routine. That is doing things at specific times, places, and ways that don’t vary.
This is why doing a detailed analysis of how you use your time each day is so important.
You have to really understand your own personality and will power and be honest with yourself. Far too many students tell themselves that they are going to do things that just just don’t match up with reality.
Same Way Every Day
A routine by definition means consistency.
Having a consistent routine starts with getting up and going to bed at the exact same times every day. Most students vary their wake up time on when their morning classes are.
I know I’m probably not going to win this one, but try going to bed and getting up at the exact same time every weekday no matter what time class starts. When you have a job, you’ll have to, so start practicing.
It’s very hard to have widely varying sleep patterns. Most people just can’t do that. A system requires consistency and widely varying sleep times doesn’t create that.
Just get up at the same time, every weekday, no matter when you have your first class. I don’t care if you have class at 8:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. Try to get up.
As I’ll discuss later, early is always better than later. Get as much out of the way as early as you can so you have the evenings free. That’s when things are going on. It is always better to have time ahead of you so you can deal with the unexpected things that will happen.
Plan Your Study Time
One of the most common things I hear from students is that it’s impossible to plan their time in college. College is so spontaneous that you just can’t schedule things so tightly.
My reply is always the same—of course you can. You already do.
If class is at 10:00 a.m., do you plan to be there? When the coach says practice starts at 3:30 p.m., do you arrive late? When the boss says work starts at 8:00 a.m., are you there, or do you prefer to get fired?
Nobody is going to yell at you if you skip a study block. You have to really own it yourself. Treat study time blocks just like any other firm commitment you have. Don’t be late. Ever.
If your evening library time starts at 6:30 p.m., that means in your seat, book open, head down, ready to go. Or even better, be there at 6:15 to get things set up.
We designed Shovel app to be anal about time. We let you set your schedule to include even the time it takes to walk to and from classes and other activities. Seriously. The time you spend walking to and from your dorm, classes and activities can add up to a lot of time. KNOW what that is.
Minutes matter in college. To make a good study plan you need to be as accurate as possible estimating the study time you really have.
Having a routine doesn’t mean you can’t change. I understand that things can and will change in college, especially in the first few weeks as you figure out your classes and activities. No problem.
Continually review your schedule. If the times aren’t realistic, then revisit your setup and change to a new schedule, and a new routine. Then stick with that one.
Never Waste Time With Greater Value
One last thing before we move on. The whole issue of sticking to a routine revolves around making choices. Students are continually pulled to do fun things they want to do now and put off work until later.
Any decision you make involves some kind of a tradeoff. College students waste a mountain of time because they don’t think about those tradeoffs. They piddle around campus all day long. They hang out and delay doing homework until later. They’re putting time behind them that can never be recovered.
Get it in your mind that time spent studying now is always worth more than doing it later. Do it now so when those spontaneous things come up that you really want to do, you can go do them.
Setting up a concrete study schedule and letting nothing distract is the best way to make sure you don’t have to make these kinds of choices.