When To Study

Time Blocking When Building A Study Plan

When and how often should you study in college?

Once you know your study time blocks, it’s important to make use of as many of them as you can. It may seem like I’m saying that you should study every single free minute you have, but that’s not the case. I’m just suggesting that you consider every study opportunity in your day and make a good choice about if you should use it.

The most important thing is to always have time ahead of you. The best way to do that is not let study blocks get behind you unused.

I’m big on getting as much done as early and as often as I can. Minutes matter in college. It is important to find and use every one you can as early as you can. Having a big cushion of free time eliminates stress and gives you flexibility to deal with unexpected problems, to prepare for exams, or just to go have fun when you want to.

Don’t let time control you. You should always control it.

Big Time Blocks

Once you set up your time planner or in the Shovel app, some big blocks are going to stand out.

Weekday evenings. This is easy. The best way to avoid distractions is to study when everyone else is studying. This is your time. Get to the library immediately after dinner, and do it as early as possible—6:00 or 6:30 p.m.. Treat the big blocks just like class time. They are mandatory. Never, ever fail to use them. Using your big time blocks is a great way to really get things done and pile up free time that you can use later for other things.

These big time blocks are your serious, dedicated time for getting things done. You need to have at least three to four solid, focused hours of study from Sunday through Thursday.

Start as early as you can and don’t push things into midnight and beyond. There is no reason that you can’t finish up by 8:30 p.m. Certainly no later than 9:30. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. You can wrap up your work quickly because you also use the smaller blocks of time. That’s where the stress free A’s are made.

Small Time Blocks

While the big blocks of time are important, the small ones matter more. One of the biggest and worst habits that students have is wasting small blocks of time. They won’t start a task unless they think it can be completed entirely.  Do whatever you can.

Your success and your stress in college is determined by how efficiently you use small blocks of time during the day.

One of the most important reasons to do the Time Setup in the Shovel app is help you identify every small block of time you can.

When you finish your time setup, take a look at all of the small blocks of time between everything that you have to do.

We call these Extra Time. Most students will see a lot of them: between classes, during lunch, before dinner, after the gym. An hour here, twenty minutes there. Add them up and see what they are. It’s usually a surprising amount of time. (Shovel app finds and adds them up for you).

This is the time that students waste the most. Sure, some small blocks might be too small. You can’t always study if you have to walk across campus, or if you only have a handful of minutes.

My point is to carefully look at each and every one and ask yourself if there is any way you can make it useful.

What you define as useful can vary. Some tasks may just be too complicated to spend a short amount of time on. Others such as readings, just getting a few pages done is easy and can make a big difference.

Far too many students think that small blocks of time aren’t useful, so they go hang out and do nothing. Every minute you can get something done during the day is a minute you don’t have to spend studying at night. And let’s be honest, most fun in college happens at night.

Students tend to focus on the big blocks of time in the evening and think they can finish everything then. Maybe you can, but why not leave your nights open for something more relaxing than cramming? You can get ahead on your work without that horrible pressure that you have to get it done, or you can just chill.

Whatever you choose, it’s always nice to have the option.

Should I Study Everyday?

Don’t just wing it with your small blocks. Find them and plan how and where you’re going to use them, just like you do with your big blocks. If you are using Shovel, go to the Agenda view in Calendar and you can view all of your unplanned study blocks. Make sure that all of your available study times have tasks planned for them.

Next, think about where you’ll go during that time and what work you’ll get done. “I’ll stay right there in class and start my next History reading,” or “I can knock out one problem in my weekly problem set in the half hour before lunch.”

Remember, all of those small blocks of time can add up to hours during your day. Just one hour is a huge amount of study time in college. It’s 20 pages read, it’s time to organize your notes, go see the professor, write test questions, start studying for your exam. All in one hour. Imagine if you have three.

I’m not saying to study every minute of your life. In fact, I’m saying just the opposite. The point is that the more you get done early, the more time you have to take off later or get even farther ahead.

The goal is to go have fun without wondering if you have time to get the next thing done, because it’s already done.

Take Small Bites Often

I realize that many assignments are big and they can take hours to finish. However, there is nothing that says you have to do everything in one sitting. Take small bites whenever and wherever you can. You’ll be less overwhelmed and it will feel easier to get done. If you only have 45 minutes, you can still get something done. Read 10 pages. Yes, you can start and stop in the middle of a chapter, a page, a paragraph, or even a sentence. Just do something.

Anything you get done now saves you time later.

What To Do On Weekends In College

There’s a point to getting your studying done during the week: stress free fun on the weekends. I never did a thing on Friday after my last class. I was done. Making sure you never have to study on Saturdays is a big reason to get ahead during the week. For me, Saturdays were almost always Me Time. Same thing Sunday mornings.

If you get your work done during the week, you can take the weekend off without stress or guilt.

That said, be careful about taking too much time off on the weekend. When you do your Time setup, look how many hours of ‘Me Time’ you have set aside.

Also just know that Saturday and Sunday has a HUGE potential for getting things done. Even if you only spend an hour or two each day studying, which leaves a lot of time for fun, you can start your next week ahead.

Consider tackling your easier work on the weekend. Finish a reading assignment that you know will be easy, or spend an hour planning the paper due next Thursday. Start self testing for your exams. If you cross off low stress tasks on the weekend, you can get a lot done and barely interfere with your day at all.

Remember, just a little bit every day will pay a big dividend down the road. It amazes me how much weekend time is wasted just sitting around. You can do a night’s worth of studying on Saturday and not have to worry about it on Monday. Make it a part of your routine.


The same principle applies for holidays. If you plan ahead and get ahead, you won’t have to study during Thanksgiving break or Spring Break. Use that time to relax, but if you are sitting around doing nothing, take advantage of that time to get ahead.

So enough about finding study time, let’s talk about some general principles to get more out of the time you have.

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