Know Your Time

How much you have and how you use it.

18 min read

Do you have time for college?

Do you know the answer to that? I don’t mean generally, I mean precisely. Do you?

Do you know exactly how much time you have, how you use it and how much you commit to study? On Monday? Tuesday? Every day? To the minute? Time is the single most important asset you have and it’s the most wasted thing on campus. Everything you do needs time to get done and it’s the foundation of every plan.

You have to know how much time you have and how you use it. You are about to find out. It’s the easiest thing to know and yet students never do. It should be simple, but that isn’t what students do.

Students usually think of time planning as putting things on a day planner, but that just tells you what you already know—it’s a list of deadlines no different from a syllabi.

Our goal is to tell you what you DON’T know: how much study time you really have to get things done. That’s the real power of Shovel App. It is one big student time calculator. As you add things to it, it totals them up by type to show you how much time you use for each. More importantly, it shows you what time you have left to get things done. That number might scare you.

Every student starts with the same amount of time each day. How much each student has for studying is a whole different story. Students play sports, join all kinds of student organizations, and participate in endless activities. Then there are those daily tasks like getting ready, meals, exercise, jobs, errands, and others.

And then there are the parties. Lots and lots of parties.

How Much Time Do You Have?

The first step is to get the big picture. Very big. That starts with how many days in the semester. When do classes start and when do they end. It’s that simple. A typical semester is about 115 days or so. That’s the big box that everything has to fit into. You probably have some holidays each semester when you know you won’t study. You’ll want to remove those days from your total.

How many hours each day?

So you know the total days, but how much time do you have in each of those days. You can only get things done when you are awake. For each day of the week, when do you get up and when do you go to bed? Most students have about 16 hours of awake time each week or about 112 hour each week. This is the small box. This is the time each week that you have to get things done. Is it enough to get your work done?

To start to answer that, you have to know how much of it is already used for other things you have to do.

How Do You Use Your Time?

So now you have a starting point. The total days and the total hours each day.

Is it going to be enough for studying? That depends entirely on how much time you need for other things. There are lots of things that take up your time besides studying, of course.

Your Typical Week

Once you arrive at school and the first week of nonstop parties passes, you’ll settle into a normal routine—your ‘typical’ week.

Sure, college can be spontaneous. How you actually use your time each day can and will change but most students will settle into a daily routine that will be pretty predictable week after week.

After all, much of your time each week isn’t flexible. There are some things that you simply have to do. These are your commitments, and they can take up a lot of your time. We want to focus on those first.

What Takes Your Time?

Think of all of the things that take up your time before you can do anything else, let alone study. Every day is different, but most days include the following things:

  • Getting Ready. I can be ready in 10 minutes. I know people who need 30 minutes just to do their hair.
  • Classes. You aren’t going to be missing any of those—not if you want A’s.
  • Meals. You have to eat! Plus, meals are social and break time.
  • Activities. Clubs, practices, jobs, and anything else that requires you to be there.
  • Walking To and From. Don’t underestimate the amount of time you spend walking back and forth to every class and other places you have to go. And if you live off-campus, add in your commute time, too.
  • Workouts. Exercise is a must. It affects the quality of your work—exercise makes you study much more effectively. Join a club sport, hit the gym, run, lift weights. You pick it, but just do it.
  • Errands. Laundry, shopping, etc. Anything and everything you need to do on a regular basis.
  • Personal Stuff. Everyone has things they always do—coffee shop, taking a walk, reading the paper. Or, for college students, playing on your phone.
  • Unexpected Time. You get a toothache. Your car dies. Grandma does, too. Plan on some time for things you least expect. You’ll get a few of them each year.

Keep it simple by breaking these things into 3 main sections: Classes, Meals, and Activities. Classes and Meals are self explanatory, Activities are everything else: practices, jobs, club meetings, personal obligations, whatever. Activities are whatever you do on a regular basis that is pretty much inflexible.

When DON’T you study?

There is a point to this exercise. It’s good to have a planner to show you all of the things you have to do. However, that’s not the real goal. Unlike other day planners and calendars, Shovel app doesn’t just show you what and when you have things to do. It shows you when you DON’T have things to do. The goal is to find and total all of your available study time. To do that, we need to consider one more thing.

Me Time

College isn’t just about studying, it’s about having fun—and you’re going to do that a lot. You absolutely should, but you need to understand how that affects your total time as well.

Remember, our main goal is to help you identify the time you have available for studying. You’ve entered all of the time for the things you HAVE to do, but now we need to enter the things you WANT to do.

We call that Me Time. This is the time you set aside for having fun.

These are your Friday and Saturday nights. You may not know exactly what you’ll be doing, but you know you won’t be using that time for studying. Block it off and go have fun.

It’s also Saturday and Sunday mornings when you are sleeping in or doing personal things.

Set it up in Shovel App and let it do the math for you. You can have as much or as little Me Time as you want. Just be honest with yourself. You don’t want to schedule too little time for fun.

The nice thing is that Me Time is flexible. The goal is to never have to use it for studying, but if you need it, you always know how much you have and you can use it in a pinch. It’s your reserve if you get behind—or for those weeks where you have three midterms and a paper.

Extra Time

If you’ve done the time exercise above you now have a pretty good idea of exactly how much time you have left to get things done. However, there is one small piece that you may be missing. We call that Extra Time. It’s the small blocks of time between your classes, meals and activities. They might be just 10 minutes or they might be an hour or more.

As you’ll soon learn, minutes matter in college. Every one of them can make a difference in your stress and your success.

You waste a lot of minutes during the day. Some of it is you can’t do anything with, but much of it you can. Sometimes you can get things done in only 30 minutes. Sometimes it just isn’t possible.

Shovel app helps you identify Extra Time so you can make a choice about how to use it. It is important that you take a hard look at all of those small blocks of time and see if you can use them. Can you move something around to combine two or more of them?

Maybe you have 30 minutes between two classes in the same building. Can you stay put and get something done?

The point is to really look at each and every Extra Time block and see how you can put it to use.

Study Time

The moment of truth. This is what this entire exercise was about. To establish exactly how much study time you have. Even when you know the exact number, you still don’t know if it’s going to be enough. (You’ll learn why in the next section).

You might not have much it. The things you have to do each day can take up the majority of your time. For student athletes, it may take up virtually all of it.

That’s the most important part of this exercise. To realistically exclude all of the times you have other things to do and the times where you know you won’t study. Then identify where and how much time you have available to study.

Those blocks of time you have left are STUDY time blocks and it’s time to be brutally honest with yourself about which ones you will really use.

So now that you know how much time you have, let me ask you this question again:

Do You Have Time For College?

And the answer is . . . you have absolutely no idea.

That’s because it’s not enough to know how much time you HAVE.

You also have to know how much time you NEED.

You’re going to figure that out next.

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