It’s All About Time
Success in college is about time management. Sure, some classes are harder than others, but that just means it may take you longer to learn it. It’s still about time. It’s finding it, managing it, and using it in a consistent, methodical way – all without Mom and Dad there to supervise.
You waste precious minutes each and every day in college. They add up to hours. When you finally start playing catch up, you are staying up too late and spending your precious remaining time focused on things that don’t matter. (More on that later).
You are going to start planning and using your time a whole lot more effectively. However, before you can do that, you need to know where the time is.
There is nothing more important than understanding the importance of planning your schedule. This exercise needs to happen each and every semester. Everything changes. New classes. New papers. New activities. New personal obligations. You need a new plan and you need to think it through.
Your mission is to get a high level view of what is going to consume your day. Then you can drill it down from there.
Let’s get started.
First take a look at your class schedule. Now take a look at that big pile of books you just picked up at the bookstore. (Those are my daughter’s Freshman books there). Just think how long it is going to take to read all of that stuff – let alone understand it. Don’t worry, that won’t be a problem.
Now think about what you don’t see – the research you have to do and the papers you have to write, and who knows what else depending on your classes. All that before your athletic practices or the Frat brother decides you’re driving the road trip.
No wonder you are having that anxiety attack.
First Step: Block Your Time
Here’s what you are going to do, just once each semester. Get a weekly calendar. It can be like this one or you can use Google Calendar or whatever else you want. There are all kinds of amazing homework and class scheduling software apps out there for both laptop, iPhone and iPad. I plan on covering you in my follow ups. For now, let’s just stick to what everyone can use, which is a simple calendar that you can write on. Just print one from Google or iCal.
Find The Time
Before you can manage that time, you better know how much of it you have, and when you have it. Don’t worry about how you are going to make best use of it. We’ll cover that later. For now, you need to create a high level view of your schedule. This isn’t intended to be a substitute for a daily planner. This is just an overview. We’ll get into the details later.
There are times when you are committed – sleeping, classes, meals, practices, etc. You have to be there no matter what. These are the times you HAVE to do things. We’re going to find all of those first.
Bear with me here. I know this sounds simplistic. My goal here is not to find what you HAVE to do. That’s easy. My goal is to find what you DON’T have to do. It’s that other kind of time – the extra time – between classes, evenings, and weekends. The times when you DON’T have to do things. We’ll talk about each of those, because it’s really how you use those small pieces that most affects your success in college.
So, back to the calendar. Every semester, you need to create a view of your week. You need to see it and understand exactly where your time is being used.
I took my daughter’s classes to use as an example. The other blocks I put in based on how I personally would do things.
The first step is to fill in all of the classes. I did that in red. I allowed a bit of extra time to get to and from the classes. Next I filled in meals, exercise, and library time. I left weekends pretty much blank. We’ll talk about that later.
The green arrows are your extra time. That’s your hang out in the quad, take a two hour lunch, throw the Frisbee, and sleep in time. Then there’s the weekend. For now, just click on the calendar and take a look.
Wow! Looks like you’re pretty booked. How are you possibly going to have any fun at that school? Don’t worry. You will.
Things That Take Your Time
Now I know I said that it isn’t your committed time that’s important. It’s your uncommitted time that matters. We’ll get to that. First let’s talk about what you HAVE to do.
I know guys who can get ready in 10 minutes and others who need 30 minutes to do their hair. Girls? The sky’s the limit on you. You need to know how long it takes you to do your morning and evening get ready ritual and shorten it as much as you can. You’ll need every minute you can get. Your class schedule isn’t where most of your time is spent. You’ll spend tons of time doing other necessary things as well.
Block out the time for each of your classes. Include walking time. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to move across a big campus – and that doesn’t include the stop and chat time. Be conservative and add enough walking time to your schedule. Remember, minutes matter. We’ll talk about what you do in class later.
This is your mandatory, no exceptions, no delay, get there and get it done time. This is library time. You do it every weeknight and you do it in the right place. (more on that later too).
Time to start eating well.
Walking To and From
I went to a small school and could be anywhere in 5 minutes or less. Don’t underestimate the amount of time you waste walking back and forth and back and forth. Time yourself someday and you’ll be shocked at how much time you spend just moving between classes, meals and your dorm. Take stuff with you. If you have to go back to your dorm to get something, you’ll waste an hour. Save minutes everywhere you can. You’re going to start using them.
This isn’t an option. It’s mandatory. Set a goal to leave that school as a fit person. Exercise is the ultimate stress reliever. It is the best thing you can do to clear your head. It will make your study much more effective.
If you are already on a team, that’s great. If you aren’t, find an exercise routine and do it. Join a club sport, hit the gym, or find something else. Run, lift weights, play a sport. You pick it, but do it – 4 days a week at the least. Block it in. It’s mandatory – for your health and your sanity.
Whew! I feel better already!
I never was a night owl in college. You probably are. Adjust your calendar accordingly, but I suggest you try to get over staying up past midnight. In fact, get to bed ‘early’, which I define as 11:00 – 11:30 p.m. on weeknights. Professors operate during the day. You should too. The only reason kids stay up so late is they are cramming. When I’m through, you won’t be doing that anymore. Sweet dreams.
Laundry, shopping, errands, etc. Do these on Saturday or Sunday or at night after study. Treat the weekdays as business hours. Don’t let personal stuff cut into your study time.
Stuff happens. You got a toothache. Your car died. Grandma did too. The list is endless. Things are going to happen that will cut into your time. All the more reason to be ready by getting things done early and often.
When off calendar things do pop up, handle you with a sense of urgency and get back into the game. Your only responsibility is to study. Get back at it.
Oh, that’s right, you want to have some FUN too! Almost forgot about that. Actually, I am assuming you already are. That’s why you have the need to read this site.
The point of this exercise is to show you how much of your day is taken with stuff you have to do. Big blocks of your time are completely out of your control. It’s how you use that extra time that is going to make the difference in your success. How are you going to possibly fit it all in? First you better know what you have to do.