If you are a student, you know the difficulties of fitting class into your already busy schedule. As a graduate student with an assistantship, internship, and teaching assistantship, I have to find a way to fit a lot into each day. So the biggest question is, how? How can you incorporate school with work and personal life?
As a second-year graduate student, I have been in college for six years now. As an undergrad student, I held multiple jobs on campus and never fell below 15 credits a semester and now, as a grad, I find myself just as busy. So I think it is fair to say I have developed a pretty effective strategy for time management.
One of the biggest factors in my ability to fit everything into my schedule is my ability to find Work-Life Harmony. Instead of trying to separate each thing I have to do into its own category, I allow each part of my life to connect. These connections allow me to incorporate my passions into my work and classes. I take inspiration from people that are close to me to find new ideas and initiatives in my program and allow them to keep me motivated too.
Here are a few other tips that I have found to be the most beneficial when finding effective time management in college:
1. Be honest about where your time is going
First thing’s first, you need to take a critical look at what you are spending time on each day. I used to find myself always talking about how busy I was on papers and work assignments. In reality, I spent far too many hours binge-watching episodes of Friends and scrolling through Instagram. It wasn’t until I took the time one week to write out how long I spent doing every activity that I saw just how much time I was putting into things that weren’t going to benefit me in the long-term.
After realizing I needed to make a change, I wanted to create weekly goals that I knew I would be able to stick to. Instead of adding in three hours of schoolwork a day and not watching any streaming shows, I decided to watch one episode of a show for every assignment I finish. This allowed me to create momentum in my work to the point that I didn’t feel the need to watch a Friends episode for the tenth time. I became more productive throughout the day and felt better overall.
2. Get a planner
The most important item in my bag (aside from my laptop) is my planner! It is important for me to have a one-stop-shop with all of my upcoming deadlines, meetings, and tasks to complete. My planner allows me to keep up with projects I haven’t started, am in-progress on, and allows me the satisfaction of checking it off of my list when it is done!
I also put my calendar onto my phone so that I can set reminders for myself. The Google Calendar app allows you to link your calendar to your phone and set reminders when you have an upcoming event. I always add in tasks I need to complete at work and my internship or assignments due for the class to the description of my calendar event as well.
3. Map out your syllabi
Read. Your. Syllabus. Read all of it to the competition. Your syllabus is your lifeline in college and has all of the information for the course you could need. Take note of upcoming projects and papers, specifically the ones that aren’t due until the end of the semester. In many cases, these papers are not due at the end of the 16-week course by coincidence. These assignments often take hours of preparation, work, revision, and edits.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to map out small milestones for these assignments throughout the entirety of the semester. Instead of waiting until midterms to begin looking at the requirements of the assignment, try to get started as early as possible.
As a procrastinator at heart, I know how difficult this is. I tend to wait until the zero hours to start major assignments and every time I regret it. Setting these milestones can keep you on track and having a friend in the course hold you accountable to that deadline is even better!
When life gets hectic, it is important to know how to prioritize. Before I go to bed each night, I write a to-do list for the next day in three different categories: work, school, and life. Within each category I write out what needs to be done in order of importance. When the day gets away from me, I look at the last three items (one from each list) and ask myself if I could move them to the next day. This gives me the space to adapt to any circumstance without allowing things to fall through the cracks - or try to prevent it as much as possible.
5. Get into a routine
The best thing you can do for yourself in college is getting into a routine. Having an established morning routine, setting time to complete homework, and finding time for self-care is easy when you have a routine that you follow every day.
I used to wake up an hour before my first scheduled event or activity. If I began work at 10:00 AM, I woke up at 9:00 AM; if I had class at noon, I would roll out of bed just in time to get ready to get there on time. When I began waking up every day at the same time (yes, even weekends), I was able to get going faster. I felt more productive throughout the day and I felt happier.
I had more time to do things that aligned with my core values like call my family, spend time with my boyfriend and friends, read, write, and try new things! Establishing a good routine, in combination with the above tips to establishing good time management in college, has allowed me to find time to do the things I really want to be doing.
The most important thing to remember as you continue through college and beyond is that you need to find time to do the things you love and try things that interest you! You are at school to better your life and improve your future, but that does not mean your life should be put on pause. The world does not stop moving around you while you are pursuing an education; so whenever you can, take advantage of the opportunities that come your way!