Learning to manage your time is one of the most important skills you will acquire in college, and one that you need to be successful. The modern-day college student is often juggling classes along with a part-time or even full-time job; some have families or careers thrown into the mix. Here are some tips to help manage your time effectively to write better academic papers.
1. Buy a Planner
Consider a planner one of the necessities to good time management. But what kind should you buy? It seems like there are a zillion versions, from the fancy (and expensive) PDAs (personal digital assistants), to PC or Internet-based planners to keep you organized. Microsoft Outlook is a favorite for business types and those that use their computer often. Today's cell phones often come with some planning features as well. But don't be impressed or even distracted by all their capabilities. Sometimes they have many more features than you really need and are not accessible at all times (like the online or PC-based planners). A paper-based planner, simply bound or spiraled works just as well, and you can access it anywhere. Plus for students on a budget, the price can't be beat! Make sure that your planner has enough space so that you can schedule out by the hour, or the half hour, if necessary.
2. Make To-Do Lists
One of the tricks to time management is to list out everything that you must accomplish and prioritize your tasks. This helps you to actually judge the amount of work you have and allocate how and where you spend your time. You can do this on a daily or even weekly basis, and sometimes you will need to do both. Items to include might be homework and reading assignments, papers, and studying for quizzes and tests. Give each item on your list a priority, usually based on their due date. While this might seem like a time-consuming exercise in and of itself, it is necessary to help you see the big picture - your workload and time available. You will learn a lot about yourself by making lists and spending the time organizing yourself - such as where you are most effective and where you need the most work in managing your time.
3. Putting Them Together: Scheduling Your Tasks
The first items you can put into your planner are the times spent at class, work, or other high-priority obligations. Using your to-do list, start filling in the remaining hours in your planner, looking for blocks of time that you can designate to the tasks on your list. The key here is to realize that you needn't have huge blocks of time - if you find 20 free minutes, use it on one of your projects or for reading. Write the due dates and tasks you have assigned yourself into the appropriate day or work session. The items you do not get accomplished move to the next day's to-do list or work session and get re-prioritized with the items you have listed for that scheduled time period.
4. Designate a Distraction-Free Study Space
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to carve out a good study space or spaces. Depending on your living situation, this might be at a desk in your room, the library, or a designated study room in your dorm. Find a space that is free from distraction, noise, or interruption. It should be well-lit, ventilated, and quiet. You may wish to have a home study area and another place on campus close to your classes and other places you know you must be during the day.
5. Schedule Fun Time
Finally, a good time management plan includes making sure to take some break time. Not only will you be more efficient during your work time if you take regularly scheduled breaks, but you will feel better as well. Some students like to schedule exercise or their meals during these breaks or watch TV, surf the Internet, or read something not related to school.
When should you take breaks? When you notice your productivity taking a dip, you become tired, bored, or you mind begins to wander, that's the time! The break doesn't need to be long, just long enough to recharge you and clear your head. You might think of these breaks as rewards for putting in the work, which will give you something to look forward to.
Learning to manage your time is like any other skill - it will take some practice to get the hang of it. You may not know exactly how much time to allocate for a particular project, and some tweaking will be necessary along the way. But with experience, you will get to know yourself and your capabilities. As with any new skill, practice makes perfect! Good time management will allow you to write perfect essays and research papers!