College students - Manage your Time

Poor time management is an equal opportunity employer. College students may especially feel like their schedules are out of control and running their lives.  After all, they are part of a fraternity/sorority, different clubs, different extracurriculars, and still have to go to class on top of everything.  In addition, their day doesn't necessarily start at 9AM and end at 5PM like those who work.  

As a recent graduate of college, I went through the pains of "not having enough time to get things done".  Let me assure you, there is plenty of time in the day to get what's important done.  In fact, the typical problems a lot of college students run into include taking on too many things on at once, poor prioritization, and a poor understanding on how to manage their time.  If you implement these tips, your productivity and effectiveness should increase.

1.  Mindsets to have

Time management goes all the way back to how you view time.  Many college students view time as limited, and understandably so.  However, college students feel like they have too little time because they take on too many responsibilities in a quarter/semester.  Why do they do this? Well, mainly to pad up their resume and because they think it's a good thing.  Many people equate having more activities and being more busy as being more effective.  That is blatantly wrong. There is plenty of time to do what's important, so make sure you keep this truth in mind.   

2. Cut away the unimportant and focus on the important 

There's something call Pareto's law, where 20% of your inputs produce 80% of your results. Likewise, 80% of your inputs produce 20% of your results.  See what I'm getting at?  Cut away all the fluff - all the things that "might look good on your resume".  Focus on the things you really care about and will produce the majority of the results.  One question you should ask yourself is, "Will this lead to results and get me closer to what I want, or is this just busy work?" I'm not saying you shouldn't do anything, but I am telling you to be more focused on the core of your work.  From my experience, when I tried doing too much, I ended up doing everything in a mediocre fashion.  At the end of the day, you need results.

Here are some things you can do to avoid the unimportant:  

  • Stop joing a million clubs
  • Refuse to  go to classes that waste your time(the classes you can self-study and do well in)
  • Delegate your club responsibilities to another officer
  • Avoid going to non-crucial events.  

It's really up to your judgment.  Ask yourself, "What are the consequences if I don't this task or attend this event?"  Chances are, the cost will be minimal and the benefits of free time you have will be worth it.  

3.  Know yourself and your time 

If you want to increase your productivity, you have to know where you time goes.  Map out your class schedule along with all your other activities, and see where you have time to work.  If you cut out what's unimportant, some extra time should be freed up.  Do not get caught up in "not having enough hours to do work".  Again, there are plenty of hours.  If you were to wake up at 5AM each day and do all your schoolwork to 10AM(which is obviously a schedule most college students don't utilize), then you will find that there is plenty of time in the day.  In addition, know what type of worker you are.  Do you work better at night, or during the mornings?  Utilize the free time you're most alert and motivated to get work done.   

4. Develop a system 

Many students fail to get work done effectively because they simply wing it and plan ineffectively. You need to develop a system and schedule for getting things done.  Map out all your responsibilities for the week, all the time you have free to get work done(and when you're most productive), set deadlines on how many hours you're going to spend on a specific task each day, and then actually write it down so you can check off your work.  If you plan out exactly what you're going to get done each day(which should be the most important tasks), at what time periods, and how long you're going to spend on each task, then you probably will be more successful. Specificity and focus are the name of the game. 

5.  Discipline

At the end of the day, you determine if you manage your time effectively.  All the calendars, checklists, and schedules in the world won't help you if you get lazy and don't put in the effort. Discipline is tough, but you'll feel better about yourself when you follow through on what you planned. So keep at it, even when the going gets tough.  In the end, you'll thank yourself for it.