Prioritize––Time Management Skills for the College Student

Janna Mae Adams is currently a Professional Writing major and Literature minor at Kutztown University. She is in her senior year and also currently interning at Lehigh Carbon Community College in the college relations department. As co-head editor of her university’s literary magazine, her passion for writing and editing takes charge and her positive spirit keeps her grounded. She has self-published a short book of prose and hopes to be a published author in the future.

You’ve got a lot on your plate.
No, really, your buffet-style plate from your college’s food court is nearly overflowing with food. You’ve been running around all day and now it’s 8 o’clock pm and you realize that between your classes and your part-time job, this is your first meal of the day. You’re moody, exhausted, and you still have to start that research paper when you get back to your dorm. How did you get to this point?
One of the most difficult parts of transitioning into a college environment is a student’s inability to correctly prioritize his or her time. Time management isn’t a skill taught in a freshman classroom, it’s a concept you learn by crawling into bed at night and wondering how the day escaped you. But that doesn’t mean a little advice won’t soften the blow of the first week of a chaotic new schedule.

Step 1: Plan Ahead of Your Academics
If you’re a college student paying your own way through school, you’re probably juggling a part-time job on top of taking your classes each semester. Since you are considered a full-time student with 18 credits, it’s no surprise that balancing a job on top of an academic career can be stressful.
Do yourself a favor and formulate your work schedule around your academic schedule. Most bosses (especially in college towns) understand that you need to put your studies first. Don’t be afraid to set up a schedule for yourself that allows for a bit of relaxation. If you have classes five days a week that last until 3pm, ask if you can work three days out of the week as appose to all five. Or perhaps work four to five days a week, but keep your weekends free. This will allow you time to focus on your studies outside of the classroom, which you’ll find are a lot more time consuming than anticipated.
By giving yourself space and time to work on homework, you are doing your brain and your body a favor. A well-rested brain will help you work more diligently and give you better, more natural results. You won’t find yourself sleeping through your alarm every other morning, either.

Step 2: Discover Your Downtime
Take some time a few days before your new academic schedule begins and try to figure out how your days will look on a weekly basis. Maybe MWF you have three classes, one at 10am, one at 1pm, and one at 3pm. That leaves you two hours in between your first and second class. This is called your downtime.
Perhaps you don’t know it yet, but downtime is the best gift a college student can receive. Downtime is a period of time in which there isn’t enough time to work at your part-time job or start a big assignment, but there is enough time to have lunch, read a chapter or two of that novel for your English class, or do those twenty math problems that your professor assigned last minute. Doing little bits of school work during in-between periods in your day keeps your work from building up later.
Now instead of having to start that research paper when you get home and do those twenty math problems and read those two chapters, you only have to start the research paper (or perhaps you started it during your downtime, so now you just have to finish it). It’s as simple as that.

Step 3: Get Enough Sleep and Don’t Forget to Eat
You may think that staying up all night and finishing that research paper while simultaneously studying for your Geography mid-term was a good decision, but when you get your test back you might think differently. Sleep is important, and in reality, studies have shown that you retain more information on a good night’s sleep than you do on little to no sleep–in which you actually are more prone to forget information you previously knew due to exhaustion.
Your performance levels may drop significantly if you’re not sleeping, and those three slices of pizza that you had for lunch are not going to hold you over into tomorrow’s math exam. If your academics are important to you, your health needs to be your first concern.
It may be tempting to stay up late when you’ve had a packed day of classes and work simply because you’ve always been a night owl, or because you have assignments to work on. However, getting to bed before midnight can drastically improve your next day. If you have early classes, you won’t sit drowsily through them the next morning, and if you have late classes, you may wake up in time to give yourself a little extra downtime before you attend them. Or, you get to sleep in. Either way works, and you wake up feeling refreshed (or at least not exhausted), which is always a plus.

Utilizing your time as a student will immediately work to your benefit. It’s important to create a schedule that works best for you, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first when it comes to making a decision that could affect your health or your academics. Time management will make your college career smoother and lower your stress level. And if you still can’t seem to get the knack of a busy week at first, don’t worry, your body and brain will adjust accordingly in time and you will bust out your time management skills before you know it. Have a great semester!

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