The beginning of a student’s first year at University is usually a very busy time, and often students end up feeling overwhelmed. One of the most effective ways to ensure that you feel in control during this busy time is to develop strong time management skills, and learn how to prioritize the different tasks that need to be completed. The goal of this guide is to help students learn how to make better use of their time, especially when it seems to be in short supply.
Time Management Strategies
This is a great way to keep track of the things that you want to accomplish during the week, whether those tasks are assignments, laboratory write ups, preparation for a class, or studying for an exam. If you get into the habit of writing down all of your upcoming tasks as soon as they are assigned, then you will always have an easy way of checking what needs to be accomplished. Another benefit of making lists is the sense of satisfaction that comes from crossing off each item as it is completed!
A really positive way to plan for each upcoming week is to set a few small goals, as well as one larger goal which you would like to achieve during the week. An example of a small goal would be to finish each assignment two days before it is due, giving yourself lots of time to check your work. An example of a larger goal would be to study for a total of 8 hours over the course of the week, for an upcoming test, midterm, or final. The strategy of setting goals for yourself can also be used hand in hand with making lists! It is very positive to get into the habit of setting goals to finish each item on your list by a certain day or time.
When this is helpful
If you ever have problems focusing on the tasks at hand, or if you find that you spend are not dedicating enough time to your work, then this could be a very important strategy for you.
How you can use timers
To help yourself stay on task: Often, it is a lot easier to focus on an activity such as studying if you know exactly when your next break is. You can use this to your advantage by setting yourself a timer for an hour or two hours when you begin studying, with the intention of taking a quick break as soon as the timer is up.
To help dedicate more time to working: On the other hand, a lot of students find that it is very easy to spend more time than they originally intended doing fun things such as playing a video game or hanging out with friends. In order to prevent your half an hour break from turning into a 3 hour break you can set a timer for half an hour at the start of your break, so that you will have a really clear reminder of when it is time to get back to work.
Establish a routine
Why is it important to follow a routine?
University class schedules can be very hectic, and widely different from the structured daily six hour schedule followed by many high schools. You might find that your classes are very spread out, with several hours between each class, or you might find that you have classes at strange times, for example evening classes.
It can be hard to adjust to such a schedule, but building a steady routine that you follow each week can really help ensure that you leave yourself enough time to get to each of your classes, and prevent you from missing class. Even more importantly, following a routine can help provide the sense that you have everything under control, despite a busy schedule.
Managing your sleep schedule
The first steps to building a good routine are to ensure that you are always able to get a healthy amount of sleep and that you wake up in time for your engagements each day.
In order to ensure that you wake up at the correct time each morning, you can set up a system of alarms using your phone or computer. This can be especially important if you have to be ready for classes very early on certain days, but slightly later on other days. Even though you will feel busy on many an evening it is still immensely important to get a good night’s rest, or else it will be hard to focus on learning during the day.
On busy evenings, make sure to keep in mind a time that you would like to be asleep by, based on when you will have to wake up in the morning.
How to build good routine
Getting into a routine is all about establishing good habits that lead to having an overall good day, every day! When building a routine it is important to consider the amount of time that you will need to study and complete assignments each week, how to incorporate nutritious and delicious meals into each day, as well as leaving some time for other activities such as exercising or spending time with friends.
Leave time for fun
Even though the first year of university is a busy time for any student, it is important to remember that you are supposed to enjoy your time at university. When you are feeling under pressure it is really positive to find the time to do something you enjoy, spend time with your friends, or go out to try and make some new friends. Taking breaks to make your days more enjoyable will have the added bonus of making it easier to focus when it is time to get down to doing work!
Learning to Priortize
Figuring out how to properly prioritize tasks can make a world of difference when it comes to succeeding in university. Some general characteristics to keep in mind when prioritizing tasks are:
- the deadline of the task
- how difficult the task is
- how important the task is
- how long the task is expected to take to complete
- how many other tasks you have to simultaneously manage
With these characteristics in mind you should be able to decide which tasks need to be focused on immediately, and which ones can wait a little while. For example, if you have a very easy task that isn’t expected to take any longer than a half an hour and you have another task that is much more challenging and is expected to take several hours to complete, both due tomorrow, you may choose to accomplish the short and easy task first, so that you will then be able to focus all of your energy on the more difficult task.
Midterms: When midterm season rolls around many students find themselves having to balance studying for various midterms with completing assignments for their classes. When this happens it is usually a good idea to pour more energy into studying for midterm examinations, as they are often weighted much more heavily in the final grade than individual assignments.
Exams: During exam season students will sometimes find that there is not a lot of time between their exams. For example, you may find that you have exams on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, all in the same week! As many students quickly learn in this case, one night of studying is not enough to make you truly comfortable with a courses material. Thus it becomes really important to try and make time to study for all three of the upcoming exams before Monday, instead of just focusing on the nearest examination.
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