Hopefully you’ve been enjoying some free time this summer. Time for yourself. Perhaps you’ve had time to travel, try something new, or make some money.
Time always seems to be in short supply. Now, with the school year looming ahead, that is doubly true. You will need to spread your time thinly, between school, homework, extracurricular activities, social life, and family time. Perhaps you’ll also need to make time for a job. And somewhere in there, you have to sleep. How will you do it all without going crazy, or burning yourself out?
Take advantage of these last remaining days to prepare yourself to handle life’s many demands. Here we present our Top 8 Tips for Student Time Management, as well as some cool apps and tools that will help you.
Top 8 Tips for Student Time Management
First step: Think about what really matters to you. What are your top goals for this year? Write them down, organizing your list by:
- Steps to accomplish that goal
- What will you gain by accomplishing that goal
These goals don’t all have to be school-related. Staying healthy, making close friends, forming strong family relationships, or achieving personal or athletic milestones are important, too. Determine which things matter most in your life, and why. Along with the benefits of accomplishing a goal, consider the risks or consequences of failing to achieve it.
Once you’ve analyzed your goals, your priorities will become clearer. Then, you’ll be more easily able to prioritize your schedule and “action items.”
Tool for Prioritizing: Trello
Tips for using Trello
2. Create a Schedule / Time-Budget
Organization is a huge component of good time management. Humans seek structure in our lives. Once we establish a schedule and make it routine, we can accomplish more, in a shorter period of time. With less stress.
You know how much time you have in a day – it’s finite and unchanging. Budget that time, just as you would budget your income. Put it down “in black and white.” Once it’s written, that schedule becomes more real. A digital version is as good as or better than paper – especially if you can take it with you everywhere, on your phone.
Be realistic. Schedule the little stuff along with the major items, because those things take up more time than you think. You may need to make a couple iterations before you devise a schedule that really works. It won’t be exactly the same each week. Once you get a good system, stick to it! Don’t try to convince yourself that you can use study time to text or watch web videos, and make it up later. Without discipline, the schedule is pointless; chaos and stress will take over again.
Tool for Scheduling: Google Calendar
Tips for using Google Calendar
3. Create a To-Do List
Nothing keeps you on track better than a “To-Do List,” which the corporate world calls an “action item” list. Make your list every day and list everything. Along with major items like “Complete math assignment” or “Read Chapter 10”. Don’t forget administrative tasks such as “Get birthday card for Julie” or “Call Grandma.”
Prioritize. It’s often smart to put the least agreeable task on the top of the list, and get it out of the way. If an item doesn’t get accomplished, make sure you forward it to the following day’s list. If you force yourself to keep writing it down, you’ll be less likely to keep procrastinating.
To-Do List Tool: 2Do or Trello
Tips and Tricks for 2Do
Speaking of procrastination, that’s one of the biggest enemies of time management. You know the other major problem: distraction. You probably know what your biggest distraction is, too... Most likely it’s your phone.
Good time management is all about efficiency. There’s no point spending several hours studying, if you’re unfocused and unproductive. Focus is required for knowledge retention, and for efficiency. Having trouble getting started? Make another list, with all the steps of finishing your assignment. What does your teacher consider most important? What additional info would help you ace this? What resources do you need? Create a plan-of-attack.
Focus will be your best friend during study time. Your work will be more enjoyable and time will move more quickly when you’re in the zone. That means removing yourself from distractions. If your phone is distracting, turn it off during designated study times. Let your friends know your timetable, so they won’t try to reach you at the wrong time, and you don’t have to stress over ignoring them.
Tool for Focus and Productivity: 30/30
Article on using 30/30
Tool for Focusing When Writing Papers: FocusWriter
Article on FocusWriter
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
You simply can’t do everything. If you try, you’ll find that you don’t do anything well. Even with good time management, you can’t be two places at once.
Now that you’re clear on your priorities, it’ll be easier to decide when to agree to something and when to bow out. If people know what’s already on your plate, they’ll understand if you have to say “no.” If your parents or teachers assign a new task, show them your schedule and ask them to help you switch things around, in order to accommodate their request.
6. Find your Motivation
Motivation is often tied into your goals, and the benefits you’ll receive by accomplishing them. Review your goals often, to stay inspired, motivated, and on-course.
You should also reward yourself for staying on schedule or accomplishing a goal. Choose a treat that’s especially satisfying to you. For example, give yourself 30 minutes of screen time for every 90 minutes of studying. Or take yourself out if you got a good grade on your test.
Build your motivational activities into your official schedule. Remember: that schedule is the key to your time management.
Tool for Motivation: EpicWin
Article on Using EpicWin – a To-Do list app with built-in motivation
7. Take Breaks
Breaks should also be on your schedule, especially during times of intensive studying. The brain can only absorb so much at once. If you give yourself a 10 minute break occasionally, you’ll be more productive and focused when you get back to business.
Exercise is a perfect break activity. It refreshes your brain as it improves your circulation. Exercise may also help you accomplish your fitness and health goals!
To-Do List with Built-In Breaks: 30/30
Of course humans need sleep – everyone knows that. We also know that sleep is one of the first things to get sacrificed in a busy schedule. Good time management could fix that.
No point in belaboring this – you already know how important sleep is. Studies show you need even more in your teen years, so schedule plenty of it.
Tool for Lulling Yourself to Sleep: RainyMood
Following these tips won’t just help you tackle the school year – they’ll help you tackle life. Time will remain one of your most valuable commodities, through college and career. Use these final simple reminders to leverage time to your advantage:
- Frequently review and adjust your schedule/approach
- Be realistic
- Be disciplined
- Stay motivated
Good luck. May time be on your side!