Effective Time Management Skills for Students

Time Management. It’s one of those phrases you hear a lot when you’re starting to get ready for high school and college. Adults frequently nod their heads in agreement when another mentions the importance of “good time management skills.” Office supply stores capitalize upon the phrase by featuring their school-year planners in colorful displays at the front entrance. And yet, they remain largely undefined, particularly for students. What are effective time management skills? And how do you develop them?

I’ve always been pretty organized, but time management skills were a new concept for me when I was in high school. My senior year, I was enrolled in 3 AP and 1 honors courses, worked six hours a week, took dance classes, and served as President for German Honor Society. Oh, and I was also applying to colleges, creating choreography for a charity event, attending club meetings, and attempting to maintain a social life. Time management skills suddenly became very important if I wanted to get any sleep at all. I learned, over the course of that year, to space out and prioritize my different responsibilities to make sure I could meet (and exceed) the expectations set forward for me. It made a huge difference when I transitioned into college, because developing time management skills is often the main struggle that college freshmen face. I’ve made a list of my top tips for time management skills; hopefully you will find them helpful too!

  1. Use a written or mobile planner. I can’t stress this one enough – I would be nowhere without my planner. Literally, I would not remember to drive anywhere because I have the worst memory for events. I personally use a written planner because I’m a very visual person and like being able to see my month ahead of me. However, if you think a mobile planner would be good for you, they work just as well! In addition, I write not only my deadlines but also my upcoming social events and other fun activities. Seeing that I’m going to a friend’s birthday party on Friday night reminds me how essential it is that I focus and get my work done beforehand.
  2. Make lists! If you have a lot to get done, lists can be a real lifesaver. Writing everything down can help you figure out how much time to dedicate to each task and what’s most important, which brings me to number 3…
  3. Learn to prioritize. Realistically, sometimes you won’t be able to get everything done that you intended to. That means that you have to decide what is most important. Focus on your required readings before you switch to the recommended ones. Study for the class you have a C in before you study for your A+. Don’t make dinner plans with a friend if you have another event to get to that night. Figuring out what’s most important (and prioritizing it) enables you to have the best outcomes possible, and you might even be able to get everything done!
  4. Multitask effectively. I’m not suggesting you complete your math homework while watching a documentary for your Spanish class. Dividing your attention in that way will lead to less comprehension for both assignments. However, you can often use downtime in a very effective way. Maybe you live in a city and take the subway to school. Why not use that time to go through your flashcards for an upcoming test? One of my friends reads while she walks on the treadmill. Use the gaps you have during your day to catch up on some work you might have.
  5. Try not to procrastinate. I know, I know. This is probably the hardest tip to actually follow. I still procrastinate sometimes, even though I try my very best not to. However, I think following all of these other tips and making a conscious effort to reduce your procrastination habits can make a big difference.
  6. Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise. At my school, finals week was always the time during which everyone’s hygiene and self-care habits seemed to drop off. Try to remember the importance of taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition can lead to better mental performance and enable you to do better in school. Let your body and brain work for you – not against you.
  7. Know your limit. As I’ve already mentioned, my senior year of high school was insanely busy. What I didn’t mention was that I began the year on the executive board of my school’s community service club. It was something that I was passionate about, but a few weeks in I realized I didn’t have the time to give it my full attention. I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly, and my stress was at an all-time high. I also wasn’t able to be committed enough to do everything I wanted to in the position. I decided to resign rather than continue to put in just the minimum amount of effort, which the rest of my executive board would have needed to make up for. After I resigned, I continued to attend meetings and events, allowing me to still be a part of it, but my stress levels dropped and I was able to give more attention to other aspects of my life.

Know how much you personally can handle and don’t overburden yourself. Try not to compare how busy you are to your friends or how much they’re doing. Figure out how much you can successfully take on, and don’t push yourself beyond your limits. You’re human – not a machine.

Do you have any tips for successful time management skills? Have you tried any of these strategies? Let us know in the comments!

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