College Advice #4: Time Management (& Bonus Tip for Student Bloggers!)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Time is of the essence...


It's no secret that college is time consuming. Between the actual time slots of classes, work outside of class, a job to pay for those classes, a social life, and free time to relax, your schedule becomes packed. What is free time? That sounds like a foreign concept, right? 

With what is probably an insanely busy agenda, it's hard to figure out where to start. Does your job come before school? Do friends come before your job? What trumps in the hierarchy of importance? What if—GASP—there didn't have to be a hierarchy of importance? What if—again, GASP—there was a way to get everything done? Another foreign concept, right? 

Look, there's not going to be all foolproof way to get everything done stress free. But, I think I've found a system that severely reduces stress and even gives me enough time to watch the occasional movie on a Saturday night and not feel guilty about it.

Step One: Supplies

There are a few important things that you're going to want/need in the line of supplies for time management. Your lifeline throughout this whole process is going to be your agenda. Everyone and their grandmother seems to make agendas nowadays, so you can either splurge on an Erin Condren, Emily Ley, Kate Spade, Paper Source, Ban.do, Lilly Pulitzer, etcetera etcetera agenda, or you can head to Target or any office supply store and pick up the cheapest one you find. I would just make sure that they have spaces for daily notes rather than a monthly calendar overview. 

Now that you have your agenda, USE IT. Bring it with you to every class, write down every assignment and due date and quiz date. Write down your work schedule, write down plans with friends, JUST WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Don't rely on your memory or a phone note you leave yourself and ultimately forget to look at. Write it in pink ink, blue pink, purple glitter gel pen, pencil, whatever you want. I cannot stress how important it is to write everything you need to do down. This will make the rest of the process so, so much easier.

In addition to an agenda, I also keep a desk calendar. Last year I just used a simple 12 month desk calendar from Target. This year, I decided to get a weekly calendar from Erin McDowell that allows me to utilize the columns to write down any due dates, work days, general school or work related things I need to get done. I find this a lot easier to use in some aspects because it gives me more space to write down what I need to get done in a week. The only time this becomes inconvenient is when it comes to far off due dates that require a lot of work. For those, I make sure to make notes in my agenda about the approaching due date so I don't get stuck the week of freaking out about not having any of it done.

The final thing I use to keep my time managed is post it notes. I have two stacks of post-its in various colors and I use them religiously. Writing down small tasks on my post it notes and putting them on the blank wall in front of my desk is that daily in-your-face reminder that's like "hey, you need to get this done now." I use these the most when I need to organize what needs to get done first, but we'll talk more about that later.

Step Two:  Order, Order, Order

Once you have all of your supplies ready with your assignments written down, the next step is to organize those due dates. It should be obvious that the assignments with the closest due dates should rank at the top of your chronological to-do list. A reading assignment due the next class should come before a discussion due two classes from then and so on and so forth. Get what needs to get done the soonest finished before starting new assignments, even if they are more exciting. You'll thank yourself later when you're not rushing around trying to get something done the night before or morning of.

Time consuming projects (for example, mid terms, final papers, assignments with check points throughout the semester, etc) should be broken down into parts. For example, if you're a journalism major and you have an article due for a class, break it up like so: 
  1. Form story idea, figure out who you need to interview, make brief preliminary outline
  2. E-mail sources you need to interview, do your own research
  3. Interview your sources, record interviews, transcribe their quotes and organize your notes
  4. Create new detailed outline with your research and interviews
  5. Write article, revise, revise, revise
Another example could be a research paper. For that, you could break it up like so:
  1. Read rubric and guidelines (if available), choose topic, briefly research topic and related content to get a grasp on your choice
  2. Do a majority of your research, curate reputable sources, write down your research or copy and paste it into a separate word document from your paper (NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER PLAGIARIZE EVER)
  3. Make a detailed outline based on your research
  4. Write two pages (amount can be changed depending on paper length)
  5. Write two more pages and so on and so forth until you're finished (don't write the whole thing in one night. It'll be a lot less painful if you pace yourself)
  6. Revise, revise, revise
  7. Add in sources and attributions where needed

Sometimes you need to prioritize chronologically over what you feel like doing. Even if it seems like more work now, it's going to feel like even more work when you have to do it last minute because you decided to put it off.

Step Three: Get Yourself on a Schedule

Pick out designated times of days to get your work done, especially if you don't have classes every day. If you know you have a two hour gap between your classes on MWF or even T/TH, make that your time to get your assignments done rather than sitting around all campus or in your room doing absolutely nothing. Or, choose these hours to get lunch with your friends so you don't have to catch up during night. Just utilize this time wisely rather than sitting on your phone scrolling through Twitter or Tumblr waiting for something interesting to happen (it rarely will).

In the chance that you do have days off of classes or large gaps, pick a time of day to get work done. Last semester I had three online classes and T/TH completely off. So, I'd get up at nine, catch up on social media for an hour or so, and then around 10:30 I would start my online work. I'd finish what I told myself to get done for the day around 1 PM and then I was set! From around 1 PM to 2:30/3ish, I'd work on my regular classes (depending on the amount of work I had to do) and then the rest of the day could be dedicated to other things. This semester, I have a night classes on Monday and Wednesday and Fridays completely off, so I always designated Monday and Wednesday mornings to catching up on work, doing chores, blog posts, whatever I need to get done. Fridays are my "turn everything in" mornings where I'll make sure all of my work is planned out for the weekend and when I write and turn in my discussion posts for my online class. I know what activity goes with what day of the week so I'm never scrambling for time to do laundry or read my textbook or respond to some discussion posts in my class.

Step Three and a Half: Breaks Within the Schedule

I don't expect anybody to be able to focus on one singular task for an outstanding amount of time. Starting at a textbook for three hours straight isn't going to happen. Honestly, even if it does, I can guarantee a fraction of the amount you're reading is being retained, if anything at all. I need to take breaks every few pages so I can make sure that what I'm reading isn't just escaping my mind after I close my book. My general rule is to do half an hour of work with about ten minutes off. Sometimes you have to be disciplined and really follow this rule, but unless you're completely abandoning your work, don't worry too much about time specifics. Just be sure to spend more time on work and less time on leisure while you're on your "schoolwork schedule."

Step Four: Work Environment

This has less to do with your actual time management process and more to do with the area that you carry it out within. I do my work in my room at home. I don't do well with libraries because of distractions and just not feeling comfortable enough to settle in there. By now you should now where and when and with what people makes you feel productive enough to get your work done. Find a distraction free work zone where your productivity can flourish and you don't waste your precious time. Personalize your work environment with your favorite drinks or music or even people. I don't work well with other people around, but some people need company for motivation. Whatever works for you!

Step Five: Learn How to Relax

This is something that I've struggled with since late high school and all throughout college. Basically, once I started working regularly, I forgot how to take a break. I always had sports and school combined, but then it got the point where I had sports, school, and work and it became too much. I have a habit of taking too much on at once and then I reach my breaking point, crack a bit, and then I carry on like I was before. 

Learning how to relax is so important. Working on high levels of stress isn't healthy nor is it productive. You shouldn't feel anxious while you're working or near tears because it's all becoming too much. If you get to that point, take a step back, breathe, and walk away from it. Regroup, reorganize, and reschedule so your priority list is a bit smaller and more manageable. 

It's all going to be about trial and error. It's not going to work out the first time. It's taken me two years of college to realize what works for me. And who knows, maybe what works for me now isn't going to work next semester when I have an entirely new schedule. Maybe I'll pick up hours at work, maybe I'll start becoming more social, maybe I'll get some incredibly hard assignments that take over my life. You just have to take it day by day or week by week. 

BONUS TIP FOR STUDENT BLOGGERS: Get a separate agenda for your blog

Even if you aren't a daily or even regular updater with a certain schedule, I highly recommend getting a separate agenda for your blog. I use mine to plan out posts in detail with bullets, descriptions, ideas, anything that could help out in the writing process. It saves me from the panic of "WHAT DO I WRITE ABOUT?!" on a daily basis. You could use it to coordinate your social media schedule and what needs to go live when or when you have campaigns or posts due for companies. It just keeps your blog life separate from your personal life and schoolwork so nothing gets lost in the midst of your busy busy busy schedule.

What's your greatest time management tip? 


Look, even Bailey loves agendas...

2 comments

  1. This is such a helpful post.
    I am starting a new full time job, am in grad school, am planning a wedding, and of course blog at least 3 times a week.
    I definitely need to get my life in order and this tips will definitely help me do so.

    xoxo, Jenny || Breakfast at Lillys

    ReplyDelete
  2. These are great tips! I am a college blogger and just got myself a notebook for everything blog related!(: http://www.aslifegrows.com

    ReplyDelete

Hi y'all! Let's chat!

Latest Instagrams

© life according to francesca. Design by FCD.