This academic success module explores time
management. Finding an effective way to manage your time will be a key element to your success
while taking college courses. Time management is the ability to plan and
control how you spend your time so you can accomplish your goals. It is a skill people
develop as they learn to regulate their time. Successful time management requires discipline,
planning, and responsibility. In a time management study, researchers found
that students who engaged more frequently in the mechanics of time management, such
as making lists, planning, and scheduling, were more certain of their roles as students
and maintained higher GPAs. We believe that effective time management is essential to
students taking college courses and encourage you to find a time management tool that can
contribute to your success. Managing your time as a college student is
part of what gives you more control over your life and activities. When you are more structured
with your time, you can better navigate your course loads and life commitments.
Unfortunately, though we may be thoughtful and organized with our time, life comes with
unpredictable and unplanned moments or emergencies. The best way to prepare for these moments
is to be proactive with our time. Steven Covey says that proactivity is the
responsibility we all have for our lives. Being proactive requires us to plan ahead
and leave room for changes in our schedules. To be proactive is different than being reactive
which is the practice of responding to the situation rather than preparing for situations.
When people lean towards being reactive, they often feel like they are running behind, as
if the circumstances or conditions of their lives dictate how they move forward. When
a person schedules their time more proactively, they will have flexibility built into their
schedules for when emergencies arise. For example, planning ahead and writing your
paper early will help you be successful. When you’re proactive in this situation and your
printer runs out of ink fifteen minutes before class, you won’t need to panic or email
your professor for an extension. Being proactive requires you to build in time for emergencies
by getting work started earlier and having a plan of action to follow.
Developing effective time management requires organizational skills and tools. Organizing
your time will force you to be realistic of your commitments so you can work more effectively.
One of the most basic tools to help you manage your time is an organizational device. Whether
you use a daily planner, wall calendar, Outlook, or app on your phone, you will want to choose
a tool that you like and works for your needs. It helps to choose a tool that matches the
type of planning you’re doing. There are many different forms of planning. In this section of the module, we will discuss four methods we recommend to help you manage your time. Among these, we will discuss long-term planning, such as the term, year, or entire degree plan, planning backwards, weekly schedules,
and to-do lists. The first method for time management in this
module is long-term planning. Long-term planning gives us a broad picture of what comes ahead.
Long-term planning for college courses helps give an overview of what you need to do in
the next few weeks or months and can help you plan your time appropriately.
One tool that helps with long-term planning is a term at a glance. To fill-in your term
at a glance worksheet, you will start by adding the dates to your calendar.
The next step of filling out a term at a glance is probably the most time intensive of the
process and it requires attention to detail. Use the syllabus from each of your classes
to note the required assignments, exams, projects or papers and their due dates on the calendar.
The amount of detail you choose to add is up to you. If you have room to list reading
assignments, this may be a helpful way to keep track of them. If you don’t, make sure
you write them down somewhere else, or regularly consult your syllabus, online course page,
or planner. The next step is to add-in any personal plans
or obligations that might impact your long-term planning. Again, the amount of detail you
choose to include is up to you. In general, you don’t need to list every lunch date
or coffee break, but you’ll want to include larger activities that might have an impact
on your ability to study, particularly if they overlap with important study weekends.
Now it’s time to analyze. If we look at this completed term at a glance, what do you
notice? It seems like week 7 is a really busy week. Seeing this, I might choose to plan
ahead and spread out the work by starting early weeks 5 or 6. Week 4 isn’t too bad,
but it is the weekend after my sister’s wedding so I might not have done much
homework over the weekend. That’s another opportunity to plan ahead and get my work
done the week before. Planning ahead like this will decrease your stress levels significantly
when busy times arise. Finally, you’ll want to make sure to post
this calendar somewhere you can see it: in your bathroom, near your bed, in the front
pocket of a folder or binder you use, or you can take a picture of it with your cell phone.
The important piece is that you place it somewhere where you will see it regularly.
Our second technique for time management is scheduling backwards. Stephen Covey addresses
scheduling backwards with his habit number two: begin with the end in mind.
This helps you know what direction you’re going so you can create a plan.
Backwards planning is an organizational tool to help you spread out a big project over
time. It’s useful because it makes the project seem less overwhelming. You never have to
sit down and do the entire project or paper from start to finish. And it allows you to
manage the time needed to complete the work over several days or weeks – making it easier
to balance multiple projects. Scheduling backwards is a common practice
for other large areas in life such as moving, traveling, or planning for a wedding or the
birth of a child. Knowing what you need to get done by a certain date eliminates the
unnecessary stress of trying to cram something in at the last minute.
To plan backwards, you first need an understanding of the assignment, project, paper or exam.
And you’ll need to know the deadline. The next step is to break that project down into
multiple steps. For instance, we’ll use the example of a
research paper that requires three articles as sources. The deadline is January 27th and
today is January 5th, leaving you three and a half weeks to complete the assignment. You’ll
start by breaking this assignment down into small manageable steps, working from where
you are now, or working backwards from the final product.
Each step is small and relatively manageable and is necessary for the steps that follow
it. It’s important to capture even the small details in your list – like reading the
articles and printing your final draft, because those take time to do. Once you have your
list, it’s time to create some intermediate deadlines between now and the 27th to help
you stay on task to complete this assignment. Start with the task that is closest to the
27th and work backwards. How much time will you need to get that step done?
Here’s an example of some possible deadlines for this assignment. You’ll notice they
work backwards from the due date, carefully allotting adequate time for each phase of
the project. You’ll want to be able to make sure you have time to re-read and revise your
paper before taking it to the Writing Center. You’ll also want time to make edits and
print your final draft after your Writing Center appointment. When you’ve completed
your plan, you’ll know what you have to do each week to stay on track, and you’ll
have confidence in your ability to finish your assignment by the deadline.
The third technique for time management is developing weekly schedules. Developing weekly
schedules is different than scheduling backwards and long-term planning. Weekly schedules help
us organize the daily activities we have going throughout the week. Many people use weekly
schedules to plan out their meals, classes, exercise routines, and homework. These schedules
help students organize their course and work loads so they will know how much time they
have committed to different activities. Scheduling out the week in front of you allows
you to see approaching due dates and time commitments. You will be able to see the amount
of time it will take to work on certain projects and be able to make a plan for what you need
to do that week. When projects are bigger, you’ll be able to plan out individual steps
you can take during your smaller chunks of time throughout the week.
We’ve created a weekly calendar that helps you map out your time and priorities. To begin
filling out the weekly priorities calendar, you will start by writing in when you have
class commitments. Next, you’ll want to write in your work
schedule and commute time. This is the part of scheduling people often
forget. They forget the amount of time it takes to get from point A and point B and
schedule back-to-back sessions so they are not necessarily on time to meetings and classes.
After that, you will add in meals and exercise routines.
Writing these important activities in your schedule will make it more likely for you
to commit to doing them. When you don’t plan in your meal or exercise time, it may
be more difficult to follow through. From there, you can add any extra-curricular
activities you participate in. Knowing what time you’ll need to commit
to these extra-curricular activities will help you figure out the next step which is
to write in your scheduled study hours. We recommend being realistic yet committed.
You’ll want to build in study hours like you would a class – you’ll commit to spending
that time in the library or in another study space learning the material.
On this priorities calendar, the next piece will be to write the to-do list down below
each day. Here are the things you’ll need to get done during your study hours.
On the left side, you will list out your priorities. Again, you’ll want to place this calendar
in a place where you’ll see it. This helps you stay accountable to your time management
commitments. The final tool we recommend for effective
time management is a to-do list. To-do lists help us know what we need to complete and
sometimes when we need to complete them. Studies show that people find it more motivating
to be partly finished with a longer journey than to be just beginning a shorter journey.
This is why when some people create to-do lists for the day, they may jot down a task
they have completed, just to check it off so they can see that they have accomplished
something. When they feel like they are on their way to success or completion, they
will be more motivated to do the next steps that will get them to the finish line.
To create a to-do list that helps enhance your academic success, we recommend prioritizing
and adding estimated times to the tasks. When you write out your to-do list, you will
want to consider your school and personal commitments.
You may have two high priorities on the same day: taking your rent check to your apartment
manager and reading the three assigned chemistry chapters. However, the two tasks will probably
not take the same amount of time to complete, thus you will want to build time into your
schedule to accommodate both tasks. Being realistic about the tasks you have to
do during the week is an important part of managing your time. Knowing when you will
do your laundry, when you will read for class, and when you’ll start working on your upcoming
term paper will help you plan out your activities and prepare for success. Having a weekly to-do list will work well with your weekly schedule or term-at-a-glance. Of the four different tools for time management, thing of how you might use them together. Based on this academic success module on time management, what are three steps you can take
to improve your time management? That concludes the success module on time
management. For more information and study tips, please visit our website at success.oregonstate.edu/learning-corner.