8 Steps to Effective Time Management for Students

When to study and how to organize your prep time

Time management is a key to academic success. Students around the world learn this sooner or later. The best students are not necessarily those who are “smarter”, but those who use their time effectively. When you plan your days and weeks in advance, time can be your friend rather than your enemy. And although time management can seem like a pain, once you have mastered this skill, it will enable you to get the most out of life. It can free you to live more effectively, calmly and enjoyably. It can help you get more done with less stress, disorganization and frustration. It can also give you higher marks throughout the school year, as well as on your quizzes, tests, and exams.

Think about it. Have you ever heard of an athlete, even one who is paid millions of dollars a year, playing in a game without showing up for practice? Have you heard of a musician delivering a concert without taking time daily to rehearse? Have you heard of a scientist proclaiming a grand discovery without hundreds of failed trials? All these professionals know that in order to succeed in their professional areas, they have to put in their time.

Unfortunately, millions of students around the world behave otherwise. They appear for exams expecting magic! Without making adequate time to study, they hope to get the highest grades and are then disappointed or ashamed when the results prove otherwise. Frankly, in today’s highly competitive world, if you are lucky enough to be in school, college, or university, you are holding a coveted spot, desired by many. You may have deprived another eager young person from getting admission, because your application appeared more promising, more likely to succeed. So after all the effort to get in, what are you doing about it? Are you making the time to study after working so hard and possibly paying so much to actually get into a particular school?

Once you make the decision, there are a number of excellent time management systems that you can follow. Although these are sometimes expensive or complex, you can achieve your goal by adopting a simple time management approach. The eight strategies below could make a huge impact on your academic career.

1. Organize your time

Life improves when you decide to do things differently. In this case, the goal is to gain control over time, rather than letting it control you. It is about taking ownership of time, which is the essence of your life. The main objective of time management is for you to have a clear picture of your upcoming days, weeks, and months. It is a way for you to discover what time you have available to devote to study, recreation, or other activities. Make the decision to be the master of your life, rather than its suffering slave!

2. Assess your time

Many students genuinely believe that they study a lot. Some even protest that they study all the time! In reality, this is far from the truth. The only way you will discover how many hours of your busy day you actually study is by completing a personal time assessment. The method requires you to keep track of everything you do for an entire week, from the time you wake up to the time you fall asleep. That means recording every single detail.

At the end of the week, add up the totals. For example, count the number of hours spent on eating, traveling, studying, talking on the phone, shopping, exercising, smoking, watching TV, being online, etc, until you have a complete picture of where your time goes. If you find you are losing a lot of time to activities other than studying, try to balance your schedule. Start eliminating the time bandits by making small adjustments in your habits and behavior in order to get better control of your precious time.

3. Set your priorities

The objective of time management is to allocate time wisely, so you can achieve your goals. If you wanted to be an Olympic swimmer or ice skater, you would have to practice several hours a day for years. In the same way, to be a top student you must have a good idea of the study requirements. Even though each subject places different demands on you – reading, writing, research, experiments, assignments, essays, projects, papers, presentations, tests, and exams – by prioritizing, you will increase your chances of success. For each subject, decide how to complete all required tasks, over a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. This advance planning will increase your awareness, making it less likely for you to squander time away meaninglessly.

4. Make a schedule

After establishing your priorities, set up a schedule which respects your priorities. A wide variety of student organizers, diaries, planners, electronic tools and time management systems are available on the market. Choose or create whatever seems best for you. Many students select weekly planners that enable them to see the big picture more easily. Make sure your system is something you are very comfortable with as you will be referring to it often. Then, set up your schedule in this order:

  • Mark in all your fixed commitments such as classes, seminars, tutorials, and part-time jobs. These are the givens, which you cannot change.
  • Add in study time. Block off large sections of your day, reserved for studying alone, as well as shorter review periods. Organize your peak study times to coincide with the times of day when you are most awake and alert.
  • Mark in other non-study activities. These are the important but lower priority items, such as exercise, recreational classes, or socializing, which you will fit in when possible.

5. Use a calendar

In addition to your weekly planner, invest in a large monthly wall calendar. Jot down all the important due dates, deadlines, exams, etc so they are in front of you as a visual reminder. This will make you more aware of important dates and allow you to adjust or rearrange plans if you are behind schedule.

6. Use review cards

Always keep some review cards with you to read over when you are waiting for something else to happen. This could include when you are traveling or waiting in line at the bus stop, bank, supermarket, cafeteria and so on. You could also place review cards in common locations which you pass frequently in your house, such as on the fridge door, bathroom mirror, etc. Frequent repetition and review is one of the keys to remembering information easily and effectively.

7. Plan activities logically

Get to know your bodily cycle; then, schedule activities around it as much as possible. If you always feel sleepy after lunch, for example, use the time to get in your daily walk, instead of fighting to keep your eyes open over a history book.

8. Plan some down time.

You are not a robot! Schedule some time to relax so you can rest and refresh your mind and body. This will enable you to study more effectively. Get enough sleep as well. A sleep-deprived student is not going to be able to perform at his or her best.