Internet access may have made doing research a lot easier, but it also provides an immeasurable distraction for today’s students. Time management skills are critical to their success in school and in life, but often students are left in the dark when it comes to organizing an effective schedule and sticking to it.
Cornell University Center for Learning & Teaching published a simple and useful tool encouraging consistency and routine for best results, that will work well for people who prefer a linear, time-blocking technique. The system begins by taking stock of all the deadlines, events, and responsibilities that belong on your calendar, and then identifying the non-negotiable time blocks each week (classes, study groups, extra curricular activities, etc.). This exercise will give you a realistic view of your available time, and help you identify areas where productivity may suffer. (If you find this tool to be too rigid, check out my article on Time Management for Right-Brained People for more creative tips.)
In addition to a complete and easy-to-maintain calendar, practicing the following guidelines will have even the busiest students on time and on task all semester:
Put your least favorite job at the top of your To Do list every day. Good study habits are important, but developing other routines can also serve a student well. Setting out to accomplish the most daunting task of the day as your first order of business requires – and builds – confidence. Not only will you get it out of the way, you’ll be practicing the boldness that leads to success!
Carve out a chunk of time to dedicate to studying every day. Repetition is the key to forming a habit, so if you want a habit to set in, be consistent whenever possible. If you can find a four or six hour block of time, that’s great, but remember that you’ll need to take 15 minute breaks every 45-90 minutes to maintain your focus. And while you’re studying, turn off all non-essential devices, block your email and social profiles and only maintain the minimum connectivity necessary to get your work done. Studying in the same place and under the same conditions each time will also help you stay focused, making the time more productive.
Wrap it up. Be sure to have a round up at the end of each week to assess where you are on all your active projects. You can gauge your progress from the week before and plan your To Do list for the week ahead. Regrouping each week will make sure longer term projects don’t get off-course, and get some perspective on what the next few days will bring.
Student life is about more than just studying, so when it comes to maintaining a productive schedule, flexibility is key. Being prepared for downtime between classes means having what you need to stay busy wherever you are. Everyone has a laptop or tablet these days, but if Wifi is unreliable, be sure to stash some flash cards in your bag to make the most of your waiting time throughout the day. Studying in short bursts is not only an effective method for retention, it will help ensure you aren’t behind schedule later on, when it’s finally time to relax.
Are you a student or are you helping a student who is trying to make the most of their time? Please share with us your best management techniques for making the most of your time.