College can be an extremely busy time, especially if you are balancing school with a career, a family or other commitments. A recent survey found that the average college student spends 17 hours each week preparing for classes. That’s a significant time commitment, and without strong planning and time management skills, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
The good news is that there are some helpful tools and strategies you can use to stay on top of your work and develop better time management skills in the process.
Follow these tips to get back on track with managing your college workload:
1.) Start your work early
If you’re a habitual procrastinator, it’s time to rethink your approach. Leaving assignments until last minute inevitably creates more stress and does not give you enough time to do your best work. Worse, you could forget about an assignment altogether and miss a deadline. It’s best to start important projects as early as possible and make a game plan for how you are going to complete the assignment before the due date. This way, you don’t have to panic or pull an all-nighter before it’s due and you have time to get extra help if you need it.
2.) Make to-do lists
Making a daily to-do list can help you keep track of your assignments and your other commitments. Studies have shown that writing something down helps you remember it better, so the next time you have a whole list of things to do scattered in your brain, relieve some stress by putting them down on paper. Your to-do list can include tasks as simple as remembering to check your email, exam deadlines and homework reminders. Whatever you think you will forget, be sure to include.
3.) Use a digital planner
There are many time management apps that can help you organize your to-do list. The app myHomework is a digital planner created specifically for students. It eliminates the need for a notepad with a million to-dos and instead syncs your assignments and reminders right to your phone. The app can also be programmed to send you alerts when you have something due soon, so there is no chance that you will forget.
Evernote is a note-taking app that can store all your notes and to-do lists in one place. Something unique about this program is that notes can be uploaded in any format, whether audio, video, web clips, or PDFs. The app also allows you to collaborate with others, which can be helpful for group projects.
4.) Prioritize what needs to be done first
Prioritizing is a critical part of making your to-do list. Consider which assignments are most urgent and make sure to complete those first. Tasks that are less urgent, such as going to the dry cleaner, can likely be tackled later when you have more time. Prioritizing your to-do list can help you improve your time management skills and ensure that you don’t put too much time and effort into something that may not be due for another month.
5.) School comes first
When things get chaotic (because at some point in the year, they probably will), remind yourself that your schoolwork comes before other activities. Pushing off your assignments to hang out with friends or pick up an extra shift at work will just make it harder to get everything done on time. Starting your assignments early can benefit you in this area and make it easier to stay on track in all aspects of your life.
6.) Pick one day per week to organize
Choose one day per week as your “organization day” where you can catch up on schoolwork and prioritize the week ahead. If it works for your schedule, Sunday is a great day to do this because it’s before the start of the regular work week. It doesn’t necessarily have be the whole day either; taking just one hour to sit down and acknowledge what you have going on for the upcoming week can be helpful. This way, you will have no confusion about what your priorities are for each day.
7.) Find a study buddy
Making a friend in your classes can be extremely helpful in getting your work done. You essentially have a guaranteed study buddy and you can hold each other accountable for getting your work done on time. It also makes preparing for projects and exams much easier because you have someone with which to collaborate, share ideas and ask questions. Forming a study group is another way to reduce procrastination and better prepare for your exams.
8.) Take breaks
The final and most important tip is to make sure you fit in some time to relax among all the hustle and bustle of college. Taking short breaks between assignments can be a great way to avoid burnout. You never want to compromise your own wellbeing just to get an assignment done. If you are feeling stressed out, take short break and come back with a fresh outlook. Chances are, the final product you develop will be much stronger.
Balancing college with the other aspects of your life can be a challenge, but a few positive lifestyle changes can make your busy schedule seem much more manageable. Try to start your work ahead of time or incorporate a new tool like myHomework or Evernote into your life to stay organized. By implementing these tips now, you’ll already be on track to a more productive year!