10 Tips for Managing Your Time
We all wish we had more time, no matter who we are or where we are. We wish for more time to spend with loved ones, more time to study, more time to sit back and watch the sun set, and more time before the alarm rings. We don’t understand how other people do it.
But the truth is, we all have the same 24-hour days at our disposal. We may fill them with different, more- or less-time-consuming things; we may have different priorities, different commitments, or different habits and hobbies, but we have the same amount of time as everybody else.
So, when the deadline hits and we’re not ready, time is not the issue; we can’t make more of it. Therefore, the key is to manage our time, not maximize it. But, how does that work? Here are ten ways we can use our time a little more wisely:
Identify the problem
In what area are you wasting the most time? Is social media constantly in your way? YouTube? That one friend who chills out beside you and shows you memes while you’re writing a term paper on the postcolonial implications of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?
These things aren’t inherently wrong or bad, but they’re not what you need to focus on when the deadlines are looming in the distance. Recognizing what doesn’t need to be there is the first step in managing your time most efficiently.
You will accomplish what you want to accomplish. Analyze your priorities; what do you take time for? If you spend the first half hour of your after-class-time scrolling through Instagram, that’s probably a priority in your life. If the text that lights up your phone during your devotional time is not urgent, why did you take your mind off God’s Word to respond? That’s your priority. If you ignore your already-late assignment to play basketball on Open Court Night… you get the point.
Look at the big picture. The phrase “Most Posts Liked” is not going to appear on your diploma. Your grade book isn’t going to list the shots you made on the basketball court. The spiritual influence you want to have on someone else isn’t going to come from racing through a Psalm and slamming the Bible shut. What’s the purpose of our lives? Is that the same as what you’re striving for? You’re the only one who really knows that.
Once you’ve decided that the Christian’s purpose is to glorify God and do your best in the field wherever He’s called you, start moving to smaller pictures. How do you do these things? You need to pass your classes. You need to spend real quality time with Him. You need to develop meaningful relationships with those around you.
And you will accomplish what you want to accomplish.
Set realistic goals
Realistic goals don’t sound like this: “Do well on the Bible Doctrine test,” or “Stop wasting time,” or “Be nice to people.” These are vague and unhelpful. How do you really know if you’ve attained it? What things do you need to do to get to that point? What can you do to actually achieve these goals?
Goals need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. They’re not general principles of life or ways of doing things; they’re specific actions that you can take to achieve what you want to achieve.
For example: “Be a good student.” What does that look like? How does one do that? What’s the standard for “good”? This is more of a general principle than a reachable goal. Instead, try this: “Be in bed by eleven each night.” How does this meet the SMART qualifications?
Specific: When you read the goal, you understand exactly what it is and what it takes to achieve it.
Measurable: You can tell if you’ve achieved it.
Attainable: It’s a completely realistic goal that you can actually do, as opposed to something like, “Do all of my homework for the week by Sunday night.” That’d be great, but is that really possible?
Relevant: Getting a good night’s sleep can have amazing effects on how you feel and how you function, which are both important aspects of college life.
Timely: If you’re a college student at MBU, you’re at a point in your life where you need sleep and, realistically, you can get it. This is a realistic goal, even though it might take some other time management tips to set it in motion.
There are so many tools at your disposal! Calendars, planners, apps… believe it or not, it actually is possible to get your life together.
Make a to-do list. Planners are great for this; write out exactly what needs to get done and when. Use it for everything: homework, work projects, school events, private plans. Don’t let the planner collect dust three weeks into the semester; bring it everywhere and log things in as soon as you know about them. And don’t assume you’ll remember stuff, or you’ll constantly feel like you’re forgetting something. Because you will be.
Additionally, plan ahead. The most common mistake I’ve watched college students make my entire college career is that they don’t plan ahead. Don’t let assignments creep up on you. You don’t have to be shocked when your professor announces the term paper that’s been in the syllabus since the beginning. Before the semester starts, or at the beginning of the semester, sit down, pull up all your syllabi, and write down every single thing that will be expected of you and when it needs to happen, even if it’s due in April; future you will thank you for it. And as deadlines change, as they inevitably will, simply cross it out or erase it and fix it.
Finally, because you’ve planned ahead, you’ll be able to work ahead. Instead of making plans to go out on a Saturday in March and having to cancel last minute because of that huge test you didn’t know about, now you can study ahead of time. When your roommates want to spontaneously pop out for Taco Bell, you’ll be able to go with them, because you did today’s homework yesterday, and yesterday’s homework the day before. Do homework as you have time for it, and you won’t have to say no to things you want to say yes to.
Of course, the day will inevitably come when you’re doing homework an hour before it’s due, and that’s okay. Life happens, but that doesn’t have to be your routine. You can be prepared.
Stick to your routines
Speaking of routines, make one. You don’t have class at 10:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Then make a default plan that after chapel every Tuesday and Thursday, you check your mail, take care of any other errands, and then go to the library or the coffee shop and do homework. Even if it’s not due that day. (Remember that work ahead idea?)
However, be sure to include buffer time. As we’ve already stated, life happens; the alarm doesn’t go off, the car won’t start, someone takes your seat in the library. Don’t pack your schedule so tightly that everything falls apart if you drop your hairbrush in the morning.
Don’t waste time waiting
At college, you spend a lot of time waiting. You’re expected to arrive early, and then you’re stuck waiting for class to start, waiting for chapel to start, waiting for the OSA event to start, waiting for your work shift to start… you get the idea. What are you supposed to do with the ten minutes between when you arrive and when it starts? You could pull out your phone. Or you could pull out your textbook and knock out a page or two of that really boring reading assignment due tomorrow. Future you will thank you.
Or, on the flip side, reserve those times for your phone. Instead of lying on your bed with your phone for an hour in the evening, pull out your phone while you’re waiting for class to start. That will give you enough time to check your email and scroll through things you want to keep up on, and then when four o’clock hits you can jump into your assignments instead of wading through all the notifications slowing your phone down. Figure out what works for you.
“Take breaks? But that’s valuable homework time!” Not if you’re half-asleep for your textbook reading or too distracted for your paper to be any good. We’ve already exhausted the importance of discipline and prioritization, but you’re still a human; you need rest. If your forehead keeps hitting your laptop screen, it’s probably time to take a short nap. Take time to go to dinner and sit and chat with friends between assignments. After completing your paper, take a twenty-minute brain break before you start revising.
You’re a person. Know your limitations and recognize when you’re too tired or stressed to put forth quality work, and then act accordingly. If you’re stressed, step back and take a walk, pray, or do something relaxing. If you’re exhausted, take a nap. If you’re not a nap-taker, pop out for coffee. If you don’t like coffee, go do whatever it is you do. I wouldn’t know.
Also, reward yourself! If you’re having a hard time focusing, give yourself an ultimatum. Put a piece of candy on the page after the one you’re on, and let yourself eat it only when you get there. Set your timer for twenty minutes, get as much done in that time as you can, and then chill for twenty minutes, and keep switching back and forth. Organize a movie night with your roommates, but only if your paper is done. And tell them that; they’ll hold you to it.
Let others help you
On that note, let others help you! We’re all in the same boat here, and someone might have available time that you don’t. If you have a ton of society stuff to do, but your homework is piling up, ask the rest of the cabinet for help. Ask your roommate to pick up your chore for the day, and then return the favor. There is no shame in delegating. You should be responsible, but you don’t have to do everything yourself.
Additionally, learn how to say no. You don’t need to feel obligated to say yes every time you’re asked to participate in something, and you know which things in your life you can safely let go of. Make time for what you want to do, but don’t let others guilt-trip you into doing something you just don’t have time for. I should add, however: that doesn’t go for homework. You should do that.
Let go of perfectionism
Although your best is expected, it’s okay if it’s not perfect; getting a B is not the end of the world. The point, as we’ve stated, is to glorify God and do your best, and staying up until three o’clock in the morning stressing over whether to use swam or swum in your Moby Dick paper is not going to make or break you. Don’t settle for less when you can exceed it, but keep in mind that not every assignment is going to be your magnum opus. If mediocre is your best, it’s enough.
Learn how you function
Figure out what works for you and use it to your advantage. Are you more motivated at night or in the morning? Are you more focused in public with the background noise or in your room with your earbuds in? Do you need to do the hard stuff first so you worry about it less, or do you need to knock out the easy stuff so you can focus on the hard stuff? Discover the circumstances that best motivate and focus you and work them into your schedule where you can. Although you can’t always control these things, sometimes you can. Take advantage of these opportunities.
Time management is a step, not the whole staircase. No set of principles can formulate the perfect model for success; these aren’t the magic buttons to press to get on the President’s List. Each of these ideas requires a level of maturity and self-awareness to recognize your own inconsistencies and to evaluate your own priorities. These tools are meant to assist you as you move forward in your education, not solve all your problems.
That being said, don’t let all of the things you need to do bog you down and stress you out; let them push you and motivate you to succeed, knowing that you very well can. As we’ve seen, through hard work and discipline, it’s possible to get your life together!