Six Time Management Skills Every College Student Needs

By Patricia Gorden Neill - June 13th, 2013

Whether you learned time management skills in high school or on the job or not at all, you are going to have to learn them to get through college in two or four years and make good grades. Since these skills are also essential to an active career, you’ll be ahead of the game by making these skills your top priority once you’re on campus. Conquer these time management skills and the rest of your college career will be successful. Neglect these, and you’ll be swamped even before you get to midterms exams and papers.

Keep a Schedule and Get Organized

You can use a calendar, a PDA, a checklist or a spreadsheet, but whatever method you choose, you’ll need a way to organize all your work and keep a schedule. Keep the class syllabus for each class as it outlines reading assignments, homework, projects and deadlines for papers and tests. Use a calendar to keep all the dates noted for work due. Make organized lists of tasks to be done. Write up a to-do list each night for the next day. During your first two weeks, this may seem as extra drudgery, but in a short while, you’ll learn how all this calendar-keeping makes your life so much easier. It is one of the major keystones of time management. If your first scheduling method doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to try another.

Keep Up Your Health

This may seem a strange thing to include under the rubric time management, but if you become sick, stressed or lack energy because of bad diet or too little sleep, your entire college career could be impeded. Keeping your health by fitting in the essentials such as healthy eating, exercise and sleeping regularly and well every night is far more important than you, as an 18 year old, may realize. You see, at your age, you recuperate well when you overburdening your health and you don’t see the need for healthy daily patterns until you are too bushed to get up in the morning, let alone do a full day’s worth of classes, homework and hours of study. Eating pizza instead of a balanced meal occasionally isn’t a problem. Pizza every night, though, will bring you down, add unwanted pounds and kill your energy. Promise yourself you’ll practice good health habits and it will provide you a powerhouse of energy all through college.

Learn To Say No

In college, you have to become your own boss. Your parents aren’t around and you are on your own. This is a heady trip for most young people, and it’s one of the biggest reasons for college drop outs because students fail to balance school, work and social time. You have to be in charge of yourself. Saying no to the cool party over at the next dorm or a weekend camping trip will be hard. Especially so if at the same time you’re saying yes to hours in the chemistry labs for catch up work. But if that chemistry lab work is necessary for passing that class, you’ll be able to do it. Promise yourself something really fun to make up for the missed good time. However you accomplish this nearly next to impossible task of saying no and instead doing what you need to do, it is the stepping stone to success in life.

Break Big Tasks into Smaller Tasks

You have a big research paper due at midterm. It’s intimidating even to think about it. Time management experts all say to break large tasks into smaller ones and take the smaller ones step by step. First do the research itself with time at the library, then outline what the paper will cover, then break up the writing into the various sections of the final paper. Work on the paper every week by taking care of the small steps, and it will be done by the time it is due. If you procrastinate until the last minute, you’ll be overwhelmed. Break it down and do it step by step and refuse to be overwhelmed. By spacing out your work, you’re far more likely to be successful.

Schedule in Social Time, Too

College is such an amazing time in most people’s lives because it is not only exciting academically, socially it’s a blast as well. Fun things to do and fun people to do them with is one of the best things about these years, so don’t neglect to add social time into your calendar. Do this wisely, and you’ll have learned the difficult job of balancing work and pleasure. The hardest trick is learning to do this well, so that you have both but not too much of either one. You need to relax a bit each day, taking time for yourself, as well as working and playing with others. Finding the right balance that works for you can be difficult, but all successful college students learn the trick.

Allow Room for the Unpredictable

You and your roommate have a big fight, one that comes out of the blue. You catch the flu and are sick for a week. Because you’ve completed half of your term paper and have handed in homework regularly, you’ll still be OK. Life is going to throw some unexpected things your way, and you’ll have to adapt on the fly. If you’ve been working steadily all along, you’ve built in some room to be flexible when the unpredictable occurs. If your priorities are now screwed up, reprioritize them so that things work. This is something you can only learn when you’re in the middle of it. Learn to roll with the punches, and you’ll have another invaluable skill.

In summary, as soon as you hit campus, start setting up your schedule and calendar and writing out your daily to-do list. You’ll soon learn the value of your hard-won time management skills as they will make your college career much smoother and more successful for you. As these skills easily transfer to every other part of your life, you’ll be glad you got them early.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.