College is all about balance. It’s possible to ace your classes, bond with your friends, and accommodate your work schedule by effectively balancing your priorities.
A common mistake students make is to approach time management the same way every week. In reality, each week is unique based on what’s going on in a student’s social, academic, and work worlds. By learning how to prioritize tasks and make good use of their time, students can excel at every activity they set their mind to.
1. Forecast your schedule based on the class syllabus. At the beginning of each quarter or semester, many professors distribute the class syllabus. Don’t just tuck these documents away in a stack of papers. Buy a large calendar or daily planner (you want something with ample space in each day to write multiple tasks). A daily planner is preferred so you can keep it with you at all times. Taking your stack of syllabuses, write each task, exam, lab, and deadline on the calendar.
2. Prioritize class assignments. Next, highlight each task and exam with a highlighter. Color code high priority items (exams, papers, class time) with one color and lower priority items (study groups, optional labs) with another color. If you have a full schedule with three or more classes, you may want to rank the classes by color based on which class will require the most time commitment. The point is to get a “bird’s eye view” of each week based on actual deadlines.
3. Fill in your schedule with work shifts and social events. Taking your prioritized schedule to work, you can easily tell whether or not you can work a double shift on a particular day or if you need to ask someone to cover a shift for you. If you hear about a winter ski weekend, put it in your calendar as soon as possible so you can try to accommodate other deadlines (you may need to decline the ski weekend due to conflicting academic or work priorities).
4. Stay focused on your priorities. Anyone can color code a schedule. It takes true discipline to actually use your calendar to make decisions when you face conflicting events. When a calendar is used correctly, it can help you to project out several weeks and months ahead.
5. Be flexible. Occasionally an event will arise when you decide to forgo your schedule and do a spontaneous fun event. Maintaining a calendar doesn’t mean you’re completely locked into your schedule. A calendar is simply a tool to help you see what you’re up against if you choose a fun activity over studying for an exam.
Once students learn the fine art of balancing their schedule, they will be able to quickly and expertly prioritize tasks, leaving plenty of room for studying, playing, and working.