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5 Ways to Improve Time Management as an Undergrad

5 Ways to Improve Time Management as an Undergrad

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Poor time management skills cause students to cram at the last minute and spend their Sunday nights wishing they had started their assignments earlier. It’s a hard habit to beat and won’t be fixed overnight.

In reading this article, you are one step closer to building these good habits and managing your time in a way where you are in control of your time instead of racing against the clock to meet a 11:59 pm deadline.

“Empirical evidence suggests that effective time management is associated with greater academic achievement”

Adams and Blair

1. Plan your Week

Without a set plan at hand, it can cause students to feel overwhelmed with their task load and stress about meeting deadlines. Plan out your week in advance by using a planner, calendar app, or google calendar to set priorities each day and make the most of your time. It’s important to write down priorities since it holds you accountable for your deadlines.

Remember to not overwhelm yourself. Assign a reasonable amount of work and don’t give yourself more than you
can do. It’s likely that you will not complete the task and cause you to be behind schedule. Consider scheduling your work during the times of the day where you are most productive.

If you write better at night, schedule your English assignments during that time. Plan out your social time and any daily chores that you need to get done. Managing other responsibilities outside of studying is important as well. Make time for leisure but be sure to stick to your schedule.

Tip: At the start of the term, create a google spreadsheet of all your deadlines so you can proactively plan for each week

2. Set Goals

Consider the goals that you want to accomplish during the term and be sure to implement them within your schedule. When creating your goals you should follow the S.M.A.R.T. goals guideline.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

An example of a SMART goal is, “I want to finish reading chapter 1 of my business textbook by Friday night” or “I want to attend 5 club meetings by the end of this term”. Remember to prioritize your most important goals and hold yourself accountable for meeting them.

Consider vocalizing your goals to a peer if you don’t think you can hold yourself accountable. The more you put off a goal, the more likely it will never be accomplished.

3. Time Limits on Tasks

Spending time on tasks but not working efficiently causes time to be wasted. Therefore you should set time limits on everything you work on. You don’t want to spend 1 hour on a task that should only be 30 minutes.

Be reasonable with your time limits and consider the percentage of the assignment towards your grade when giving it a limit. Spend more time on tasks that are worth more and less on other tasks. This will allow you to allocate your time efficiently.

4. Managing Breaks

It’s not only important to manage your time but to be productive during the time that you work. If you struggle with this, consider having frequent but brief breaks to ensure that you are at your best performance during the time that you work.

It is proven that people who take brief breaks from their main task perform better than people who do not (Ariga). A time management technique developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, called the Pomodoro technique, implements breaks between studying (Ellett).

The technique works like this:

  1. Work for 25-minutes without distraction
  2. Take a break for 5-minutes (recommended that you don’t go on your phone since your 5-minute break can turn into 30-minutes)
  3. Repeat 2 times and take a 30-minute break at the end

Repeat for as long as you like until you’re done studying

5. Limiting Distractions

Smartphones are making us more prone to distractions. 80% of students agree that their devices cause them to get distracted during class (Harvard). However, there are many features on our devices that allow us to limit its distractions.

On IOS and android devices, you can toggle the “do not disturb” function to turn off notifications while allowing emergency contacts to still call you. Additionally, there is an app limit function (apple screen time and android digital wellbeing) that sets time limits for certain apps.

If you find yourself getting distracted on your favorite social media app you can set a time limit and your phone will notify you when you’re at your limit. These features are only as effective as you make them to be so remember to be strict with your time limits.

Try studying in a library if you find yourself getting distracted at home. It will allow you to separate your work area from your leisure area and seeing other students studying may motivate you to do the same.

Effective time management skills take time to develop. This is not an overnight process and will take dedication to implement. While these tips guide you in the right direction to start making a change, it is important to hold yourself accountable. Follow your schedule, work towards your goals, work effectively on tasks by managing your breaks and limiting your distractions.


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