Adulting 101: Tips For Time Management

Ah, time management: the bane of every student’s existence. I considered myself a good time manager in high school — I juggled AP classes, theatre, soccer, and journalism with minimal breakdowns — but, when I got to college, I realized that the methods I developed and used all throughout my educational career weren’t going to work anymore. While high schoolers stick to relatively the same daily schedule, every day in college can look different. Also, while there’s teachers, counselors, and parents reminding you about deadlines and tracking your progress in grades K through 12, most of that goes away once you reach university, and it’s kind of up to you on how you choose to spend your time. 

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a system to keep myself on track. To give some context, I usually take three to four classes every quarter, have a part-time job, and am active in four organizations, so I’m sometimes balancing a lot of different things. If you’re having trouble managing your time or just feel like you’d like to be more on top of your life, here’s what helped me. 

Plan Out Every Day

It might sound tedious and overwhelming to plan out every minute of your day, but it makes a big difference. Input your mandatory commitments first — like class, work, meetings, or practices — then fill in the rest of the time with when you’re going to do other tasks, like homework, exercise, or work for your organizations. Don’t forget to schedule in time to eat and take breaks, because taking care of yourself is a really important part of time management as well. 

Creating a comprehensive schedule assures that I will always have time for everything I need to do and helps me plan ahead. You can choose to do this digitally, by creating blocks on Google Calendar, but I prefer to do it physically. I have a notebook that I call my “schedule book,” where each page is dedicated to one day. I split up a page into two sections — my schedule at the top, then my to-dos for the day at the bottom. At the end of the week, I have a page dedicated to “weekly to-dos,” where I write out anything that doesn’t have a finite deadline, but needs to be done within the week, and slot them into my days whenever I have time. 

I prefer to write things down because it makes me more aware of my schedule and I like the physical act of crossing something off my to-do list. Plus, I get to go shopping for a cute notebook at the beginning of the year, which is always fun. However, feel free to play around with different methods to figure out what works for you. 

Always Be Aware Of Important Dates

We’ve all been here: It’s a Friday afternoon, and you’re going to be away all weekend for an org retreat. You’re really excited, but you just realized you have a midterm on Monday you actually really need to study for. The inevitable cramming session ensues, but if you had just realized this earlier, you wouldn’t have to sacrifice your grades or hanging out with friends. We can change that!

At the beginning of the quarter, put all important school dates — midterms, projects, papers — into your calendar once you’ve received the syllabus. Again, I choose to do this physically; in addition to my schedule book, I have a planner that has a large month-by-month section where I can write in major events. I color code them by class, and then I input important dates for my organizations — events, retreats, photoshoots — in a different color, and then dates for personal things — birthdays, trips, dinners — in another color. Doing this allows me to see exactly when things overlap so I can plan in advance. 

Stay On Top of Homework 

Homework is a pesky thing that sometimes slips my mind, because it’s often due outside of class times. Aside from writing homework down in my “to-dos,” I sometimes use a website called myHomework, where I can input all the readings, assignments, and projects I have to do by class. At the beginning of the quarter, if my professors have homework schedules listed on their syllabi, I’ll input them into myHomework so there’s one place that has all the information. This website is especially helpful when all my professors aren’t using Canvas, because myHomework allows you to see all the homework that’s due in a certain week or certain month. 

Stick To The Plan

So, you’ve done all the planning. What’s next? Hold yourself accountable to the schedule you’ve created, and stick to it! This is possibly the hardest part, especially when you get home from a long day and would rather scroll through Tik Tok than do Literature readings, but getting into the habit of following a schedule is going to help in the long run. I try to dedicate part of my Sunday to planning for the upcoming week — I’ll write out the dates in my schedule book with my favorite pens and will fill-in the to-dos that I already know, and it’s become a good ritual for me. There were times where I felt so overwhelmed and I was always worried I was forgetting to do something, but this method has made me feel more in control of my day-to-day life. That being said…

Understand Your Limits 

If you find that you’ve gone a week without making time to eat lunch or are continually getting home from campus exhausted, maybe it’s time to take a step back and reflect on whether the amount of commitments you have is appropriate. Nobody is superhuman, and even the best time managers can get burnt out. I know that college is a really exciting time and it comes with a lot of amazing opportunities, but they should never come at the cost of your mental and physical health. A big part of time management is being honest with yourself and understanding how much you can handle — and how much is too much. 

I hope these tips helped or at least inspired you to take more control over your time management planning. Best of luck, Tritons — you can do it!