Time management for students (three easy steps to find more free time)

RRRRRRRING

That’s the bell. The school day is over. Now, all you want to do is forget everything you need to do…to just relax for awhile. And that’s okay!

Almost.

The truth is, the second you leave school–a place that has brought structure and organization to your day–your productivity levels plummet through the floor.

Have you ever found yourself doing homework at midnight, without really knowing where all the time went? It’s not a good feeling, but it happens all the time if you do not schedule your time effectively.

So, how can you make sure you get everything done without spending too long doing it?

Schedule your free time as if you were at school.

Here are the three things you need to do in order to schedule your time effectively.

 

Step 1: Plan the night before

One of the reasons we have trouble getting things done is because, a lot of the time, we are unsure of exactly what to do.

You will eliminate this issue completely by having a specific plan for what you need to accomplish at every time of the day.

However, a “general idea” won’t work. Buy a planner (or use an online resource), and block out everything you need to do–use specific times, down to the minute.

Much like how we use school planners, noting tasks in advance will decrease the chance of forgetting one later on.

Here’s an example of how to schedule an afternoon.

Planner

So why do this the night before?

The simple answer is that there’s not enough time in the morning (or you’ll forget, or be too tired). Whatever the problem, the only safe way to make a plan is the night before.

You’ll be by far the most productive if you know what you are doing before you do it.

Even more importantly, planning a day in advance gives you a macroscopic view of what you want to accomplish: you can figure out how you want to feel at the end of the next day, and set steps to help you get there.

 

Step 2: Schedule breaks (and stick to them)

Easily the most common pitfall for students is to take a break from studying, and then never go back. It’s almost impossible to fight this urge.

However, the BEST thing you can do for yourself is to set aside specific times to relax. This way, you will not feel bad about taking a break (because you know it’s part of the plan). And it’s also far more likely that you will find the willpower to get back to work when the time comes.

I’m using this break system as I write this article.

Also, there is a right and wrong way to take breaks. Taking the incorrect path can lead to a lot of unnecessary frustration. Here is an article outlining exactly how (and when) to take breaks.

 

Step 3: Schedule more time than you need

Give yourself more time to complete a job than you think you’ll need.

It is unbelievably frustrating to get to the end of the day, evaluate what you’ve done, and realize that you just checked off two of the eight tasks you planned to do.

This happens because we naturally want to push ourselves to get the most out of our day. That’s a good thing. But it backfires when we over-idealize what we can do, and end up discouraged every night. This is a difficult mindset to overcome, but there is one way:

Schedule 50% more time to complete each task than you believe you need.

How long a task will actually take

It turns out that by doing this, you are actually giving yourself the correct amount of time to finish the task. We aren’t machines–we get distracted, and things take longer than they should. The important thing is to know this and plan for it.

All of a sudden, you get everything taken care of, and you’re stress-free.

 

Action for today

Sure, scheduling your free time sounds a little weird. So what? The fact of the matter is that it helps in more ways than one, and makes life more tranquil. Give it a try for one week and see what happens.


One thing to remember

Few things are more rewarding than finishing everything you need to do. It frees up time for fun, and it helps instill in yourself a sense of responsibility.

Last of all, what I said before stands: we are not machines.

It’s a bad idea to plan out all of your time–there has to be some flexibility and spontaneity.

But when you are overwhelmed, or when you feel less than productive, scheduling your time is the best possible thing you can do to get yourself back on track.
 

andysalmon

Andy Salmon

Andy is currently studying engineering at the University of Minnesota. He graduated in the top 1% of his class and received the full-ride Evans scholarship. Having put endless hours into studying over the years, Andy has learned that working efficiently–and knowing when to take a break–makes life much more enjoyable.