Do you have a hard time fitting everything into your day? Is it tough to plan ahead when you’re already studying all hours? Do you wish you could prepare more thoroughly for busy and stressful periods, such as exams and coursework deadlines, and also find more time for volunteering?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone: most college students feel they don’t have enough time to do everything that’s demanded of them, and struggle to manage their time effectively. But developing these skills is important – good time management is linked to lower levels of academic stress and in some cases even better grades.
With this in mind, we asked Marwa Hussein, who serves as a Senior Counselor in the Student Counseling Center at the American University in Cairo, for her advice on time management for students. Here’s what she said:
Make your time count.“If you think of the hours you spend each day eating, sleeping, showering, seeing friends, commuting and more, you don’t actually have much time left to study. So you need to make those study hours really count, otherwise come exam time you’ll be wishing you had studied that little bit smarter.”
Prioritize your roles and goals.“Nobody’s ‘just’ a student: we all have many different roles, whether you’re working part time, helping to look after your family, playing sports or engaged in other extracurricular activities. For each role you need to have short- medium- and long-term goals, and you need to work out which roles might clash – and then make a decision on what’s important. It’s never too late to reconfigure your priorities; it’s better to be realistic than to spread yourself too thin.”
Procrastinating doesn’t solve anything. “Inevitably you are going to spend some time talking on the phone, hanging out with friends or watching TV, but for how many hours? Controlling the time you spend on such activities can help you reserve more time for important things. If something is important today then it’s not going to become unimportant overnight - you can’t leave it forever. So if it’s important, get on it and don’t delay. Sometimes we delay important tasks at the expense of tasks that are urgent, but could be less important. Stephen Covey’s excellent book, First Things First, describes a framework for prioritizing work that will prevent important tasks from becoming important and urgent tasks, which are at risk of being rushed and therefore not your best work.”
Always have a plan. “Before the week starts, sit down and plan your days ahead. Spend a good 20 or 30 minutes allocating very small and specific tasks for every day. Browse through the resources you are studying from – whether they are books or online – to familiarize yourself with them. This will give you a good idea of what is achievable, so you can set daily goals that are within reach. You’ll also have the satisfaction of ticking off a long list of achievements. More planning means less anxiety.”
Break it down. “Break each task into small, digestible chunks. Nobody wants to sit and read a 40-page chapter all in one go, even if they’re really interested in the subject. It’ll be a demotivating experience. So why don’t you split that chapter into five parts, and spread it over a few days? That way you get to study a number of subjects on any given day, so you won’t get bored and each subject will be granted equal importance. You’ll reach the end of the week having achieved all your goals, and you won’t have been tempted to procrastinate. Mission accomplished!”