Manage Your Time Effectively

Spending time, like spending money, is a very personal matter. Unlike money, however, you can't get a "time raise" or "save some hours" for a busy day. We all have to live on 168 hours each and every week. Successful students, like other successful people, must budget time according to their priorities to ensure that they spend it effectively.

Identify your goals and priorities

The first step in learning to manage your time is to identify what your goals and priorities are. You must decide what you want out of school and life and what you must do to get it.

Is learning high on your priority list? How about your current job? Your family? What is most important to you? List your priorities from highest to lowest.

Analyze how you're spending your time

The second step is to analyze exactly how you spend your time. For the next week, keep a detailed log of everything you do, hour by hour. Account for all your activities: class attendance, study, work, eating, commuting, recreation, exercise, sleep, etc. Then, summarize how much time each week you spend on each of your activities: in classes? studying for classes? working? meeting the needs of others? exercising? relaxing? sleeping? etc.

Are you matching your priorities?

The third step is to evaluate the use of your time. Remember, no one can judge how well or how poorly you use your time other than you. And, you cannot make that judgment without relating your use of time to your priorities.

So, you need to consider if you are spending quality time on your priorities. For example, if learning is high on your priority list, do you study during your prime energy hours or only after everything else is done for the day? Do you spend your time studying in a crowded, noisy room while listening to music or in a quiet place where you can concentrate?

spend quality time on your priorities

If you found some time blocks that are not in line with what you want to be doing to reach your goals, you can begin to systematically change your life by taking control of your time. Start by building a realistic time schedule or time budget that gives time to the activities that fit with your priorities and will help you reach your goals.

If learning and getting good grades are high on your priority list, then you will have to budget time for attending classes regularly, for studying each class each day by writing your mirror questions, summary questions, question charts and then asking those questions of yourself until you are sure you understand the content of your notes and your textbook, and time for writing special papers, reports or other assignments.

Finally, you must stick to your time schedule. Of course, some flexibility is necessary to take care of unexpected demands, but if you spend too much time on non-priority tasks you will not reach your goals.

Tools to Maximize your Time

Step Questions to ask yourself Tools to use
Understanding your challenges How do I set and achieve my goals? Student Success Self-Assessment; SMART Goals Worksheet
Understanding your demands Where is my time going?  168-hr Time Log; Where Does My Time Go?
Developing your plan How can I best use my time? Tips for Effective Study; Five-Day Study Plan
Using organizational strategies Am I reading efficiently?  Tips for Effective Study; Read Effectively
Using creative and effective study strategies  How do I study at the level my professor expects? Learning Styles Inventory; Learning Styles Assessment; Bloom's Taxonomy for Effective Learning

Time Smart Strategies

 Match your learning style.

Use visuals, make mind maps, listen to your lectures, read your book out load, take breaks, etc.

 Study the hardest material first.

Leave the easier, more routine or enjoyable material to the end. In this way, you are studying the hardest material when you are the freshest and most ready to learn.

Remember that study can include many different activities.

While your instructor may encourage you to study, he/she really means read your assignments before coming to class so that you can participate in his/her class appropriately, take good notes and review them daily (mirror questions, summary questions, question charts, etc.), do any assigned homework the best you can and turn it in on time, and after a test, review what you missed in order to learn that material before going on to more complex material.

Make a study schedule and keep it.

The best way to ensure that you will have enough study time to reach your goals in each course is to plan for it. Make use a weekly and monthly calendar for the whole semester. Be sure to plug in all know deadlines into your monthly calendar, i.e. test dates, paper due dates, the last day to drop a class, holidays, and your own personal finals schedule.



Start each session with a goal.

How much material do you want to cover, how many chapters do you want to read, etc. Then work to meet your goal. Remember, we often avoid big projects because we have limited time or we don’t know where to begin. Break major projects into small pieces and tackle them one at a time.

Use all of your available time.

If you only have 15 minutes, get a start on a paper (write your basic premise, outline your paper, etc.) and come back to it later. Always have something with you to review, read or study. Those 15 minutes on the bus, at the doctor’s office, waiting for a ride, etc. can add up over the span of a day. 

Schedule regular time to review your notes.

To build strong mental linkages (long-term memory) you need to study your material regularly over a long period of time. Remember that memory is enhanced by repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition.

Know your best and most effective study times.

Arrange your schedule so that you have study time during your peak hours. There really are “morning people” and “night owls”. Find out when you’re at your best and use those hours wisely.