Even if you're very dedicated to your studies, smart, and committed to doing well in college, you can run into problems if you're not good with time management. It's one of the most important parts of getting an education, especially if you're taking a heavy class load or if you have other things in life that take up a lot of your time, like a job or a family. That doesn't mean you can't be successful, though. You just have to determine how to handle your time efficiently and make the most of what's available to you. When you do that, you'll be much more likely to make higher grades and avoid the burnout that can come from getting a college education. Many people end up making bad grades or even dropping out of college because they can't handle their time correctly. You don't have to be one of them, though. You can get through your education and meet your goals, even if you're busy and have a lot of other commitments to meet. Following these steps and tips can help.
1. Recognize and Acknowledge the Problem
The first step to solving any problem is recognizing it. Once you're aware that you're struggling with time management and you're willing to admit that things need to change, you'll be much more likely to start making those changes. It can take a while to make changes, of course, but nothing will improve until you get started. Making the first move by acknowledging the fact that you have a problem can be very freeing, and can help you start looking for great ways to improve. It's not always about how much time you have – although that is a factor – but it can also be about what you're used to doing with your time and how resistant you are to changing that. For example, if you're used to watching specific TV shows, are you willing to give them up to get more done?
2. Take a Look at Your Schedule
Taking an honest and complete look at your schedule is necessary. You don't want to just assume that you don't have any time or can't find the time to do something that's important to you. Instead, you need to sit down and write down what you do from the time you get up until the time you go to bed each night. Of course you want to have some time to do nothing or just relax, but you have to be honest with yourself about whether you're already doing too much of that. Additionally, there may be a lot of things in your schedule that you're spending too much time on or that you don't really need to do. That's very important to consider, since most people do a lot of "busy" work each day. If you find those things in your schedule that aren't productive or that could be done faster (or less often, or by someone else), you'll have more time for the things that matter, like studying for your classes, writing papers, and preparing yourself for your future career.
3. Determine Where You Can Make Changes
After you've gotten a good look at your schedule, you'll be more likely to notice times where you're not being as productive as you could be. Those are the places where you can make changes. It's important to remember that being productive doesn't mean racing around working ridiculously hard all the time. It means using your time wisely and efficiently so you can accomplish everything you need to. If you do that, you'll still have time for relaxation and fun things. You don't have to work every moment you're awake to have a productive schedule, but you do need to be able to manage your time well or you'll find that you don't seem to be accomplishing much even though it seems like you're working a lot. That can be very frustrating, but you can avoid it. Look carefully at your schedule and decide what you should change in order to be more successful.
4. Don't Try to Fix Everything All at Once
Even if you see several areas where you could do something different to make yourself more productive and manage your time more effectively, you don't want to change everything at once. If you try to do that it can seem overwhelming, leading you to struggle with the changes and adjustments you've made to your schedule. That struggle won't help you have success with the changes you've made, and can lead you to believe you can't do anything to improve your time management. Instead, change only one of the areas you identified. Perhaps you can turn off the TV for an hour, even if you really like that show. During that time, you can study or do other productive things. Catching up on that show another time, such as on the weekend when you have less to do, can be a good compromise. By only making one change at a time, you won't feel so overwhelmed and you'll be able to adjust to that change. Then you can consider making another change to your time management.
5. Give it Some Time
Changing your schedule so you can manage your time more effectively can, technically, be done overnight. What can't be done overnight, though, is determining whether the changes you've made actually work. Just because you've made changes doesn't guarantee they're the right ones, or that they'll provide you with the time you need to accomplish your goals. Because that's the case, you have to give the changes you've made some time. After a week or two, you should have a better idea if your adjustments mean better management of your time, or if they really haven't done anything to help you. It can be hard to have patience and to keep trying something when you're not sure if it's working, but it's just as valuable to learn what doesn't work. The trial and error you'll go through is a big part of the process, and can make the final outcome of learning to manage your time much more successful.
6. Re-Adjust When You See What's Working
After some time has passed, you'll be able to see what's working (and what isn't) when it comes to managing your time effectively. Whether you've rearranged your schedule, omitted things that weren't working for you, changed the location of some of the things you were doing, or something else entirely, some of the changes you've made will be obviously helpful and some won't. You might find that some of the changes you made even make things worse, but it's easy to fix that. Either change those areas back to the way they were, or change them beyond where they were originally and head in the other direction if possible. Managing time can be frustrating, but learning to do it well is worth the effort. Once you get your time management skills where you need them to be, you'll be much more likely to see success in getting things done and still having time to just relax.
7. Enlist Help From Others
Don't be afraid to talk to other people (family, friends, coworkers, fellow students, etc.) about your time management troubles. Often, you can get suggestions that will really help you. What works for some people might not work for you, and that's okay, but you may not know until you try. If you get 20 suggestions and only a couple of them help you, you're still getting a lot of benefit from asking other people what they do in order to manage their time more effectively. Talking to your family and friends can also mean they might offer to take over something you've previously had to do. That will free up even more of your time, and will allow you to get more done during the time you have available.
8. Consider Your Priorities Carefully
Managing time effectively is a big part of understanding and acknowledging your priorities. Some of the things you do may take up a lot of your time, but if those things are big priorities for you, they aren't something you should change. These can include your job, taking care of your children, caring for an elderly parent, volunteer work, or anything that you consider very important in your life. The way to manage your time better is to be aware of those priorities, spend the time you need to on them, but also look for ways to do things more efficiently, so they don't take as long. Then you'll have more free time, and you have to choose how to use that time. By using it wisely, a lot more will get done.