As a college student, time management is a crucial skill to develop in order to stay organized and on top of everything. I have experimented with a couple of different systems throughout my freshman year of university and found mixed success. Today, I want to share my current time management system, which is not only simple but effective. I based my system off ideas from Cal Newport's 2006 book, "How to Become a Straight-A Student." The system is comprised of two parts: a calendar and a list.
Part One: The Calendar
It doesn't matter what kind of calendar you have. If you are a traditionalist, physical calendars are great. If, however, you are like me, you may want to consider online calendars such as Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook. Your calendar just has to be something you can reference in the morning that has enough space for your to-do list.
Part Two: The List
Whether it is a piece of paper or a checklist created on an app like Evernote, you will need a place to quickly jot down new things to be put on the calendar. Since this is something you will need to have every day, keep it simple. A piece of scrap paper will do just fine.
Part Three: Making the System Work
The idea is pretty simple. Record all of your to-dos and important deadlines, such as exam dates, project deadlines and meeting times on your calendar. Each morning, you should look at your calendar and figure out what you should try to finish today. Note those items down on your list and label it "To-Do." Then, under that section, leave some space for the other section of the list, which is the "Things to Remember" section. Throughout the day, if you encounter any new deadlines, assignments or important dates, write those items down in the "Things to Remember" section. That way, you won't have to juggle a million different things in your mind throughout the day. This allows you to stay focused on what you are actually doing, instead of having to constantly remind yourself to remember certain things throughout the day. The next morning, simply open up your calendar, take out your list from the day before and transfer all the stuff from the "Things to Remember" section to the calendar. That way, it will be a part of your schedule forever. Afterward, you can discard the list from the day before or keep it in a nice pile with the other daily lists.
Part Four: Choosing What to Do for the Day
Now that you have a robust time management system, let's put it to good use. In order to figure out what you should try to do for the day, you need to consider two things: what deadlines are coming up and how much time you have. Both of these things should be pretty easy to identify if you have a good calendar set-up. If you are using online calendars, I strongly encourage you to take the time to put your entire class schedule on the calendar. If you are more of a physical planner kind of person, get a piece of paper and draw out the schedule. Figuring how much time you really have to do work is an important first step to planning your day. In order to figure out how much free time you have, look at the calendar and identify blocks of time where you have nothing scheduled. Next, look at what dates are coming up. Perhaps you have a quiz next week, a paper due two weeks from now and readings to do by the end of the week. In terms of priority, you want to work on assignments that have earlier deadlines. For our example, your priority would be completing the readings, preparing for the quiz and then drafting for the paper.
Time management is a wonderful thing. If done right, the level of stress you'll be feeling from school will be significantly lower than your peers. From my personal experience, it can also lead to you having more time for entertainment as well since you will have a clear idea of what to do for the day. That, on its own, can do wonders for your mental health going in the college. I encourage you to try the system above! It has done amazing things for me and I am sure it will for you, too. Best of luck!