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How to Master Time Management in College

Time management is arguably the most important skill that you can learn in college. If you’re feeling stressed out because of your packed schedule, don’t worry - VaiLocal is here to help!


Last year, I worked four jobs and ran VaiLocal all while taking a full course load at the University of Chicago. It sounds crazy, but I was able to accomplish all of my tasks because I learned how to budget my time wisely. Below find some tips I used that can help you, too:


Create a healthy morning and sleep routine


Coming up with a healthy routine to start and end your days is critical. This means creating a sleep and wakeup schedule and following it with discipline. For me, this meant going to sleep before midnight every night and waking up early to start every day with a run. Every day means every day, and being consistent about sticking to a schedule is what makes a routine work. For me, morning workouts help me attack the day feeling both refreshed and focused.


You don’t need to follow my routine - come up with your own! The moral here is that you need to be consistent with whatever routine works for you. A constructive routine will decrease your stress, improve your mental health, and allow you to manage your schedule effectively.


Prioritize assignments based on deadlines and difficulty


Based on your class and work schedule, every day will look different in terms of how

much time you can spend doing homework. If you have more difficult assignments or problem sets that will take more time, break them down over the span of a few days by working on chunks at a time. For example, if you have five days to complete a difficult problem set with 10 questions, maybe work on 2-3 questions per day. With regard to easier assignments, you may decide to complete these immediately or wait until closer to the deadline to finish them. While this is completely up to you, as you’ll read in the next section, there are benefits to completing assignments earlier, rather than later.


Prioritizing assignments based on deadlines and difficulty helped me when every class I took required turning in a weekly problem set. I would finish the easy ones first, and make steady progress on the more difficult ones throughout the week, giving myself plenty of time to go to office hours and ask questions.


Work ahead when possible


One thing to keep in mind when prioritizing your work is that the earlier you start an assignment, the more time you can spend going to office hours or reviewing with study groups. Turning in work ahead of schedule can also allow you to focus on your job(s), clubs, and any other social activities that you want to allocate your time to.


Set a timer when studying and working on homework


A key part of time management is work efficiency. The most efficient way to budget your time wisely is to not spend more time than is necessary on certain tasks. For example, we have all zoned out when reading through novels or textbooks, and the readings may have taken longer than anticipated.


A solution that may work for you is to set a timer to check in with yourself every 5, 10,

or 15 minutes to see how much progress you have made in that time. If you hold yourself accountable and do this successfully, you may find that you are more focused on breaking up your work into smaller tasks and accomplishing those tasks within the amount of time that you set. It may get annoying to hear your timer go off frequently, but you should find that you zone out less and improve your work efficiency. In other words, a task that should take one hour will actually take one hour, instead of two.


Maintain a balance


Because the opportunity cost of your time is very important, determining your priorities is critical to your success in college. Everyone has different priorities, which may include academics, research, jobs, sports, clubs, social life, a startup, etc. No matter what your priorities are, make sure you don’t overextend yourself or try to take on too many tasks. For example, don’t join every club on campus or volunteer for every club event when you know that you will have midterms, exams, or papers due during certain weeks.


Importantly, make sure to take time for yourself. Take breaks to go out to dinner with people in your dorm or play intramural sports. Prevent burnout by finding small pleasures every day that help you relax and maintain a balance in your life.


Conclusion


Time management is a very subjective endeavor. While the five suggestions above worked for me, they may not work for you – and that's okay! Mastering time management can be done in many ways, but I assure you that it's not possible overnight. Make sure to be patient with yourself and to always have a long term perspective on what you're trying to accomplish.


Good luck, and feel free to reach out to VaiLocal if you need help!


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