Scheduling your time on a short-term basis (a weekend, a week, or two weeks at a time) is one of the most useful ways to make sure you have time to accomplish everything you need to accomplish. It is also a tool that works well with your “Term-Long Planning” and “To-Do Lists & Prioritization.”
Here is what your schedule can--and should!--do for you:
- Show you how much time you have committed to your task, where you have to be, and when. Your schedule should include class times, appointments, meetings, and other commitments. Having appointments written down or recorded on your phone means you don’t have to focus valuable brain space and time trying to remember them.
- Show you how much time is available for studying. Once your “fixed-time” commitments are scheduled, you should add time for studying to your schedule. Remember: 2-3 hours per course credit is 6-9 hours of studying for every 3-credit class. If you're taking 12-16 credits, that means 30-35 hours per week!
- Encourage commitment. If you have already reserved time on your course calendar for studying and for your other priorities, you'll be more likely to follow through with those commitments than if you'd left that time undecided.
- Contribute to balance all areas of life, making sure you have time each week for classes, work, family, homework, laundry, meals, sleep, exercise, cleaning, social time, and other priorities.
- Guide your creation of a to-do list. With your major commitments written down, you can engage in effective short-term planning. Creating a to-do list in conjunction with your schedule helps you to stay aware of the tasks you need to accomplish and what time you have available for accomplishing those tasks.
- Add to your productivity. Being aware of your time and planning it effectively can make you more productive. Research in psychology indicates that the act of “self-monitoring” may give you incentive to get more done (Burn & Yuen, 1983).
Make your schedule work for you! To make your schedule more effectively, you need to be able to adapt it to your current plans. This means checking your schedule regularly, adding to it when necessary, and changing details as commitments come up or as your plans solidify. Your schedule should be flexible and practical. Find what works for you, whether that's a white board on a wall, a planner you carry with you, or an app for your phone! Once you’ve got a schedule, you'll have to make using it a habit for it to be effective. Check your schedule when you wake up and want to know what the day looks like. Check it when you have some down time and think “what should I do with this time?” Use your schedule to be sure you have enough time for all of your priorities--including time for rest and your personal interests.
- Plan ahead each week. Spend time filling out your schedule or updating your planner. There are apps, electronic schedules, paper schedules and planners in every shape and size. Find one that works for you.
- Identify time for studying. Be sure you leave enough time for all your coursework and assignments. Assign tasks to specific days and times. For example, “Thursday from 4-6 pm: Read Chapter 7 and take notes," will be more effective than "Thursday: Study Chemistry."
- Factor in time for interruptions, distractions, and emergencies (Burka & Yuen, 1983). We recommend making sure you have extra flex-time in your schedule to deal with unexpected events. When these occur, update your schedule so that you still have a solid plan for the week.
- Be realistic. When estimating the time it takes to accomplish a task, try to be accurate and over-estimate if in doubt. One mistake students tend to make is anticipating things will go more quickly than they actually do. Leave yourself adequate time, and if you get done early, you’ll have free time!
- Schedule breaks, and plan a balanced week. Part of the benefit of managing your time is that you can schedule in time for relaxation, exercise, socialization and other things that will help you achieve balance. Your personal life and goals are important and need the same attention that your academic life does.
- Assess your system. There are dozens of ways to manage your time and many tools to choose from. Ask yourself, "Is my system working? How can I tell? Does anything need changing to make managing my time more effective?" If you’re unsure how effective your system is, consider keeping a time log; it will give you a chance to see how you spend your time and decide if it aligns with your goals and values.
- Keep looking ahead. A weekly planner only gives you a glance of the current week, and might not show you a big project or important deadline on the next page. Make sure you scan the upcoming week as well so you can plan ahead.