Figuring out how to make an effective schedule is a huge part of the time management process. And part of the work of making an effective schedule has to do not only with knowing your commitments, but knowing

  • when you do your best work    
  • where you do your best work   
  • how long you can work effectively for   
  • what you'll do during your break   
  • etc.   


Take some time to think about the above, and to get a feel for your answers. Then, each week, set aside time to sit down and make your schedule. If you use a bullet journal, or create your own planner as you go, this can also be a nice creative activity while you work: you get to design what works best and looks inviting and helpful to you, and in doing so you'll help yourself make order of what needs to happen throughout your days. To do this, keep the following in mind:

  1. First: Be sure that you account for your regular commitments in your weekly calendar (class, job, family commitments, clubs/organization/athletic commitments, etc.). Don't forget meals, exercise, and bedtimes.
  2. Next: Add in time for study and practice. Remember: 2-3 hours per course credit is 6-9 hourse of studying for every 3-credit class. If you're taking 12-16 credits, that means 30-35 hours per week that you're engaged in your study and practice! And, if you're on a sports team or in a musical group, don't forget to account for the time you're rehearsing on your own, outside of what you might be doing as a team or group.
    • This is where knowing when you do your best work will come in handy. Of course, you won't always be able to work at the most optimal times for yourself, but having a sense that you do your best work early in the morning, or that you really start to do your best thinking later in the evening, can help you to plan out your time and make a schedule that will reflect these strengths and this awareness. If you notice that you do your best work in the evening but you're in a lot of morning classes, you'll need to try to make an adjustment. And then, as you move forward, take this knowledge into consideration as you sign up for new classes.
  3. Next: Be as specific as you can:
    • Where will you do the work: name the location
    • What will you be doing: writing practice test problems, teaching a concept, making a mind-map to connect the content covered so far, etc.
    • How long will you be doing it for (again, this is going to be informed by what you know about yourself and when you do your best work — are you most effective in 50 minute intervals with a 10 minute break, or in 20 minute intervals with 5 minute breaks — knowing this will help you make a schedule that really works for you and your time).
    • BONUS: think about the breaks that you'll take, what you'll do during them, and how you'll return to your work when it's time to.
    • DOUBLE BONUS: think about what you need to leave your session knowing, and how you'll assess whether or not you've achieved this.

As you're doing this, take stock of your time management method and the tools that you use. We know time management is a process, and everyone has their preferences for tools, and we encourage you to build your method out so you can get as full a picture of:

  • the time you have available
  • your short-term and long-term deadlines
  • the regular, weekly commitments you already have planned
  • the details that go into the accomplishment of each of your tasks such as homework, project work, test prep, etc.

About study sessions in particular, we talk a lot with students about being detailed and specific, because this kind of attention can help you be most effective as you prepare for those sessions, and as you engage in them, too. But this level of detail might not be feasible in your regular weekly calendar. So, what can you use in combination with the weekly tool to be able to capture this additional detail and specificity (to-do lists, sticky notes, bullet journals, etc.)?

In addition, a few techniques that can really add to your scheduling process and make it work even more effectively for you, are to

  • Create a color-code/symbol system. Each class might be a different color, your work might have its own color, standing social engagements might have their own color, etc. It's awesome that you're spending the time to make a schedule; by adding color or symbols to your process, you're making it even easier for you to glance at the schedule and get a sense for where you should be and what you should be doing. You'll still want to dig into the details, but it can be nice to give yourself that ability to do a quick check, too.
  • Overestimate the time things will take. When you're starting out in a new course/discipline/project, and you're not yet used to the workload and all it entails, it can be helpful to overestimate how much time something might take. Then, as you continue with the work and gain a better understanding of the time it will take to complete it, you can begin to schedule more realistically, which brings me to our next point:
  • Be realistic. Check in with yourself as you progress through the term. Is the time that you schedule for your work the time that it actually takes you, or is it taking longer/shorter? Notice what's happening, and then make intentional, informed choices based on what you're recognizing. You know yourself best! Use your expertise.
  • Schedule in flex time. Factor in time for interruptions, distractions, and emergencies (Burka & Yuen, 1983)! A couple days a week (maybe at the beginning and towards the end) schedule blocks of time where you have nothing scheduled. This way, if something takes longer than you expected, or if life happens and the unexpected takes you by surprise (which then shifts the schedule you'd previously planned), you still have time within the week to make up for those adjustments. And, if you get there and you don't need the flex, that's rad! You can spend the time doing something you enjoy doing, or get ahead on other work, or otherwise. (Pay attention to whether or not you're falling back on this time; if you're always using it, and seeing it as time to do your work, then it's time to rethink your schedule in general, and to make it more realistic to your commitments and their timing.)
  • Schedule in breaks. This can help you plan a balanced week. A benefit of taking time to manage your time is that you can schedule in time for relaxation, exercise, social engagements, and other things that will help you to achieve balance in your life. You're a whole person! It's important to take care of your whole self, and to have those commitments to yourself show up in your schedule.
  • 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 it VISIBLE and keep looking AHEAD! Make sure that you can see your schedule, that you have it with you always, and that you're looking ahead to the next week(s). Set your calendar as your lock screen on your phone, or as your backdrop on your laptop/desktop. Hang it up where you do your work. Make copies of it so you have it in all of your binders, or wherever you store your notes/work. Just be sure that you have it, so that you can always refer to it, and so that it can always support your efficiency and help you to stay on task/know where to go and what to do next. And, so you know what's coming after the week that you're in, so you can get started on the work early and break it up/spread it out.

If you do your best work in shorter increments, or if you're not really sure how long to work for, you can always try out the Pomodoro Technique.

Sometimes it can be hard to get going on a task. You might be battling motivation (in that you can't find the motivation you need to start), procrastination, distraction, or all of these at once. Sometimes, the feeling of challenge can shift from the getting-going-of-it to the keeping-at-it. The Pomodoro Technique can be a useful tool in this situation. The "Pomodoro" is the length of time spent on the task, a 25 minute interval. Here's the gist of how it works (for more information, follow the above link, or visit the Pomodoro Wikipedia page):

  • You decide what you need to work on - maybe it's a school project, a personal project, something for someone else...
  • You find a timer and set it for 25 minutes.
  • You get to work! You keep at your task for the entire 25 minutes. If a distraction pops up you write it down and get back to the task at hand. THIS IS IMPORTANT: write your distraction down. And then leave it behind.
  • When the timer rings, make a mark on your paper - a check, a star, a whirl - whatever you'd like to use to denote that you've completed the task. Maybe make a box and put a check in it!
  • If it's your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd checkmark, take a quick break (3-5 minutes) and then go back to the first step (decide what you need to work on next), and start over.
  • After you've gone through this series of steps 4 times, and you have 4 marks, you get to take a longer break (25-30 minutes); once that's done, start over from step 1 and work again to amass 4 completion marks - that check in the box, or star, or whatever you like.

Try it! See if it works! If it doesn't, take some time to reflect — was there any part that you liked? Was it fun to cross an item off your list (crossing an item off, even just one, is a win)? Did it help to acknowledge your distractions by writing them down? And, about those distractions - are you seeing a pattern? Can you use this information as a way to avoid those distractions in the future? Remember - if something doesn't work for you, it's value gained, and not a loss. The more you learn about yourself and what works and what strategies support and help you on your path, the better. Pomodoro on!

(Information on the Pomodoro Technique drawn from &

Alright folks. Want to talk more about this? Come and see us! Swing by and chat with one of our ASC Strategists. Do you need an appointment? Nope. You just need to come on by and we’ll be thrilled to talk with you: Waldo Hall 125 | Monday through Friday | 9 AM to 5 PM. See you soon! Schedule on!