Your body and your mind function best if you follow a schedule that is relatively consistent and regular.
It’s important to establish and follow a schedule. Getting dramatically different amounts of sleep from night to night and waking up at different times is confusing for your system. Students who follow a regular and predictable schedule of sleep, study, meal times, and exercise report a better quality of life and are, in general, more successful throughout their college careers.
Planning Sets You Free*
Some individuals may see scheduling their time as constricting, when in reality it provides a sense of freedom. Knowing what you have to do and when you will accomplish it, allows you to know that you will be able to get everything done. You can now enjoy your down time without feeling guilty.
*Tips paraphrased from Becoming a Master Student by Dave Ellis.
- You know yourself – plan difficult tasks when you are most alert and productive.
- Experienced planners report success in completing difficult tasks first.
- Use daylight hours – research shows that each hour used during that day is equal to 1.5 hours at night.
- Use time before and after class to review class material.
- Become an active learner by reviewing course material, homework, and assigned readings before class. This will help you retain information because you are creating a framework and a foundation for which to build new course material.
- Reviewing material immediately after class helps to reinforce what you’ve just learned. This, along with frequent review of the material will help make studying easier.
- Small blocks of time here and there can really add up. Time between classes offers a great opportunity for a quick review, to update a weekly schedule, or read a few pages of an assignment.
- Avoid too much detail – over planning can waste time and is unnecessary. Schedules are a guide, not a detailed action plan.
- Know your sleep patterns.
- Determine how much sleep you need and try to get that much sleep every night, preferably at the same hours every night.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Monitor your diet. Make sure you include time for meals in your schedule. And remember that a healthy diet helps to keep you feeling your best, so you can accomplish everything on your to-do list.
- Schedule time for physical exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean time at the gym, but physical activity is as important as a healthy diet to keep you feeling your best.
- Plan Ahead
- Look ahead at long-term assignments. Break them down into manageable pieces of work, and assign a personal deadline for each of those pieces.
- Set a due date earlier than the assigned due date. This can help if you always seem to finish projects or papers at the last minute and never seem to have time for editing.
- Don’t wait for inspiration to come to you. Start your assignment and trust that inspiration will arise during the process.
- Maintain flexibility and balance in your schedule.
- Flexibility is a key component to scheduling. You must be willing to adjust your schedule as unexpected situations arise. It may seem frustrating at first, but if you remain committed to scheduling, you will soon see the many benefits of planning.
- Fill in everything that happens every week.
- Such as classes, labs, rehearsals, weekly meetings, etc.
- Photocopy your schedule.
- Make enough copies for each week of the semester. You may want to make some extras, in case you want to replan a week.
- Make a To-Do list for the week.
- On a separate piece of paper, write down everything you want to accomplish for the upcoming week. Include homework, readings, study time, appointments, errands, planned social time, etc. Your schedule is for your whole life, not just academics.
- Next to each activity, write down how much time you think it will take you to complete each task. At first this may be difficult. It will get easier the more experience you get with planning. It is always better to over estimate the amount of time a task will take. It is better to get done early with a task and have unexpected free time, than have a task take longer than expected and throw off your whole schedule.
- Also, assign priority to each task. You may want to use the letters “A” – most important, “B” – important, “C”– optional.
- Make your plan.
- This part should be done in pencil. Plans are never set in stone. We cannot predict what will actually happen in the course of a week. To be prepared for the unexpected, schedules need to be flexible.
- Start filling in your schedule with your “A” tasks, followed by the “B” tasks, and if there is time left in your week, schedule your “C” tasks.
- Make sure you leave free time in your schedule. Not only is it important to have down time, but unexpected tasks may present themselves, or you may have underestimated how much time it takes to complete a task.
- Revise as needed.
- Your schedule is a plan that you design to help you get work done, but don’t let it inhibit a creative moment. If you had planned to work on your science project, but you had a brilliant thought about your politics paper, work on your politics paper now, and the time you had scheduled for your paper can be changed to work on your science project. There may be other reasons to revise your schedule as well, but don’t get in the habit of revising too much or you will defeat the purpose of planning ahead.
Review your overall schedule
- Are you overbooked? Are you taking on too many classes? Are you involved in too many extracurricular activities?
- If you find that you do not have enough time to get everything done, you may want to consider cutting back somewhere.
- As you continue to practice, your skill at managing your time will increase, your productivity will improve, the process will become easier, and you will see the results of your diligent efforts.