I will tackle another one of Jeff Beals’ suggestions: Develop some time management skills. Time management is a sign of maturity, and it will be important to you throughout your life. There are several components to time management, and I’ll try to spell out what I think are the most crucial points to consider. Keep in mind that MOST colleges are going to have some type of counseling center that can help you if you find you have problems with time management. But if your school doesn’t provide that type of help, or if you’re already out of school, you can find many good resources online (in addition to what I’m about to suggest!).
- Know your own limitations. The most important thing is to recognize just how much you can expect of yourself. There are always likely to be more things that you want to do than you have the time to do. So don’t over extend yourself with too many things on your to-do list.
1. Consider whether you need to have a full- or part-time job while in school. That’s going to eat into the amount of time you have for your classwork and your activities.
2. Think about how many courses you can take while still actually having enough time to attend class and do the homework. (Also recognize that some courses have more homework than others, some have labs, some have more intense lectures, some rely more on outside reading…and evaluate the time commitment accordingly.)
3. Think about how many extracurricular activities you can participate in. It’s better to choose one or two that are relevant to your values and/or your career goals than to join a lot of groups and not have the time to actively participate in any of them.
- Learn to prioritize. Make a literal or virtual list of everything you have to do and figure out which ones are more important. Importance can have a variety of meanings—it could pertain to due dates or deadlines, but it could also mean important to you for personal or professional reasons.
- If you have difficulty keeping track of your time, create a schedule that allocates a set amount of time to different tasks on your list. If you find that you didn’t allocate enough time, you will have learned something important about the amount of work you can accomplish or the amount of work required for a specific task. Be sure to allocate time for rest and relaxation. You need to take breaks, eat, and sleep if you’re going to stay healthy—physically and mentally!
- Turn off your phone and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door when you’re up against deadlines or if you just realize that you aren’t being productive because you have too many interruptions. You can also turn off any audio or visual indicators about email or social media so you don’t get distracted.
- Learn to say “no.” It’s a very simple word, but some people find it difficult to say! You need to learn to say no to friends who want you to go out when you have an assignment due, to your boss who asks you to work more hours when it will interfere with your schoolwork, to family who want you to come home more often than you have time for, to members of clubs or other groups who want you to join or become more involved, or to anyone who asks you to do something that you just can’t reasonably find time for. Obviously there are going to be situations where you will want (or need) to say “yes,” and that’s okay—just think about every “yes” before you say it. Jeff Braden, the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at North Carolina State University, likes to remind us that “Our noes make our yeses possible.” (Don’t get me started on the debate of how to write the plural of “no” and “yes.” This is how the OED says to create the plurals, and that’s good enough for me. Plus, you probably don’t have enough spare time to pursue the argument!)