by Merry Guo, Team Leader, Peer Learning Assistant Program
1) Make a to-do list
This is one of the simplest, but probably the most effective time management tip I’ve ever used. There are many types of to-do lists. I find a great way to do a major catch up is to make an ultimate To-Do List:
- split a sheet of paper into columns, one for each course you’re taking
- in each column, list things you want to accomplish for that course
ex. “read chapter 3”
ex. “do practice exams from 2003, 2004”
ex. “borrow notes for missed lecture last Friday”
ex. “ask prof about exam format”
- among the items under each column, pick the top 2 most urgent or important tasks, and highlight them. These highlighted items will be the priority; aim to accomplish those first!
If you do this, you’ll end up with a comprehensive list of things you need to do in order to catch up. The tasks don’t even have to be academic! Put things like “do laundry”, “email Sarah back”, and “call home” on the list too! Also, make sure the list covers things that are bugging you, or worrying you. This will help “unload” your mind of all the small things that are stressing you out. Know that all of your worries are accounted for on this piece of paper, and that you can look at them later. This gives you piece of mind, and allows you to pay full attention to the task at hand. You don’t need to finish all the things on the list immediately – in fact, it probably would be impossible to do so. Use this list to keep you focused on your goals for the next few days, or next few weeks; carry it around with you or post it on your desk!
2) Use your time like a pro
If you look at how you spend each weekday, you’ll probably notice that a ton of time is spent dilly-dallying with friends, walking from one place to another, waiting in line, killing 30 minute breaks between classes, etc. These minutes add up to hours wasted! Even a 20 minute break can be spent very productively, and you can get a good amount of studying done. Starting now, take advantage of all this buffer time. Don’t go back home in between classes. Stay on campus during the day, and spend your breaks in a quiet spot – at the library or in an empty classroom somewhere is good – and look over lectures of that day, or the day before. Even 20 minutes could be enough to look over a whole lecture, or half a lecture. Reviewing material is SO important to learning, and you will be amazed at how much learning you get accomplish by using your dilly-dallying time! Use this time to accomplish tasks on your to-do list as well!
3) Let go of guilt
Hanging on to feelings of guilt and regret isn’t helpful at all. Forgive yourself for falling off the wagon, as it happens to everyone. Instead, the best way to get back on track is to focus on your immediate goals. Studies have shown that people who let go of their guilt also tend to procrastinate less, in comparison to people who blame themselves or rehash what they “should have” done. Have a positive attitude and think about how productive you can be in the present.