How often do you find yourself saying, “I don’t have time”? Once a week? Once a day? Several times a day? The next time you find yourself saying this statement, stop and ask yourself whether it is really true. Do you really not have time, or have you made a choice, consciously or unconsciously, not to make time for that particular task or activity? Once you recognize that you can control and change how you use your time, you’ll want to assess your time-management strengths and then set time-management goals and priorities.
The first step in this assessment is to acknowledge that we have control over how we use our time. We have control over many of the commitments we choose to make. We also have control over many small decisions that affect our time-management success, such as what time we get up in the morning, how much sleep we get, what we eat, how much time we spend studying, and whether we get exercise. All these small decisions have a big effect on our success in college and in life.
Being in control means that you make your own decisions. Two of the most often cited differences between high school and college are increased autonomy, or independence, and greater responsibility. If you are not a recent high school graduate, you have most likely already experienced a higher level of independence, but returning to school creates responsibilities above and beyond those you already have, whether they include employment, family, community service, or other activities.
Whether you are beginning college immediately after high school or are continuing your education after a break, make sure that the way you spend your time aligns with your most important values. For instance, if you value becoming an expert in a particular academic area, you’ll want to learn everything you can in that field by taking related classes and participating in internships. If you value learning about many things and postponing a specific decision about your major, you might want to spend your time exploring many different areas of interest and taking as many different types of courses as possible. To take control of your life and your time and to guide your decisions, begin by setting some goals for the future.
As you consider your time-management strengths and goals, you should think about how to prioritize your tasks, goals, and values. Which goals and objectives are most important to you and most consistent with your values? Which are the most urgent? For example, studying to get a good grade on tomorrow’s test might have to take priority over attending a job fair today. Don’t ignore long-term goals to meet short-term goals, however. With good time management you can study during the week prior to the test so that you can attend the job fair the day before. Skilled time managers often establish priorities by maintaining a to-do list and ranking the items on the list to determine schedules and deadlines for each task.
Another aspect of setting priorities while in college is finding an appropriate way to balance your academic schedule with the rest of your life. Social activities are an important part of the college experience. Time alone and time to think are also essential to your overall well-being.
For many students, the greatest challenge of prioritizing is balancing school with work and family obligations that are equally important and are not optional. Good advance planning can help you meet these challenges, but you also need to talk with your family members and your employer to make sure they understand your academic responsibilities. Most professors will work with you when conflicts arise, but if you have problems that can’t be resolved easily, be sure to seek support from the professionals in your college’s counseling center. They will understand your challenges and help you manage and prioritize your many responsibilities.
autonomy Self-direction or independence. College students usually have more autonomy than they did in high school.