Time is valuable. It's a precious, finite resource you must learn to balance and use wisely. Each day delivers the same 24-hour window in which to make the most of life’s demands: family commitments, work, school, social activities, to-do lists, and yes, sleep. So instead of counting the minutes make every minute count. Follow these simple time management tips to ensure that you are well prepared and set up for success in your studies.
1. Make a plan and set realistic goals.
Busy schedules and ever-present distractions can prevent you from checking tasks off your academic to-do list, so be sure to plan ahead. Set aside specific hours for school work, and give yourself the space to accomplish mini goals.
Schedule tasks. Consider creating a calendar to schedule activities and plan your tasks. Highlight due dates for writing assignments ― from initial drafts through final submission. Make note of any scheduled connections, such as Zoom meetings - potentially for study groups - or virtual office hours with professors and advisors.
You should also be mindful to set aside time for yourself, which can include moments for self-care, fun activities and time with family and friends. Find the little moments to renew your energy so you’re not just moving from task to task.
Stay realistic. It’s important to set attainable goals for yourself. Big assignments require a lot of focused time and energy. When you factor in your other work-life responsibilities, you can start to feel overwhelmed or burnt out. That’s why it's helpful to organize priorities and think about what is reasonable and attainable. Setting realistic goals for yourself is the first step toward accomplishing them.
Find a schedule or system to use that works for you. It can be a note, memo on your phone, list on your computer or calendar on your fridge. It needs to be visible and easy to follow.
Monique Hebert, a film and media studies student from Washington, recommends setting small goals throughout the week to stay on track and complete assignments without being overwhelmed.
“Learning to juggle things is always going to be difficult, but setting aside time goes such a long way,” she said, adding that she utilizes a planner to map her schedule out.
2. Commit to daily check-ins.
Technology makes our lives easier. It provides 24/7 access to learning, reminders, communication and resources for academic and social needs. It’s easier than ever to check-in and stay on track. Be sure to set a daily reminder on your phone to log in to your student email or online discussion threads to stay current with your schoolwork. Daily check-ins create a more manageable workflow and prepare you for upcoming assignments and discussions, so you’re not caught off guard if there’s a change in the syllabus or scope of a project.
3. Set (and celebrate) mini milestones.
The main goal is clear: Earn your degree. But a lot happens along the way. Setting mini milestones, and having mini celebrations, should be part of the process. These smaller, short-term goals can be anything from achieving an uninterrupted study session to writing the first few pages of a paper.
Vicki Sheerin, an ASU Online student from central Florida, uses this system to achieve consistent success in her health sciences program.
“You have large goals and things you want to accomplish, but you can’t do it all at once,” she said. “You have to do it in small chunks. Having a system, keeping up with it, and being consistent in what has to be done makes things easier. I feel so proud of myself for [having] this system of organization.”
There’s power in celebrating progress, and you may be surprised at what you can accomplish when there’s a reward to validate your hard work. Remember, all your little successes get you closer to the big reward: graduation.
4. Identify (and avoid) distractions.
Successful time management in college starts with understanding time mismanagement. Even the smallest distractions, when compounded throughout the day, can add up to significant time loss. Luckily, there’s an easy way to identify these distractions and make a plan to avoid them.
First, create a comprehensive list of your daily activities. Capture everything from sleep time to family time to screen time. You want to better understand how much valuable time you may be wasting on avoidable distractions. Here are a few common culprits:
- Social media: Americans spent more than 1,300 hours on social media in 2020, as reported by Forbes. That endless scrolling adds up to time that could have been spent doing other things, like studying. Be mindful of your social media use and think about limiting your daily and weekly hours to avoid distractions.
- Videos and games: Smartphones offer us expansive capabilities that we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. They’re also an endless source of entertainment. Apps, games, notifications and a sense of constant connection can redirect your attention when you’re trying to focus on coursework. Consider scheduling time to set your smartphone to silent or turn off the wifi while you need to focus on your assignments.
- Meetings: For the working professional, meetings are often unavoidable. Make the best use of the time by ensuring there’s a clear agenda for everyone to review before the meeting starts. Stick to the allotted time and excuse yourself if the meeting runs over. Your time is valuable. Protect it.
- Emails and chats: Your education takes brain power and concentration. Email and chats can wait. Dedicate certain times in your day to review missed correspondence and reply. It could be once in the morning and once at night, or maybe even once every few hours, depending on your comfort level.
- Multitasking: When you try to juggle multiple assignments and tasks, you’ll likely end up being less productive. Let yourself focus on one activity at a time — whether it’s writing a paper or reading your kids a bedtime story. Concentrate on what needs to get done in the present moment, rather than what’s waiting for you several weeks from now. After all, your plan-ahead schedule already sets you up for success on that front.
5. Master the art of saying “no”
You’re on a mission to strike a balance between earning your degree and having a life. And it’s easy to take on too much. There will be times when it’s in your best interest to turn down a social invitation to complete an assignment. Or perhaps you say no to being a parent volunteer in your child’s class for one semester so you can focus on studying. It’s really OK. The important people in your life will understand. And you can always set dedicated time — using the schedule we talked about — to plan activities with friends and family that support your study habits rather than distract you from them.
Resources to help you build good time management skills
Helping you build time management skills is an essential part of the ASU Online experience. When you know how to successfully balance your obligations in a healthy way, you can reach your full potential — personally, professionally and academically.
As an ASU Online student, you’ll have access to a support network that provides tailored guidance to help you balance your big goals with your busy life. Our comprehensive support network offers students time management coaches, available to support you from orientation to graduation, that provide time management advice and best practices to help you stay on track.