Going to college can be stressful with classes to attend, reading assignments to complete and homework to finish. Harried students have only 24 hours a day to get everything done. Even the most dedicated students can feel that there just aren’t enough hours in a day to succeed. Anyone who is enrolled in the Dallas County Community College District, where the average student is 27 years old, might find that feeling is especially strong because they most likely have jobs and family responsibilities, in addition to school. They often need help learning how to manage their time.
Time management experts at DCCCD say there are ways that students can organize their schedules to maximize the time in their daily lives, especially by planning and prioritizing. Even those students who have obligations outside of school can manage their time efficiently and succeed. In general, students should follow these guidelines:
- Plan ahead.
- Use apps to help manage assignments and deadlines.
- Stay flexible to deal with unexpected events.
- Take breaks to reduce stress.
Mitizi Osby, who teaches time management as part of a business program at Richland College, said, “Time is easily the most important resource.” Osby added that, for students, “Effective time management is essential to get the most out of their day and throughout their life cycle.”
Osby said students first need to settle into a manageable routine, and they sometimes need to go through a period of “drifting, where they feel they’ve taken up too many tasks,” which can lead to a sense of failure. Osby said they can use that experience to their advantage. “Sometimes being overwhelmed can work in their favor, and setbacks are not always a bad thing because that’s when the individual will be willing to step back, set goals, prioritize and plan better,” she explained.
Kimberly Herman, an academic advisor at El Centro College, also teaches a human development class. She said that she always encourages students to prioritize. “If students know they have to work, they need to determine how many free hours they’ll have and plan around that schedule,” she said. Herman added that she tells students to take as many classes as they can to maximize their potential.
“Use a calendar, whether electronic or paper, to map out due dates for assignments, and use whatever time is available to work on them,” Herman said. “Students can also use mobile apps to help them create assignment due dates.”
Osby advised students to be flexible and learn to reprioritize on short notice when unforeseen events interfere with their plans. Additionally, she said they should “reduce their distractions, such as email, social media updates, phone calls and even dealing with friends and family.”
Herman said she assesses students so that she can learn where they might have issues. If she sees that they tend to get “sucked into” social media, she advises them to get apps like “StayFocusd,” “SelfControl,” or “WasteNoTime,” which help them manage the time they spend on the internet.
But even students who plan and prioritize efficiently can sometimes face emergencies that will interfere with their college work. Family members can get sick, or worse, which can cut into students’ time. “No one has a crystal ball, but by planning better, they may be able to compensate for those unexpected events,” Osby said.
Herman advised students to have a “Plan B” for those times when they have last-minute transportation or childcare problems. “Class attendance is crucial, so they should have other options in case those issues come up,” she said. They should also have a “Plan C” for those occasions when they can’t avoid missing class. Herman said they should get to know their classmates and ask for their contact information so they can get notes and assignments for the classes they missed.
But students should not feel that they have to work and study 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Osby said just because a student might be young, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t need a break from the daily routine. “Everyone needs to rest and seek a form of relaxation. Without these breaks, students may become more stressed than ever,” she said.
Herman said it is important for students to take 30-minute breaks every few hours, but they should set a timer so they don’t spend too much time away from the books.