Time Management

Time management, or organizing your activities to make the most of your time, is an important skill to develop in college, especially since the habits you pick up now will likely go with you into your career. In fact, it can be helpful for students to think of college as a job, with a schedule of fixed and flexible commitments, as well as a responsibility to keep oneself on task in the interest of productivity. Essentially, time management requires an ability to design, as well as maintain, a realistic schedule. Below are some tips to help you create and keep a schedule that works for you.

  • Create a term schedule. At the beginning of each semester, write out your weekly schedule, accounting for every hour that you are awake. It is easiest to do this in a columns and rows format, with columns representing days of the week, and rows representing hours in the day. Start by writing in fixed commitments, like class time and work hours, as well as time for eating, bathing, commuting, running errands, exercising, etc. Schedule blocks of time for studying, and be realistic about how much time you need. With the remaining time, schedule leisure activities, such as hobbies, or hanging out with friends.
    • For your term schedule, you will need to order your priorities. First priorities are set in stone, whereas second priorities are more flexible. In determining 1st versus 2nd priorities, consider the consequences of NOT making something a 1st priority. For example, in deciding if exercise is a priority, consider the consequences of not exercising, and whether or not you can live with those consequences. It some cases, it makes sense to change your priorities.
    • After the first two or three of weeks of class, you will have a better idea of your work load, and can adjust your term schedule accordingly. For example, you may find that a class requires more reading than you expected, and will need to add study time to your schedule, usually by decreasing the amount of time spent on another (flexible) activity. You may find that a few adjustments are needed throughout the semester to best fit your needs.
  • Write a weekly work list. Over the weekend, review the next week?s assignments, and develop a list of everything that must get done that week. Include due dates, the amount of time needed, and the resources needed to complete each assignment (E.g., textbooks, class notes, articles, art supplies, periodic table, dictionary/thesaurus, or other references).
  • Keep a daily "To Do" list. The night before, write down your tasks for the next day in order of priority. Although you will use your term schedule and weekly work list to inform you, you may include other things, such as one-time appointments or errands that must be run. As you complete tasks, check them off.
  • Use an appointment book or planner. An appointment book or planner is a convenient way to organize information, and may be a good place to keep your term schedule, weekly work lists, and daily "To Do" lists, along with any other obligations, such as special events or appointments. A time or task management software program might also be useful. During the first week of class, enter all tests and homework due dates, as well as anticipated appointments, and leave plenty of space for filling in details as you go along.


These ideas were obtained from the following sources:

  • Hettich, P. (1998). Learning skills for college and career (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.
  • Nist, S. L. & Holsehuh, J. P. (2003). College success strategies. New York: Longman Publishers.

About the author: Shannon Ulrike is a former member of the counselor faculty at San Francisco State University, Counseling & Psychological Services. Shannon enjoys working with SFSU's multicultural student population to address a wide range of concerns. She has particular interest in helping students understand socio-cultural influences on personal development, and in overcoming internalized oppression. Her expertise is in working with women as a marginalized group, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, the disability community, and the Deaf community. Shannon is fluent in American Sign Language.