Time management skills are fundamental to success at the University level. We define time management as how one schedules or manages the time allotted to accomplish academic and personal goals. Good time management skills involve planning according to priorities, establishing short-term and long-term goals, and appropriate allocation of resources to meet those goals. Poor time management skills, on the other hand, generally result in a lack of completed goals, increased stress, and a high tendency towards procrastination.
Good time management skills require practice with setting goals and prioritizing activities. Tracking how time is spent for one week can be an immediate and direct ‘wake up’ call for many students who aren’t immediately aware of how time is utilized throughout the day, specifically how much time is spent that is not directed toward short-term goals or immediate priorities.
Awareness of how one use’s time is not synonymous with a strict adherence to scheduling every minute of every day. The first step in establishing a good time management habit involves tracking one’s time and activities over several days. Tracking over several days allows you to see patterns in how you spend your time and accounts for different schedules on different days (MWF versus TR versus weekends). Tracking should be done in half-hour increments and every major activity should be recorded. In addition to classes and studying time, sleeping, eating, and grooming should be recorded. Extracurricular activities, sports, and ‘free time’ activities should be noted, and these should be summarized at the end of the seven day period in order to see how time was spent.
For those students who want to do an in-depth study of their time management skills, a second step can be added to this process. For the second week, the day should be tracked in half-hour increments and compared to the schedule that the student has created to be followed. As long as the student reports the time and activity honestly, this can be a useful exercise in creating a schedule and working to adhere to it.
Once the time-tracking exercise is complete, you can examine the established patterns to see if they fit the established recommendations for first-year university students. Do you have a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of study/review time to your in-class time? Do you get an average of six to eight hours of sleep per night? Do you make time to eat? Does your schedule allow you to pursue extracurricular activities or social recreation during the week? If you find a majority of your time being consumed by activities that do not bring you closer to your academic or personal goals, then you may need to better allocate your time toward more academic pursuits.
Time management does not require that every moment of every day be scheduled and accounted toward some greater goal. In fact, your physical and mental health improves when you give yourself time to relax and refresh during the day. If you realize that your day is too tightly scheduled, look to readjust your activities and obligations to give yourself time to relax. By putting that ‘free’ time in your schedule, you can look forward to a time during the day when there is nothing else to do but relax. It may be a half hour or half of an afternoon, but the same premise applies to both. Scheduling your free time ensures that you will not lose that free time to something else during the day.
This information has been presented as part of the ASC 1000 – University Experience course at Florida Tech.