College students live endlessly busy lives. From attending classes, completing schoolwork, attending a part-time job or internship, and participating in extracurricular activities, college life is jam-packed. That list doesn't even include sleep, meals, socializing, or hobbies. It's easy for students to quickly feel overwhelmed by all that is expected of them.
However, it is possible to get it all done. Adopting these habits and strategies will help you finish your work and leave time for fun.
Invest in a planner
A lot of students these days schedule their time into the calendar app on their phones. This is great because you can set an alarm to remind you of where you need to be each day, and because most students always have their phones with them, and therefore will always have their schedule with them.
A few popular apps include the iPhone's Calendar, Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar, and Sunrise.
The iPhone's built-in Calendar is great for scheduling your busy life. You put in your schedule for each day and the app automatically sets a reminder alarm. Google Calendar is synched with your email, and allows you to invite friends and colleagues to meetings and events. Yahoo! Calendar is the one of the largest and most versatile scheduling apps. You can plan out your day, make a to-do list, and check the weather. It also integrates with your Microsoft Outlook email. Sunrise is social media friendly. It includes birthday reminders for your Facebook friends, displays the image of a LinkedIn connection you're meeting for lunch, and it will even show the tweets from people attending the same event.
Personally, I have always sworn by a physical planner. I find it helpful to write down my schedule and much more gratifying to physically cross items off my to-do list.
If you do want to get a planner, take some time to figure out what style is best for you. I've seen students with planners that are the height and width of a textbook, that resemble mini calendars, and everywhere in between. Figure out what will best fit your life in between those pages. It also doesn't hurt to find one with a cover design that you love--it will make you want to use it!
I tend to use my planner in a very specific way: of course mark my schedule in the appropriate boxes, but for my to-do list I use a post-it note. I stick it right in the current week for easy reference. And as each task is completed, I cross it out. Everywhere I need to be and everything I need to do are all in one place and it keeps me organized.
Make a schedule...and stick to it!
Make a list of everything you need to get done and by when. Then look into your schedule and figure out where each task could potentially be completed and schedule it in, just like a class or meeting. This will make you feel compelled to stick to it.
Do your hardest work first
Working on your most difficult task may seem daunting and make your motivation a little weaker. But if you tackle those big projects first, when you're freshest, you're likely to do your best work. It's also nice to get those jobs you're dreading over with, and you will feel a large sense of accomplishment.
Use the 15-Minute Rule
This is a great technique I use when I have a lot to get done, but not a lot of motivation to do it. You simply commit yourself to working on a task for 15 minutes. No Facebook, no texting, no Youtube. That's not a lot of time--you can do almost anything for 15 minutes even if you aren't in the mood. Set a timer so you aren't always checking the clock. You'd be surprised how much you'll get into your work, and how much you can accomplish in that 15 minutes without interruptions. You'll may even find that you want to continue after your 15 minutes is up.
Utilize your free time
As evidenced by the 15-Minute Rule, you can get more work done than you think in just a few minutes. Have an hour in between classes? Don't just goof off until your next lecture. Get a few math problems done or a page written on a paper. Not going to dinner for another 10 minutes? Review notecards for your midterm next week.
There's no rule that says you can only get homework done during a large block of time, or that you can only do an assignment in one sitting. In fact, getting a little done at a time dilutes the task and makes it seem more manageable. Using those few spare minutes in your day can save you a lot of work later.
Take appropriate breaks
Don't forget to give yourself study breaks once an hour or so. Get up from your desk and do some stretches, walk down the hall to clear your mind, tidy up a few things in your room, etc. It's good for your concentration to get your blood flowing for a few minutes and let your mind take a break from the task at hand. You'll feel refreshed and ready to focus when you return to work. However, don't make your breaks longer than 10 minutes. Any more than that and you'll get distracted.
Procrastinating is easy in today's world, especially in college. There's a whole world of social media sites to read, Netflix episodes to watch, and friends to talk to. With all of these fun things to distract you, it can be really hard to buckle down and get some work done. We're all guilty (myself included). Sometimes you have to get tough with yourself. Have your friend hold onto your television remote or change your Facebook password until that paper is written. Go to the library and don't tell your friends where you are, so they can't find you and distract you. It's all about just taking the time to do your work. The fun things will be there when you are finished, and can serve as a reward for getting so much done.
Think of the bigger picture. When you look back at your college experience, will you wish you had watch more episodes of House of Cards, or will you wish you had been more committed to that one class that knocked down your GPA? Remind yourself why you are at school, and what is actually important. Sometimes what is important isn't what you want to do, but it's about acknowledging that rising to success isn't always fun.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. What you do with those hours dictates your life's path. While you cannot accomplish everything in one day, managing your time wisely will help you finish in a reasonable amount of time and still let you enjoy your college experience.