You don’t realize how valuable your time is until you’re forced to realize how little of it you actually have. That realization happens to a lot of students when they first enter college, or go back for more education during their career. And you can really be in for a world of hurt if you don’t take the time to get organized and start managing your schedule to make every minute count.
The key to balancing any schedule is to identify the things of real value in your schedule, the essentials, and then eliminate the excess. There are probably dozens of little chores, habits and daily tasks that eat up a few minutes here and there in your schedule, minutes you need if you’re earning your MBA online and trying to balance family and career to boot. And while you can’t eliminate all of it, you can become more conscious of how you are using your time in general, which can help you identify ways you can be more efficient and less stressed over all.
Taking Control of your College Schedule
- Take online courses to control your time. Doing some of or your entire college degree online can to reduce your commute time and spend it on actual learning instead. If you know a certain subject is going to be easier for you, take the learning schedule into your own hands, spending the time you would have listening to lectures in the classroom on class-work and projects. That’s where a great deal of your actual knowledge-acquisition takes place anyway. And when you come across courses that you know will require more hands-on help from the instructor, you can make those your on-campus courses.
- Document everything on your schedule. Some people still use paper organizers, but I couldn’t do without my smartphone scheduling apps. You can use Organizer for iPhone, Google Calendar for Android, or dozens of other scheduling and productivity apps for smartphones and tablets. The point is, you want one place where you can record all of your appointments, classes, assignments and your work schedule. When you have a birds-eye view of everything you have going on, you’ll feel more in control, less stressed and less likely to procrastinate.
- Schedule everything—everything! A data-driven life is a beautiful thing. I’m talking about tracking even the mundane stuff that fills your time every day: sleep, exercise, meals, travel time, entertainment, snack breaks. Documenting everything gives you the ability to always know what you’re going to do next and that you actually have enough time to do it all. Some things can be hard to map out. You don’t really know how long a certain homework assignment will take, for instance. But you will get better at estimating time needed for certain tasks as you keep track of them and record things.
- Start early on every project. The biggest reason people feel their schedule is cramped is probably due to procrastination. We all do it; it’s in our nature to want to put off difficult work that may intimidate us a little. But by forcing yourself to take your reading, homework and class projects a chunk at a time will help you keep your work load consistent throughout the semester instead of cramming everything in right before a deadline. Getting into a rhythm of work will do wonders for your stress-level, too.
Everyone finds their own method of time-management, and the same things don’t work for everybody. But it’s worth putting the time in to plan out how you’re spending your time. Just like developing a budget helps you understand where your money is going (and where you need to cut back), taking stock of your daily and weekly schedule will help you see what’s taking up the majority of your time, where you can cut back, and which things simply can’t be adjusted. I promise, you’ll enjoy the feeling of controlling your time this way.
What apps, planners, methods and magic tricks do you use to manage your professional, academic or personal schedules?
Author bio: Jennifer Cook is a marketing writer for Strayer.edu. When she isn’t muttering under her breath at her iPhone calendar or cruising Pinterest for cupcake pictures, you’ll find her writing about technology in education, online learning tools and student life.