Even though it’s summer, I’ve received inquiries lately about how students can improve their time management skills in these busy, busy times. I guess the questions were from the school year, but got put off because the students “ran out of time.” Appropriately ironic.
Seems everyone is under a time crunch, school year and summertime, trying to meet deadlines, studying for tests, writing papers, working to pay the bills, and maintaining a social life as well.
What can we do, Dr. Rick? What expensive electronics can we buy that will solve our time problems? What web site can we go to? What silver bullet will keep us on track?
“Silver bullet?” Well, there are plenty of products and services out there that can surely help. But, since we don’t have a lot of time, here are a few time management tips that seem to work and don't cost anything except some self-reflection and a bit of dedication. Ultimately, the “silver bullet” is you!
Get yourself organized. This is the first and most important thing. As a career educator, I have had students tell me that "It took me over an hour to do that homework assignment." When I question them, gently, of course, about what exactly they did the night before, they tell me about searching for elusive textbooks, supplies, and notebooks; emailing, calling, or texting friends to figure out just what the assignment was and when it's due; taking valuable time to interrupt the work to listen to music, chat with friends, or argue with siblings; or, worst of all, thinking they can "multi-task" with other activities. (See my blog of 25 November 2008 for my thoughts about multi-tasking for students.)
Have a routine. Make a homework and study routine that works for you. Have your own space where you can work relatively uninterrupted. Doesn't have to be a private space. The dining room table works just fine, so long as others respect your study time. Have your supplies in a handy portable case, and return them to it so you won't be scurrying around the house looking for them when you need them. (See my blog of 7 November 2009 for a few words about the importance of routines.)
Plan ahead. Know when your big assignments are due, and break them up into smaller tasks. That way you won't feel overwhelmed when the due-date is near. Tell others about your assignments, so they'll help keep you on track. Parents should know your plans. They'll nag when they have to, but you can consider it a mark of your increasing responsibility when they don't have to nag.
Have a support system. Choose friends who will support, not derail, you. Good friends will study together, support each other, clarify questions for each other, challenge each other, and even compete with each other. I call these friends "study buddies," and I recommend each student have at least one. They make studying for tests much easier, more fun, and effective. You know who your true friends are. Take control of your life. (See my blog of 2 December 2008 for some study tips at exam time.)
Set goals. Whatever your goal is -- a better algebra or English grade, the lead in the school play, first chair clarinet, varsity soccer -- write it down and tell a few trusted people. Stay concentrated on the goal. Allow your friends and parents to be a part of your success by helping and supporting you. Be helpful and supportive to them, too.
You don't need to have expensive electronics or complicated websites to help you, although many are good. What you do need, though, is a reasonable work ethic, a sense of responsibility, some self-reliance, and common-sense organization. This is not rocket science, so take control of your studies. You'll be amazed at how good you'll feel when you start seeing results.
I've addressed each of these tips in numerous previous blog posts. Click on “Archive” to check out more details and suggestions.