Summer is a time where things typically go one of two ways for college students: You either decide to spend unstructured time at the beach, catching up with friends or just generally hanging out, or you hit the ground running, volunteering, traveling or even studying in the summer. And, if you’re the overachiever type, then you’ll probably do both.
But as the summer begins to dwindle and the last week in August is just around the corner, it’s time to start preparing to get back to the grind for the new semester. If you’ve spent the last year with papers flying around, pulling your hair out over the chaos that is a college schedule, then this is the time to turn over a new leaf and learn how to manage your fall schedule. Again – manage your schedule – don’t let your schedule manage you.
Assess your priorities
In your life, you’re going to have both long-term and short-term goals that guide your decisions. These goals equate to a list of priorities – and they’re different for everyone. If your priority is to become a pro athlete, then you need to make sure your schedule allows for daily workouts and training, as well as your math homework. If you want to be a PR exec or a journalist, adding an internship to the mix is going to be a priority for you.
No matter what your goals and priorities are, sitting down and actually making a list is important. Ranking them in order may be difficult, but you may discover some things are more or less important than you expected, so listing things makes it easier.
School comes first
No matter what is on your aforementioned list of priorities, shy of a deadly medical condition or a family situation, school always should come first. As a college student, you’ve got more leeway to make decisions on what you want to do, but when you look at the absolute necessity of a college degree for many career paths, and the large investment that it takes to fuel a college education, it’s imperative that your schedule and your choices reflect the mantra of school first.
So if you need to take a ton of credits, you might not be able to join six clubs to ensure you have time to study and complete assignments. The college experience is important, but your future and doing well in school should always take precedence.
Know your limits
While taking 18 credits may be the optimal choice to get your degree done and over with, if you’re consistently getting poor grades or you go into a mental breakdown during the semester from coursework overload, then this may not be a good idea. Testing your limits and pushing yourself to become a stronger student is always fantastic, but you also need to be realistic and know where to set the line for yourself.
Maybe taking one fewer class this semester or adding one on if you’re only taking 12 credits is a good idea, but make sure that you are taking time to evaluate all of your scheduling decisions – keeping your limits in mind.
Create a schedule that works for you
Now that you’ve got your priorities listed and you’ve made yourself aware of your limits, it comes time to make a schedule. It’s likely that you’ve already picked out your fall semester classes, and this should be the first thing to go on your schedule. The average study time for each class is a recommended three hours a week (more or less depending on the class), so that needs to be accounted for as well.
If you’ve got a job to pay for expenses, this should go into your schedule as soon as it’s been assigned to you. Then from there you’ve got some flex time, which you can fill in with clubs, internships, workout time, hangout time and anything in between – just make sure that there is enough time to permit for those activities.
The method that you use to track your schedule will widely vary based on what works for you. Some people like having a physical calendar book, while others plug it into their iPhone. There are even apps on the market, like Toodledo, that help you to create to-do lists and track what you need to be doing.
Manage your time
Once you’ve got your schedule, stick to it. Managing the little time you have is as important as creating the schedule in the first place, so check in on your schedule, modify it and be honest with yourself on how long it will take to complete a task. But don’t allow for excess amounts of distraction time. If you’re studying, turn off the TV. If you are working, turn that cellphone off! You need to keep yourself on-task in order for your schedule to run smoothly. And don’t say that texting while watching TV and studying gets things done quickly – because it doesn’t. According to the Harvard Business Review, efficiency drops by 40% when you multitask and there have been reports that your brain can drop 10-15 IQ points when you’re multitasking, so just resist the urge to do it.
Stay healthy, both mentally and physically
When things get particularly hectic, you may feel like there is no time to spend on any leisure or fun activities, but this isn’t always the case. Being on-task and working hard are crucial to success in life, but you need to make downtime when you can. Even if it’s one episode of Storage Wars on Netflix or one hour playing a video game, downtime is good for your mental well-being.
And being busy doesn’t excuse being unhealthy either. It takes you just as much time to order a salad as it does a cheeseburger, and even 10 minutes of rigorous walking a day can make a difference. Being healthy physically and mentally are important to your overall well-being.
It’s a work in progress, so just keep doing your best to manage your schedule, make time for yourself and do right by your body and keep it well fueled and exercised.
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