Time Applying Time Management to the College Setting

As a college student you will find that you have a lot more unstructured time than you've ever had before. Unlike in middle and high school, college schedules are highly individualized and determined in large part by the particular preferences and interests of students. Your classes will most likely meet between one and three times per week for an hour at a time, and you'll be in classrooms only about 12 hours a week. It's up to you to maintain your own schedule--there will be no monitors or teachers standing over you to make sure you do what you are supposed to do. As a result, if you don't organize your time wisely you won't be able to make the most of it. The task is not as straightforward as organizing folders or binders. You can easily get caught up doing one assignment, devote too much time to it, then not have enough time to complete another important assignment. You'll need to have discipline to hang up the telephone or excuse yourself from lunch so you can get back to your studies. It is important to remember that you can't recoup wasted time, so keep the big picture of what you have to do in mind.

Set Priorities

The first step in organizing your time is to examine everything you need to do and figure out what is most important.

First, look at your fixed schedule for the day (classes, job, etc.) so you know how much "free" time you have. Make a list of all the things you need and want to do.

Nicole's Daily To Do List

Tuesday, October 2

Fixed schedule: reader 11:00 am-1:00 pm; class 2:00 pm -3:00 pm; dinner with friend 8:00 pm.

  1. Do math take-home quiz in am (due tomorrow) --2 hours
  2. Review, print, and file notes from reader session-- 1/2 hour
  3. Read chapter 3 in psych book (chapters 3-5 due Friday, October 5)--1 hour
  4. Work out--1 hour
  5. Pick up psychology articles from the library for Friday's class
  6. Read pages 101-169 in novel for English class (book due end of October)--1 hour
  7. While listening to novel, do laundry

Then put the list in order of most to least important. (See "Nicole's Daily To Do List" for an example.) Be realistic about how much you can accomplish based on the time you have.

Try to complete the most important tasks first. Ask yourself if any assignments are due immediately. And plan ahead! If you have a short assignment due in two days and a long one due in three days, you may need to start the longer assignment first. Check off tasks as they are completed so you can easily see what has been done and what has not.

In addition to your daily list of priorities use a weekly and monthly planner (a calendar or organizer-there are many types available today) so you can keep track of all events, assignments and activities throughout the school year.

Efficient Time Allocation

Once you have set priorities for your activities, decide approximately how much time you will need or want to devote to each one, as Nicole did in her To Do List. Then use your time efficiently to get through your list. For example:

  • Wear a watch to monitor your time.
  • If you get stuck on a task and can't make progress, move on to the next task and come back to the first one later.
  • Take short breaks to clear your head.


Keeping track of all your assignments is one of the first challenges you'll encounter in college. Each course will have different deadlines for reading assignments, tests (including midterms and finals), research papers, and any other work. Some exams may be two-hour-long multiple-choice tests; others may be 15-page papers. Having a daily planner or organizer will help you keep track. You can set up a large-print or braille planner with calendar dates for a whole academic year, or you can use your computer calendar; if you do the latter, though, make sure you check it daily to stay on top of deadlines. Many professors penalize students for handing in a late assignment. You can lose as much as a whole grade just for handing something in late.

For each course you take, your professor will provide you with a course outline or syllabus of all the lecture topics, readings, and assignments for the semester. When you get the syllabus, read it carefully and put the due dates in your daily planner along with the daily assignments for all your classes. This way you can see all the work you have to do at a glance. (See "Nicole's Weekly Planner" for an example.)

Nicole’s Weekly Planner: Agenda View

Monday, September 12

  • 9:00-10:00 Math 101
  • 11:00-12:00 English
  • Find NY Times article on U.S. economic crisis and write summary paragraph (due Thursday)

Tuesday, September 13

  • 1:00-2:00 American History
  • 3:00-4:00 Psych 101
  • Pick up copy of reserve article for psych in library
  • Read pp. 12-17 in American History textbook due next Thursday

Wednesday, September 14

  • 9;00-10:00 Math 101
  • 11:00-12:00 English
  • 1:30-3:30 Meet with reader in the library.
  • Get new batteries for talking calculator before class.
  • Do pp. 5-10 in math textbook (due Monday)

Thursday, September 15

1-2 American History

  • 3:00-4:00 Psych 101
  • 4:30-6:30 Meet with reader in student lounge.
  • Read pp. 17-36 in American History textbook (due Tuesday)
  • NY Times article and summary paragraph DUE.

Friday, September 16

  • Edit essay for English class (due Monday)
  • Start The Color Purple for English class
  • Your planner can be an aid only if you keep it up-to-date, so remember:
  • Always bring your planner to class with you.
  • Record your class schedule, reader schedule, class assignments, and reminders in your planner.
  • Immediately record any reminders or new assignments for each class.
  • Check your planner at least once a day; remember to look ahead so you can plan for things that are coming up.
  • Check your planner before starting your assignments.
  • Set priorities for your assignments by their length and when they are due.
  • Determine which assignments you can do independently and which may require a reader, and make arrangements accordingly.
  • Reprinted from College Bound: Guide for Students with Visual Impairments, by Ellen Trief and Raquel Feeney. Copyright (c) 2005 by AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved.
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