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Keeping the Clock in Check: Using Time Management Now to Save Headaches Later

With classes back in swing and fall fast approaching, it’s that time of the year again: the start of the semester. New classes, new books, new people—you can almost taste the academia in the air. But even with the excitement of a new beginning, shaking off those last bits of laziness from summer can leave you wanting to crawl into bed some days and just listen to Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” Ah, yes, the start-of-school anthem from the junior high years.

But college requires many skills that junior high did not, and one in particular that many of us don’t pick up in high school, even if we are lucky enough to lose the braces and straightening perm (no, you will not find those pictures on my timeline). For a lot of incoming freshmen, well-honed time management skills weren’t necessary for success in high school. Classes were easier, teachers assigned less homework, and parents were like built-in reminders for anything extra that might need to be kept in track. College presents new time management challenges, and for many of us, learning what it takes to meet those challenges head-on can be a trial-by-fire experience. Time management is a skill we don’t learn until we have to, and by that time, we’re scrambling and praying it’s not too late to teach an old teenager new tricks.
I have good news. Time management issues do not have to be a wall you smack into right around midterms. It’ll take a little extra footwork now, but I promise that putting in the effort in the early weeks of the semester will save you a lot of grief long term. Trust me—it’s the Law of Semester Progression, which states: a student will only get busier as the semester continues.

So, what to do? Make friends with the three S’s: Setup, Scheduling, and Syllabus.

1. Setup: Know what you’re getting into credit-wise. You’ve probably figured out by now that the more credits a class is worth, the more time it takes. But do you know the official time-credit correlation? Like all good things, it comes in threes. You should expect to spend 3 hours per credit, per week for each class you are taking. So if you have a total of 15 credits, that’s 45 average hours per week studying, doing homework, and preparing for class. Having an idea of how many hours you need to devote to school can help you decide how many credits to take in order to be able to balance work and social commitments.

2. Scheduling: I cannot emphasize enough the importance of scheduling when it comes to time management. Scheduling is like brushing your teeth: it doesn’t matter whether you like doing it or not—it just matters that you do it. And so, I give you the Law of Schedule and Production Relationship, which states: what gets scheduled, gets done. That being said:
     • Be kind to your brain—it’s not fair to expect it to be able to keep track of everything you have going on by itself. Find yourself a planner, a dry-erase calendar board, or stop by the bookstore and see if they have any free Bearfacts books left. Once you have your magical schedule-keeping device, use it! Write down meetings, appointments, due dates for major projects, and then make sure to check your schedule.
     • Just because something gets written down does not automatically mean it’s saved in your mind’s hard drive. So, make time at the beginning of each week for a heart-to-heart with your planner—Sunday evenings work awesomely for this. Review anything important happening that week, and familiarize yourself with upcoming due dates. If you’re juggling an especially hectic schedule, it’s not a bad idea to have daily heart-to-hearts with your planner each morning to help keep everything in order.
     • And the last bit on scheduling? Remember that one cancelled class does not equal a free day. I’m into routines (just in case you hadn’t caught on to that yet), and when one little thing throws off my routine, it’s amazing how much else I can forget to do. I have literally had one class cancelled and forgotten about a meeting I was supposed to go to after that class, all because in my head the two were connected. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Keep a good schedule, and let it help you keep your commitments.

3. Syllabus: I know that a class syllabus is probably not the most riveting reading you’ve had so far this semester, but every syllabus is a gift from your professor to you. Besides the generally useful stuff like course expectations and office hours, a syllabus tells you approximate exam dates and due dates for major projects. Familiarize yourself with the syllabus, and don’t be the kid in class who didn’t’ know that paper was due today.

So there you have it: Setup, Scheduling, and Syllabus. I know they’re not the most glamorous aspects of the new semester, but they are essential to creating the time management skills you’ll need to make this semester a success. And so I will leave with you with one final thought—the Law of Time Management, which states: if you don’t manage your time, it manages you. Get time management under control now, so that you don’t have to be a slave to a runaway schedule later in the semester. Oh, and don’t forget to sleep in once in a while. Stay classy, ladies.

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