Back when I was in high school, I was a fairly good student. I’d make sure to submit my assignments on time (even if I did procrastinate), always paid attention during class and maintained a school planner. I remember back when I was a freshman in college, I felt like I had a pretty good handle of how to manage my time and be an efficient student, but little did I know that I still had loads left to learn. The transition from high school to college was a wake-up call to realizing I needed to hold myself accountable, stay on top of work, maintain motivation and have the discipline to follow through on everything.
Now, as a third-year student here at VCU, I feel as though I have learned a few tips and tricks to managing my time effectively. As a pre-medical student, I’ve faced the overwhelming wrath of advanced STEM courses such as organic chemistry, while simultaneously holding a challenging yet rewarding job at the National Institutes of Health. Moreover, I am currently working part-time while being a full-time student, preparing for my medical school admissions exam, volunteering and tutoring! I realized that many of us are struggling to maintain academic momentum and drive in our classes due to the sudden shift in our courses over the past few months. This pandemic has been a tremendous shift in all of our lives, but I truly believe that we can all have successful semesters by following a few simple steps, which I will list below!
- Use a Planner or Checklist to Plan Ahead
Using a planner or creating a checklist is probably the most helpful way to manage time. I’ve always used a planner since I was in elementary school, but the way I make use of my planner has been more efficient in college. I used to use a planner to tell me what to do each specific day, without caring about what I had to do the next day. I realize now that by planning ahead and writing out checklists in whatever format you prefer, you’re going to be more organized and prepared for tackling your assignments.
- Follow a Daily Routine
One of the biggest challenges with online/hybrid learning is the lack of routine to hold ourselves accountable. With asynchronous courses and varying timings, I started off quarantine with little semblance of any routine. I used to wake up in time for my class, make sure my work for the day was completed, watch TV, log-in for work, submit projects and call it a day. It felt like my sleep schedule was wrecked, my motivation was lost, and the days were all jumbling together. This tip could be one of the most helpful ways to ensure productivity and accountability.
- Tackle Smaller Assignments First
Although this goes hand in hand with using a planner and planning ahead, I always organize my planner in order of when I plan to complete things. I find that using the momentum of completing tasks from the smallest/easiest to the most challenging tends to offer a good workflow and productive work session.
- Only Do One Thing at a Time
Studies have shown that multitasking is not an efficient way to complete tasks. In fact, this study showed that those who multitasked saw a drop in IQ points similar to a person who didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. Moral of the story? Don’t multitask! Go one by one down your list and focus all your attention on each thing you’re doing in order to boost productivity.
- Take Breaks
Tired? Take a break! Listen to your body telling you that it’s tired and needs a few minutes to give your mind its well-deserved rest. An overworked brain is not going to help you efficiently tackle your work. Instead, it will only slow you down in the long-run completion of tasks for the day because you’ll be working slower since you’re so tired. A review of research suggests people schedule five to 15-minute breaks every hour in order to ensure high-quality work.
I firmly believe that being a college student is about more than getting the grades. It’s about building life skills that will take you to new levels in your future. Arguably one of the most important components of a successful student and future employee is time management. With that being said, I hope you all find these tips on managing time helpful. Happy studying, Rams!