Time Management


We've all heard people talk about how much time they did or did not "spend" on a certain activity. It's no accident that time feels scarce in the same way money does. If you find you are having trouble finding enough time to "spend" on the things that are most important to you, there is good news. There actually are techniques that can help you to manage your time better. The way to start to do that is to become scientific about it. You can do that by looking much more carefully at your use of time. We usually have some vague sense of how much time we are spending on this or that task. For a way to have a more precise idea, click here and follow the instructions.

Once you have a pretty clear sense of "where your time goes," you have an opportunity to make changes in how you use your time. Below are a number of ideas for managing your time.


Tips for Managing Your Time

Do an INTERMEDIATE SCHEDULE once EVERY WEEK. Some people say that Saturday morning or Sunday evening is a good time to do this.

  • Use an index card. Make a short list of MAJOR EVENTS AND AMOUNT OF WORK to be accomplished over the next week. Include all study and non-study activities.
    • For example, after a couple of weeks of classes, your list might look like this:
      • History Quiz Wednesday
      • Paper due Tuesday
      • Ball game Tuesday night
      • Jack's Birthday party / bake cake
      • Read Chapters 1-3 in History
      • Read page 1-40 in English
      • Read Chapters 1-2 in Chem

Make a SHORT TERM SCHEDULE for EACH DAY. Take a few minutes every evening, or first thing in the morning.

  • Use an index card. Write down exactly what you intend to accomplish for the day (usually 4-6 items for most people).
  • Then PRIORITIZE each activity, assigning numbers according to importance. #1 means must do first, #6 might be something that you may or may not get to. This is a PRIORITY LIST, not a "to do" list.
  • Look at the list several times during the day; cross off each item as you accomplish it.
    • For example, your list might look like this:
      • #2 9:00-10:30 Review for History Quiz
      • #3 2:00-3:00 Go to TA office hours to talk about upcoming Math test
      • #5 5:00 Go by grocery store on the way home
      • #1 7:00-10:00 Finish English paper
      • #6 10:00pm Phone calls

Making Your Schedule Work

  • Study difficult or boring subject first (you are most alert at this time)
  • Identify your best time of the day (study most difficult subjects at that time)
  • Use the same place to study every time (enhances concentration ability)
  • Use the library (a signal to your body to study)
  • Avoid noise distractions (research indicates that silence is best)
  • Use waiting time (3x5 cards with equations or definitions can be reviewed)


Of course, you may not want to attempt to follow these routines every day or every week. No doubt you can come up with other creative ways to manage time that is uniquely yours. However, time management is a learned skill, and practice will make you quite good at it!