By Andrew Dixon - February 19th, 2015
As a university built to help busy working adults accomplish their goal of earning a college degree (and as busy working adults ourselves), CSU Global understands the challenges of finding enough hours in the day to get everything you need to do done. Keeping these time management skills in mind can help you better utilize time you didn’t know you had.
One of my all-time favorite lines from The Simpsons is “You mustn’t kill time boys, you must cherish it, seize the day.” Of course, the reason I remember it isn’t because of its philosophical nature, but rather from the joke that followed from the hobo wasting away his own hours. The other reason I remember it is that I saw it just the other day—again—as I watched the old episode for about the hundredth time.
Was watching that Simpsons rerun the best use of my time? No. Was it what I felt I needed after a long day at work? Absolutely. In addition to my full-time job, I’m also a husband, a parent of a toddler, own a home, have hobbies and interests, try to exercise, and enjoy spending time with my family and friends. Up until last May when I finished my master’s degree online, I had school on that list as well.
Like everyone else, I never have enough time! Before graduating, I was looking forward to all the “free time” I would have but I quickly filled it with other things and feel just as busy as I did before. The lesson that I and so many other nontraditional students have learned isn’t just that more hours in the day would be nice, but that managing your time is a life skill that is critical to reaching our goals.
The Importance of Planning and Prioritizing
The first time management strategy for college students is knowing what you need to do and when. Keeping a calendar is a good start, but it’s important to make a list of all your tasks so you can better prioritize those that will take longer or those that need to be done by a certain deadline. Try doing this daily at first and then, once you make it a routine, you will soon be preparing for your week and your month better.
Don’t beat yourself up if you break your plan from time to time—not from the things that are out of your control but by choosing to do the things that are. We want earning your degree online to be a priority in your life, but we know it won’t always be your top priority, and that’s ok.
Some tips students have shared with us about how this applies to going back to school include downloading and printing your syllabus at the beginning of each class, making sure to check in every Monday to see that week’s assignments, and creating a realistic study plan that you can follow with everything else happening in your life. Making time to plan your time will not only help you mentally prepare, but it will keep you motivated as well.
Expect the Unexpected
We have all been pulled into that last minute meeting, had car trouble, overslept, or had that assignment that just took longer than we expected. We know how it can screw up our whole day and completely mess up our schedule. But since even the best laid plans sometimes go awry, why stress out about it?
Instead, give yourself some schedule elasticity. This could be an hour at the beginning of every day when you don’t have anything on your schedule and you can either finish up what you needed to accomplish the day before or work ahead for that day’s objectives. A useful trick is to set a meeting with yourself so your time is blocked off for whatever you need it to be, from playing catch-up to self-reflecting. Just don’t fall into the mental trap of using that time as an excuse to procrastinate.
Unless you have a strong Type A personality, you probably don’t like every minute of your life planned out weeks in advance. Additionally, the truth is that some things are just more fun to do than others (shocking, I know). As you set your schedule, make sure you are considering how your state of mind plays into your tasks. If you have a big report due to your boss one day, don’t plan that to be the night that you spend four hours researching case studies for class.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you break your plan from time to time—not from the things that are out of your control but by choosing to do the things that are. We want earning your degree online to be a priority in your life, but we know it won’t always be your top priority, and that’s ok.
Balance comes from taking the time to stop and smell the roses. “Wasting” a little time away from schoolwork and your other responsibilities to play with your kids at night, go out to lunch with friends, or even watching your favorite TV shows is something you can cherish. Plus, you’ll be so much more effective and motivated in what you are doing if you aren’t stressed about everything you aren’t.
Andy lives in Edgewater, Colorado and works as the Communications Manager for Colorado State University-Global Campus. He earned his bachelor’s degree from CSU in Fort Collins and his master’s degree in Organizational Leadership with a Project Management Specialization from CSU-Global in 2013. Outside of writing, Andy enjoys time with his wife and two sons, sharing bad puns, and going hiking and running.