Believe it or not, time management is one of the major areas of struggle for college students. As a college student you want to be involved, you want the social experience of college. But, you also are trying to do that while balancing the academic commitments of college.

Establishing a regular routine that supports your learning will help you stay present during your classes and avoid the danger of “out of sight, out of mind.” Time management is going to be key! This module will help you identify how and when you spend your time, so you are sure to account for things like making a schedule of when you’ll wake up, when you check for communication (eLC and email) from peers or faculty, and when you’ll  take time for yourself to address your physical and mental wellness. Telling others what your days will look like will also help keep you accountable. You may have to silence your phone for regular periods of time to focus and be present on your academics.

Once you’ve established a routine and made set deadlines for yourself, make sure to stick to it! Keeping your routine will be key in staying on course and making the progress you want to make, especially as you navigate this new learning environment. You are likely going to Learn Differently than you did in the past, but the OSSA is here to help support you through this process.

This module will guide you through some best practices in establishing a routine to enhance your learning. As you work through this module, I hope you feel like you have a really clear direction and motivation moving forward.

From the Beginning

Time Management directly addresses multiple learning outcome for this course:

  • Develop and sustain a strategic academic plan based on short and long-term goal setting.
  • Independently acquire and practice evidence-based learning strategies, increasing their skills as learners. (e.g., metacognitive learning strategies, active learning techniques, collaborative learning).
  • Practice self-regulated learning skills, and employ self-directed learning behaviors.
  • Practice behaviors conducive to achieving high levels of academic performance in light of their return from academic dismissal (i.e., productive mindsets regarding impulse control, and anxiety and stress management).

Therefore, it is paramount that we cover this material early on in this process. And by doing so, I hope you will see the immediate, as well as longterm, benefits of setting up effective time management strategies – which will be transferable skills in your future career.

At the successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify the methods and techniques they have used up to this point to manage their time, and recognize the potential strengths and weaknesses in those techniques.
  • Demonstrate effective time management practices and communicate those strategies to another.
  • Analyze the study strategies they have used up to this point in their academic career, and recognizing the room for growth in their approach.
  • Describe the Study Cycle and how they will implement this approach into their study routine.
Chapter Reading: Time Management

When enrolled in UNIV2800: Returning With Strength, you will have access to the chapter reading on Time Management from Teach Yourself How to Learn. This material will help you complete the assignment in this module. Please pay attention to the material covered in this chapter, as you will have a reading quiz in this module.

Procrastination: The Enemy Within

Simply put, procrastination is the act of delaying some task that needs to be completed. It is something we all do to greater and lesser degrees. For most people, a little minor procrastination is not a cause for great concern. But there are situations where procrastination can become a serious problem with a lot of risk. These include: when it becomes a chronic habit, when there are a number of tasks to complete and little time, or when the task being avoided is very important. Because we all procrastinate from time to time, we usually do not give it much thought, let alone think about its causes or effects. Ironically, many of the psychological reasons for why we avoid a given task also keep us from using critical thinking to understand why procrastination can be extremely detrimental, and in some cases difficult to overcome. To succeed at time management, you must understand some of the hurdles that may stand in your way. Procrastination is often one of the biggest. What follows is an overview of procrastination with a few suggestions on how to avoid it.

The Reasons behind Procrastination

There are several reasons we procrastinate, and a few of them may be surprising. On the surface we often tell ourselves it is because the task is something we do not want to do, or we make excuses that there are other things more important to do first. In some cases this may be true, but there can be other contributors to procrastination that have their roots in our physical well-being or our own psychological motivations.

Lack of Energy – Sometimes we just do not feel up to a certain task. It might be due to discomfort, an illness, or just a lack of energy. If this is the case, it is important to identify the cause and remedy the situation. It could be something as simple as a lack of sleep or improper diet. Regardless, if a lack of energy is continually causing you to procrastinate to the point where you are beginning to feel stress over not getting things done, you should definitely assess the situation and address it.

Lack of Focus – Much like having low physical energy, a lack of mental focus can be a cause of procrastination. This can be due to mental fatigue, being disorganized, or allowing yourself to be distracted by other things. Again, like low physical energy, this is something that may have farther-reaching effects in your life that go beyond the act of simply avoiding a task. If it is something that is recurring, you should properly assess the situation.

Fear of Failure – This cause of procrastination is not one that many people are aware of, especially if they are the person avoiding tasks because of it. To put it in simple words, it is a bit of trickery we play on ourselves by avoiding a situation that makes us psychologically uncomfortable. Even though they may not be consciously aware of it, the person facing the task is afraid that they cannot do it or will not be able to do it well. If they fail at the task, it will make them appear incompetent to others or even to themselves. Where the self-trickery comes in is by avoiding the task. In the person’s mind, they can rationalize that the reason they failed at the task was because they ran out of time to complete it, not that they were incapable of doing it in the first place. It is important to note that a fear of failure may not have anything to do with the actual ability of the person suffering from it. They could be quite capable of doing the task and performing well, but it is the fear that holds them back.

The Effects of Procrastination

In addition to the causes of procrastination, you must also consider what effects it can have. Again, many of these effects are obvious and commonly understood, but some may not be so obvious and may cause other issues.

Loss of Time – The loss of time as an effect of procrastination is the easiest to identify since the act of avoiding a task comes down to not using time wisely. Procrastination can be thought of as using the time you have to complete a task in ways that do not accomplish what needs to be done.

Loss of Goals – Another of the more obvious potentially adverse effects of procrastination is the loss of goals. Completing a task leads to achieving a goal. These can be large or small (e.g., from doing well on an assignment to being hired for a good job). Without goals you might do more than delay work on a task—you may not complete it at all. The risk for the loss of goals is something that is very impactful.

Loss of Self-Esteem – Often, when we procrastinate we become frustrated and disappointed in ourselves for not getting important tasks completed. If this continues to happen, we can begin to develop a low opinion of ourselves and our own abilities. We begin to suffer from low self-esteem and might even begin to feel like there is something wrong with us. This can lead to other increasingly negative mental factors such as anger and depression. As you can see, it is important for our own well-being to avoid this kind of procrastination effect.

Stress – Procrastination causes stress and anxiety, which may seem odd since the act of procrastination is often about avoiding a task we think will be stressful in itself! Anyone who has noticed that nagging feeling when they know there is something else they should be doing is familiar with this. On the other hand, some students see that kind of stress as a boost of mental urgency. They put off a task until they feel that surge of motivation. While this may have worked in the past, they quickly learn that procrastinating when it comes to college work almost always includes an underestimation of the tasks to be completed— sometimes with disastrous results.

Strategies for Psyching Ourselves Out and Managing Procrastination

Now that you understand a few of the major problems procrastination can produce, let’s look at methods to manage procrastination and get you on to completing the tasks, no matter how unpleasant you think they might be.

Get Organized – Much of this chapter is dedicated to defining and explaining the nature of time management. The most effective way to combat procrastination is to use time and project management strategies such as schedules, goal setting, and other techniques to get tasks accomplished in a timely manner.

Put Aside Distractions – Several of the methods discussed in this chapter deal specifically with distractions. Distractions are time-killers and are the primary way people procrastinate. It is too easy to just play a video game a little while longer, check out social media, or finish watching a movie when we are avoiding a task. Putting aside distractions is one of the primary functions of setting priorities.

Reward Yourself – Rewarding yourself for the completion of tasks or meeting goals is a good way to avoid procrastination. An example of this would be rewarding yourself with the time to watch a movie you would enjoy after you have finished the things you need to do, rather than using the movie to keep yourself from getting things done.

Be Accountable — Tell Someone Else – A strong motivational tool is to hold ourselves accountable by telling someone else we are going to do something and when we are going to do it. This may not seem like it would be very effective, but on a psychological level we feel more compelled to do something if we tell someone else. It may be related to our need for approval from others, or it might just serve to set a level of commitment. Either way, it can help us stay on task and avoid procrastination—especially if we take our accountability to another person seriously enough to warrant contacting that person and apologizing for not doing what we said we were going to do.

This material is from College Success – an Openly Licensed textbook on how to succeed in college. Chapter 3.

Time Management

You may be quite familiar with the concept of time management, or even feel like you have a really strong routine or practice in place. You were super busy at your previous institution, so what should be so different about this semester? You may have used a day planner before, or gotten by with leaving little sticky notes on your desk… so you are feeling fine about the ways in which you manage your time. Why should college, why should now, be any different?

If the above resonates with you – you feel like, “yeah, I agree with that!” – I want to caution you. I want to let you know that now that you are at the University of Georgia, things are going to be different. You may have had a busy schedule before, but that does not immediately translate to successfully managing your college life now that you are here. For some students there will be less structure, less pre-determined time in their schedule this semester – especially if you were living with a relative/loved one before. Therefore, those students will need to be the one’s to set the schedule – set the agenda for the day, week, month. For other students, there will be super packed days followed by very open schedules, so determining what gets done when becomes the challenge.

Let’s all agree that being a college student is a full-time commitment. It is a full-time job! So one strategy that can be helpful to maintaining that full-time job commitment is the 8-8-8 rule. Each day you will want to work on spending 8 hours towards your academics, 8 hours towards personal time, and 8 hours sleeping. The 8 hours spent on your academics and 8 hours spent on personal time is not meant to all be done continuously, but rather broken up throughout the day. The 8 hours spent on your sleep, however, should be continuous: done all at once.

Thinking of yourself in a full-time job as a student, that equates to 40 hours per week. A full time job is 40 hours a week, so at a minimum you will need to put in that kind of time as well. However, during midterms, a large assignment deadline, or finals week you are putting in overtime – so the 40 hours will likely not suffice. But during a typical week in the semester work to putting in 40 hours towards your academics. If you follow the 8-8-8 rule, then 8 hours a day x 5 days a week will get you the 40 hours. However, as was mentioned before some students may have their classes packed in a couple days during the week and then more flexible time on the other days. So maintaining 8 hours every day may not be as feasible. But in aggregate getting in 40 hours a week should be possible.

Going back to the standard full-time workload of 40/week, if you are enrolled in 14 credit hours this semester, then you should be dedicating at least 26 hours to your academics outside of class (40 hours total – 14 hours in class = 26 hours outside of class). Keep in mind during mid-terms and finals you will likely have to ramp up the total hours spent on your academics to be well prepared. Adequate time to your academics can change based on the credit hours you are enrolled in, the courses you are taking, and any other extracurricular activities/commitments you are involved in. The hours spent per week outside of class should include time spent planning, reading, working on projects / problem sets / homework, and preparing for tests and exams. This strategy may seem demanding, but once you start accounting for the time you spend and how you spend it, you may become surprised with how much time you are already dedicating to your studies.

Time Management Calendar

When enrolled in UNIV2800: Returning With Strength, we will put to practice what we just covered. You will complete a Semester Calendar and a Weekly Calendar based on your commitments. This will be an exercise in identifying the “big rock” items for your semester calendar, and the “big rock, small rock, sand, and water” items for your weekly calendar*.

*This is in reference to the analogy used in the text reading on how students are to prioritize their schedules with the different commitments they have.

 

Additionally, this resource on Time Management can be helpful, read through the “Strategies” section.

More Than a Student

You have now covered a lot of material discussing a strategy to managing your time. It is largely focused around the “traditional” college student schedule – full-time student, classes potential scheduled throughout the week, and potentially little commute time to and from campus. This may not be you. You may have gotten to this point in the module and be thinking to yourself, “Well that’s great and all, but that does account for my situation”. Yes, every student will likely have more to their schedule, more to their calendar than just classes. You are more than a student, and we need to account for that.

You may have a job on top of being a college student. You may commute to campus, and that commute can potentially take a large chunk of your day. You may be taking care of a loved one and therefore have a more limited window of time to dedicate to your academics. You may be a part-time student, because of some of the things listed above or for other reasons. Whatever your situation is, you can still apply the concepts addressed in this Time Management module to fit your circumstances. That may require tailoring the Semester and/or Weekly calendar to account for those things in your life, but you would be encouraged to tailor this material to your situation anyways.

If you do have other personal or social commitments that take a precedent in your schedule, then be sure to account for that in your calendars. For example, if you work 20 hours a week and that schedule is set for you by a shift manager, then that job is like a “rock” item – be sure to account for it in your Weekly Calendar as soon as you know what that work schedule is. If your work schedule is more fluid and you can be scheduled last minute, then approach your Weekly Calendar with some flexibility and be accustomed to shuffling things around as needed.

Your Weekly Calendar can be thought of as A Guide, Not a Recipe. That means, the time you allocate for your academic and personal commitments that you decide when they take place (i.e., homework, studying, socializing, exercise, etc.) are to help guide you in identifying how and when you spend your time. It is not a recipe in the sense that if you miss one thing on your schedule because another activity took you longer than anticipated, the whole day or whole week is ruined. You miss an ingredient in the recipe, the meal may not turn out right. You miss an “ingredient” in your calendar, well adjust and adapt the calendar moving forward.

Recap - Four Strategies for Time Management

It is recommended that you follow these four strategies to establish and maintain good time management behaviors.

  • Self management of your progress through course assignments can be intimidating. Remember, you are not alone in this, and self discipline and accountability can be hard. Set a (flexible) plan for checking in with your peers, your roommates, your professors, and your family, as they can all help you stay accountable.
  • Be kind to yourself. There will be frustrations as we navigate through this new learning experience. Communication may not be as fast or efficient as you need; at times you may feel isolated from your peers; the workload and demand in your academics may become intense; and technology might not work as you hope or plan. Yes, it is vital to make a plan for yourself, but it is just as vital to have some flexibility for when things don’t work out perfectly. Remember, we are all in this together. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help or admitting you’re unsure of what to do.
  • Using technology is a double-edged sword. Many courses may maintain a heavy online presence – from group work to assignment submission. It can provide enormous flexibility and convenience when completing assignments, tasks, and group work online, but at the same time, online tools can provide unique frustrations. Flexible planning is key to success when completing assignment or engaging in course materials in an online platform like eLC. Have a plan for how you will communicate with your instructors when/if technology fails you, and make sure you have back ups of all your assignments.
  • Avoid procrastination. Although it may feel like you have all the time in the world when that homework or project is first assigned, don’t let that fool you into delaying getting started. The semester will move pretty quickly, and playing catch up is not something you want to be facing. Do all you can to stay on top of projects and communicate with your instructors if you feel you are falling behind.

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