Getting – and Keeping – Control of Your Time at School

How often do you feel out of control while you’re at school? You’re carrying five or six courses, you’re up to your ears in homework and projects, and maybe you even have a part-time job in the mix. Then there’s university social life swirling all around you, always threatening to suck you in. And of course, Mom and Dad (Why don’t you call more often???). It can seem overwhelming, as if you’re on a daily treadmill, trying to fit it all in and keep your grades up.

Organization is always the answer to chaos, and though it can be tough to manage at university, doing so is an absolute necessity. Here are some ways you can make it happen…

Do the most difficult task first – always!

Getting - and Keeping - Control of Your Time at School
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Have you ever heard of the term creative avoidance? It’s a subconscious technique that we all use to keep ourselves from doing the tasks that are really important. We come up with a long and ever growing list of relatively small tasks that keep us safely insulated from doing what needs to be done most.

If you’re guilty of this – and you almost certainly are – it’s time to reverse that pattern. What ever it is you have to do, put everything else aside and do the most difficult task first.

Related: Carving Out More Time to Study

It’s not just that you will be properly prioritizing the most important chores, but in doing so you will also free your mind to move forward on everything else you need to do. Procrastination isn’t just damaging to your performance, it can also cause your mind to seize up knowing that there’s something big you need to do, but haven’t even started yet.

As soon as you do it, the stress will end, your mind will clear and everything else will be easier.

Keep and regularly update a “Things To Do” list

This might fall into the Duh, who doesn’t know that? category, but it’s surprising how many people don’t do it, even if they know about it.

A Things To Do list is more than a list of tasks – it’s a syllabus for your day. You usually have these for each course you take, but you should also have one for yourself. Once you get into the habit of keeping one, it becomes your “control” document, sort of like a daily mission statement. You have a list of what you need to do for the day, and as each is completed, you check it off and go onto the next one.

Once the list is complete, you’re done for the day and can do what ever else you choose to do with the rest of your day – without feeling guilty that you have uncompleted work.

It should go without saying that at the top of your Things To Do list should always be the most difficult task(s) you have.

Reign in non-essential activities

Earlier, I mentioned creative avoidance. One of the preferred ways that people practice this bad habit is by participating in two may non-essential activities. You have a term paper due in five days, but instead you get a call from a friend to go hang out, you go have your nails done, or you run for a bite to eat. Work on a term paper is put aside, as you decide to prioritize activities that will do nothing to move you forward in life.

In order to gain control of your time, you’ll have to move non-essential activities down to the bottom of your Things To Do list. Think of them as the dessert in your day, that will come only after you’ve completed everything that needs to be done.

Locate help resources and have them handy at all times

One of the biggest reasons for procrastinating on major tasks is when you hit a bump in the road. That is when you reach a point in a major assignment where you don’t know what to do next. Emotions often take over at that point – anxiety, helplessness and even panic – none of which are likely to improve your situation.

The best way around this is to have resources, usually people, who can help you when you’re in a jam. Rather than wasting time agonizing over the dilemma at hand, you should be able to reach out to a friend, a faculty member, another student, or a study group to help you get past your problem.

Part of effective time management is having a strategy to minimize problems. You want to get past your problems as soon as possible, and never camp out on them. Having help resources will allow you do this.

Related: Course Selection – Plan According To Your Lifestyle

Get plenty of sleep

Many students hit university life little bit too hard. They try to burn the candle at both ends, by maintaining an active social life while trying to get top grades. While it is possible to do this for short periods of time, eventually something has to give. That something is usually sleep. But this is a trade-off that can lead to disaster.

There are at least two problems that come as a result of not getting enough sleep. Fatigue is the obvious first one. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re probably functioning at a very low energy level. Problems are then magnified because you lack the physical ability to deal with them.

Related: The GPA Crush of First Year

The other issue is mental clutter. Simply put, when you’re tired your mind cannot process what you are dealing with efficiently. What is simple becomes complicated, and what is complicated becomes impossible.

The obvious solution is to guard your sleep jealously. Make sure that you are getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep each day, that way you will feel strong and refreshed and able to take on whatever the day throws at you. University is not the best place to do this, but it is one of those disciplines that is absolutely essential.

How do you keep yourself organized at school?

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