4.3 Organizing Your Time

Learning Objectives

  1. Discover your time personality and know where your time goes.
  2. Understand the basic principles of time management and planning.
  3. Practice time management strategies to help ensure your academic success.

When you know what you want to do, why not just sit down and get it done? The millions of people who complain frequently about “not having enough time” would love it if it were that simple!

Time and Your Personality

People’s attitudes toward time vary widely. One person seems to be always rushing around but actually gets less done than another person who seems unconcerned about time and calmly goes about the day. Since there are so many different “time personalities,” it’s important to realize how you approach time.

Start by trying to figure out how you spend your time during a typical week, using Activity 2.

Activity 2: Where Does the Time Go?

See if you can account for a week’s worth of time. For each of the activity categories listed, make your best estimate of how many hours you spend in a week. (For categories that are about the same every day, just estimate for one day and multiply by seven for that line.)

Category of activity Number of hours per week
Sleeping
Eating (including preparing food)
Personal hygiene (i.e., bathing, etc.)
Working (employment)
Volunteer service or internship
Chores, cleaning, errands, shopping, etc.
Attending class
Studying, reading, and researching (outside of class)
Transportation to work or school
Getting to classes (walking, biking, etc.)
Organized group activities (clubs, church services, etc.)
Time with friends (include television, video games, etc.)
Attending events (movies, parties, etc.)
Time alone (include television, video games, surfing the Web, etc.)
Exercise or sports activities
Reading for fun or other interests done alone
Talking on phone, e-mail, Facebook, etc.
Other—specify: ________________________
Other—specify: ________________________

Now use your calculator to total your estimated hours. Is your number larger or smaller than 168, the total number of hours in a week? If your estimate is higher, go back through your list and adjust numbers to be more realistic. But if your estimated hours total fewer than 168, don’t just go back and add more time in certain categories. Instead, ponder this question: Where does the time go? We’ll come back to this question.

Plan your tasks according to time of day. When you need to concentrate, such as when writing a class paper, are you more alert and focused in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Do you concentrate best when you look forward to a relaxing activity later on, or do you study better when you’ve finished all other activities? Do you function well if you get up early—or stay up late—to accomplish a task? How does that affect the rest of your day or the next day? Understanding this will help you better plan your study periods.

Think about your time analysis in Activity 2. People who estimate too high often feel they don’t have enough time. They may have time anxiety and often feel frustrated. People at the other extreme, who often can’t account for how they use all their time, may have a more relaxed attitude. They may not actually have any more free time, but they may be wasting more time than they want to admit with less important things. Yet they still may complain about how much time they spend studying, as if there’s a shortage of time.

People also differ in how they respond to schedule changes. Some go with the flow and accept changes easily, while others function well only when following a planned schedule and may become upset if that schedule changes. If you do not react well to an unexpected disruption in your schedule, plan extra time for catching up if something throws you off. This is all part of understanding your time personality.

Another aspect of your time personality involves time of day. If you need to concentrate, such as when writing a class paper, are you more alert and focused in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Do you concentrate best when you look forward to a relaxing activity later on, or do you study better when you’ve finished all other activities? Do you function well if you get up early—or stay up late—to accomplish a task? How does that affect the rest of your day or the next day? Understanding this will help you better plan your study periods.

While you may not be able to change your “time personality,” you can learn to manage your time more successfully. The key is to be realistic. How accurate is the number of hours you wrote down in Activity 2? The best way to know how you spend your time is to record what you do all day in a time log, every day for a week, and then add that up.

There are numerous apps out there for tracking time using your mobile device. You can also simply create a spreadsheet or a table with the following categories:

  • date and time
  • activity
  • duration
  • your feeling about it (energy level, emotions)
  • how value able the activity is in relation to your goals and priorities (high? medium? low? none?).

Once you’ve logged your time for a week, assess it by highlighting the number of low to zero value activities you took part in, and how many of your activities sapped your energy or negative emotions. Next, make a plan to reduce, delegate, or eliminate these activities. For example, if you are the only one doing dishes at home, think about delegating this to others in the household by creating a roster. After that, look at the most challenging tasks, and note what times of day you had low energy, to determine the best time to fit in a challenging task according to your energy level (for instance, someone who is energetic in the morning might use that time to get some exercise or work on an essay). Finally, note how often you are switching tasks. It can be inefficient to check your emails as they arrive in your inbox when you can devote a chunk of time each day to focus and respond to them instead.

Time Management

Brightness, Clock, Computer, Connection, Daylight, Desk
Figure 4-6: Spend time tracking what you do each day and night. This will help you identify where to save time in the long term! Source: https://pixabay.com/en/brightness-clock-computer-2179200/ Permission: CC0 1.0

Time management for successful university studying involves these factors:

  • Determining how much time you need to spend studying
  • Knowing how much time you actually have for studying and increasing that time if needed
  • Being aware of the times of day you are at your best and most focused
  • Using effective long- and short-term study strategies
  • Scheduling study activities in realistic segments
  • Using a system to plan ahead and set priorities
  • Staying motivated to follow your plan and avoid procrastination

For every hour in the classroom, university students should spend, on average, about two hours on that class, counting reading, studying, writing papers, and so on. If you’re a full-time student with fifteen hours a week in class, then you need another thirty hours for rest of your academic work. That forty-five hours is about the same as a typical full-time job. If you work part time, time management skills are even more essential. These skills are still more important for part-time university students who work full time and commute or have a family. To succeed in university, virtually everyone has to develop effective strategies for dealing with time.

Many students begin university not knowing this much time is needed, so don’t be surprised if you underestimated this number of hours. Remember this is just an average amount of study time—you may need more or less for your own courses. To be safe, and to help ensure your success, add another five to ten hours a week for studying.

Look back at the number of hours you wrote in Activity 2 for a week of studying. Do you have two hours of study time for every hour in class? Many students begin university not knowing this much time is needed, so don’t be surprised if you underestimated this number of hours. Remember this is just an average amount of study time—you may need more or less for your own courses. To be safe, and to help ensure your success, add another five to ten hours a week for studying.

To reserve this study time, you may need to adjust how much time you spend in other activities.

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Strategies for Academic Success by University of Saskatchewan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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