College can be overwhelming, especially at first. There are so many things to juggle: classes, student organizations, leadership responsibilities, socializing, meals, cleaning, sleep… and we can’t forget the all-important occasional need to just do nothing. 

With only 24 hours in a day, who can fit it all in?!? Effective time management is key when it comes to finding balance, being productive, and reducing stress. It can even make you feel like you have more time in your day, which I’m sure we all could use. Here are a few tips to practice in your quest for better time management. 

Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro method is one of the most well known study methods out there. It is great for those who need breaks when doing a lot of work. 

Set a timer on your phone for around 25 minutes. Less than 25 minutes isn’t recommended but you can definitely increase the time. Set your phone to the side (airplane mode or do not disturb are your friends here) and for that 25 minute period, focus your attention on a specific task. 

When the 25 minutes is up, set your timer again for 10 minutes and use this time to take a break. Get up and stretch and walk around. Ideally you won’t check your phone, but being honest I probably would. After 10 minutes are up, start the cycle over again until you’ve accomplished what you needed to.

Getting Things Done Method

When schoolwork and outside tasks pile up, they can seem daunting. The getting things done method forces you to write down everything you have to get done. This can be in the notes of your phone, a piece of paper, or a task management app. I like to use the sticky notes on the home screen of my laptop. When you have your tasks, you then proceed to sort them out from most to least important. 

Writing everything out will free up the stress of remembering what you have to do so you can actually start doing it. Plus, you now have an ordered plan of getting tasks done (all you have to do is actually start doing them). Plus is there anything better than crossing off items from a to-do list??

Habit Stacking

This concept might not apply to all tasks on your to-do list, but it can definitely help with the more mundane ones.

Habit stacking is the idea of taking a task that you HAVE to do and pairing it with a task that you GET to do. For example, I have to fold my laundry. But just folding my laundry for 30 minutes is boring and I have a hard time getting myself to just sit down and do it. But if I fold my laundry while I listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook or talk to a friend on the phone, the task goes by so much quicker. So, instead of sitting around waiting for my laundry to fold itself, I get to check off a task and take some time for myself! Do not confuse this with multitasking, which is not effective for studying. 

Learn to Say No

While we all want to be able to say yes to everything and everyone, we only have a limited amount of time to commit to everything and still be able to eat and sleep. I can speak from experience, it’s easy to get swept away in so many responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities are non-negotiable (e.g. class, finals), but some are not (e.g., taking on a leadership role in every org). Saying yes to everything might also mean that you don’t have time to complete tasks to the best of your ability. 

When you need to, it is more than okay to politely decline offers that do not align with your goals. If you are having a hard time knowing what to say no to, my tip is to utilize Google Calendar to keep track of your commitments. That way when someone asks if you can do something, you have a good idea of how your time will fall that week. Plus, when you say “let me check my calendar,” you have an actual calendar to check.

Turn on Do Not Disturb

One of our biggest challenges and distractions is our phone. We would all be lying if we said that the reason our work takes so long isn’t because we check our phones every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, our phones cannot be thrown away so one of my personal favorite hacks to diminish it as a distraction is turning on “Do Not Disturb”. This mutes your notifications so every time you get a text you don’t hear the ping. The best part is, when you deactivate “Do Not Disturb” it pulls up all of your missed notifications on the home screen, so you never actually miss a thing!

If one of these tips and tricks doesn’t work for you, try another one! College is an adjustment period and the beginning of every semester is a new routine. Getting into the groove of what feels the best for you and your time can take patience. 

Kaitlin Valdick, Class of 2024