Managing your time well

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Printed with permission from J. McDonald Jessica McDonald keeps a detailed planner to stay on top of her busy schedule.

Jessica is an NSU doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program at NSU. She currently works as a writing tutor at the Tutoring and Testing Center.

Studying for exams is probably one of the least exciting parts of one’s collegiate experience. Couple that with the fact that, oftentimes, exams “just so happen” to be scheduled at the time when you have a million other papers, quizzes, assignments, group projects and class readings to finish, and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm of seemingly impossible things to accomplish. While this isn’t the most comprehensive or sophisticated list, here are my tried and true tips that have helped me unravel and tackle my very-full agenda:

Planning

I use a planner that has a monthly as well as weekly view. This helps me plan for the month and gives me a snapshot of the weeks that are a little more hectic than others. Then I can look at the details of the assignments in the pages that show the individual days of the week. I also have an hourly planner that helps me manage where I need to be and when.

Plan way ahead

I tend to trick myself in my planner. At the beginning of the semester, I go through all of my syllabi and write each individual assignment into my planner. My biggest tip here is that I write all of my really big assignments, such as exams, papers and heavily-weighted assignments, as being due a week and a half ahead of time. That way I automatically have things done with time to spare, and I don’t feel like I’m drowning as I edit that 20-page research paper at the very last minute. I also take this opportunity to make sure I scatter assignments, since I’m changing when things are due in my planner, and don’t let myself have too much due all in the same week.

Prioritize

For those hectic weeks when you can’t reduce your workload, what can you do to manage your obligations? It’s relatively simple — prioritize. Write a list of what needs to get done, then put the items in order of what needs to get done first. Making that list alone might help you feel less overwhelmed because you can visualize what needs to be done, and you might find that you actually don’t have too many things happening at once after all. If you really do have a lot and it looks like a scary list, you might focus on the fact that you can see the items crossed out once they’ve been completed, and that might help you feel productive.

Don’t forget to treat yourself

It sounds cheesy, but don’t forget to keep up with your life and what makes you happy. Yes, you might have to raincheck hanging out with your friends every once in awhile. But if you find yourself consistently dipping out on spending time with your friends, your family, your partner, your children or whomever because you have deadlines always backing you into a corner, you might consider making some changes to your schedule that allow you to be successful as a student and involved in your own life. You want to avoid feeling imbalanced. Not only will you feel overwhelmed, but you’ll also add the stress or guilt related to not being an active participant in your life to your already-full plate. Plus, self-care is a huge aspect of making sure you’re tending to your schoolwork to the best of your ability.

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