Time Management for Psychology Students

Time management involves the ability to plan and then manage your time during the day in order to achieve your goals. It's an important skill during any part of life, but it can be particularly important for students who are trying to juggle the demands of their academic studies with other obligations, including work, family, and friends.

Do you ever feel like you're trying to squeeze too much into one day? Are there just not enough hours to accomplish all of the things you need to do? Time management can be a tricky skill to learn.

Some people seem to have a knack for juggling a broad range of commitments while still leaving plenty of time for friends, family, and hobbies. Others struggle just to finish the bare minimum each day.

In order to stay on top of all your obligations and reach your goals, effective time management is essential.

1

Keep Track of Your Daily Activities

Psychology student managing his time
Hill Street Studios / Blend Images / Getty Images

Before you develop an effective time management strategy, you first need to record and analyze how you are currently spending your time each day. Keep track of your daily activities for several days.

  • Note what you're doing. Write down exactly what you are doing at each point of the day and note how long you spend on each activity.
  • Watch for problems. Pay attention to see which "time wasters" are eating up your free time.
  • Consider ways to improve. Think about ways you might be able to streamline or consolidate certain tasks in order to free up more of your time.

A daily planner or calendar can be a good way to start tracking your time, but there are also plenty of online resources as well. Mobile apps can be a particularly great way to track your daily activities. Find something that works for you and then stick with it.

2

Evaluate Your Priorities

In order to manage your time effectively, it is important to first understand some of the problems that might be causing issues. By taking a serious look at how you spend your time each week, you'll be able to see areas where you lose significant amounts of time.

After keeping track of your schedule for a few days, you might be surprised to see just how much time is wasted each week. Common time wasters might include:

  • Checking email
  • Dealing with clutter and disorganization
  • Playing video games
  • Social media
  • Unnecessary interruptions from friends, family, or coworkers
  • Watching television

Even if you are only spending a little bit of time on each of these activities, it can add up quickly. Over time, even these small sources of distraction can start interfering with your ability to accomplish the tasks you want to get done.

By prioritizing how you really want to spend your time, you'll be far more productive, accomplish more, and even have time left over for the hobbies you enjoy.

3

Establish a Schedule

The next step is to set a daily and weekly schedule. It can be helpful to look at other people's schedules for inspiration, but your daily schedule should really be dictated by your own needs and preferences.

  • Give important tasks top priority. Start by writing down the essential things that you must accomplish every day, such as going to work or attending classes.
  • Include secondary tasks. After those items have been accounted for in your schedule, start filling in the rest of the week with the other things you would like to do.
  • Individualize your approach. Tackle the most important project first, but also pay attention to when you are the most productive.

You might opt to spend a specific amount of time each day completing assignments and studying, or you might instead set aside certain days for different tasks.

For example, you might complete assigned readings on Mondays, review your notes on Tuesday, complete homework on Wednesday and Thursday, and leave Fridays open for various things that you would like to focus on a bit more.

4

Get Organized

Now that you have a schedule in place, it is time to get organized and stop wasting time looking for all the things you need to succeed. If you are a student, for example, getting all of your books, notes, writing tools, and other needed supplies and storing them in one place can be helpful.

  • Collect your tools. Make sure you have all of the supplies you need.
  • Organize your work area. Make sure you have a comfortable place to work that is free of distractions.
  • Visualize your schedule. Get a wall calendar or print out a copy of your daily schedule and post it in a visible place. Having clear reminders of what you need to get done each day can keep you on task.
5

Stop Multitasking

While it might seem like doing many things at once would help you get more done, research suggests that multitasking hurts both productivity and performance. Multitasking can happen in a few different ways:

  • Doing more than one thing simultaneously
  • Doing multiple things quickly one after another
  • Switching back and forth from one task to another

What researchers have found is that having to constantly shift your attention from one thing to another diminishes your ability to work quickly and consistently.

Instead of trying to tackle several things at the same time, try setting aside time to focus on each task separately.

Of course, sometimes it can be very difficult to completely avoid multitasking. If you're a parent, for example, you might find yourself juggling things like making dinner, caring for your kids, and trying to read a chapter from your textbook all at the same time. You can reduce the negative impact of multitasking by:

  • Devoting 10 to 20 minutes to a single task before switching
  • Limiting the number of tasks you are working on
  • Only multitasking when you are doing less important things 
6

Set Aside Time to Relax

You know what they say about all work and no play. Be sure to add a little time for leisure activities each week. Research has shown that leisure activities can be important for mental well-being. Many of these activities, such as exercising, participating in sports, and socializing, have their own physical and mental health benefits as well.

Tip

Save your rest and relaxation for the end of the week to give yourself something to look forward to as you complete tasks that are not quite so enjoyable.

Waiting until the end of the week also ensures that you won't have so many deadlines or other worries looming over your head and interfering with your leisure time.

A Word From Verywell

Finding time for everything can be tough, especially for busy students who are juggling class lectures, homework, and study groups along with all of their other duties. By implementing some useful time management techniques, you'll be able to finish all of your obligations and still have time for friends, family, and fun.

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Article Sources
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  1. Madore KP, Wagner AD. Multicosts of multitaskingCerebrum. 2019;2019:cer-04-19.

  2. Pressman SD, Matthews KA, Cohen S, et al. Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-beingPsychosom Med. 2009;71(7):725-732. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978