Time Management for Working Students

University student writing at desk

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Time management can be a challenge when you are juggling work and school. Whether you are working to put yourself through college or you are someone who is going back to school to advance your current career, managing time in your professional and academic life is no easy task, especially when you have additional responsibilities competing for your time, such as raising children. The problem is not a lack of time—it's how people manage that time that matters the most.

Here are some tips to help you make better use of your time while trying to juggle your job and your studies.

Make a Schedule

The suggestion to make a schedule is always near the top of the list when it comes to time management tips, and there is a good reason…it works. If you have been previously ignoring this good advice, I have included it here again in hopes you will reconsider. When we are totally planning our day inside our head without making any concrete plans, it is all too easy to forget things, prioritize poorly or feel overwhelmed and just do nothing. I speak from personal experience when I say do not underestimate the power of planning and writing that plan down.

Creating order is the first step in successfully managing your time, and making a schedule helps create order. Write out your day in 30-minute chunks and start by filling in all the set events that are not flexible, like class times and work. This will help give you a clearer picture of what you have to work with in terms of setting up times to study and tend to the other responsibilities in your life. Again, this obviously simple piece of advice may be dismissed because of its very simplicity, but it is one of the most effective things you can do, provided you actually stick to the schedule you make as best you can.

Learn to Sacrifice

You work hard and you deserve some time to unwind and relax, whether that involves zoning out and watching a couple of your favorite TV shows or a nice long bath. You should always allow yourself that time, it is an important part of succeeding since you want to avoid burnout. With that being said, you have to accept that sometimes you may need to forego this do-nothing time or cut it short.

You may feel stressed and overworked, and you tell yourself that you deserve a break after working hard all day; you may feel justified in watching four hours of television instead of starting that research paper outline you have been putting off the last week. It is important to remember that you don't need to take an "all or nothing" approach. Instead of indulging in something that doesn't really contribute to your progress (like binge-watching your favorite show), instead focus on taking a short break that will allow you to refocus. That way you can feel refreshed and productive when you return to the task at hand.

Again, you are entitled to pleasure in your life, but if you are trying to achieve a larger goal of advancing your career or making a better life for you and your children, this requires discipline. If pursuing your dream job means watching a bit less TV or fewer videos on YouTube, then it can be worth the sacrifice.

Work on Reducing Procrastination

Humans are a funny bunch, and we often procrastinate doing the things that really need to get done sooner than later; usually, the tasks are less than thrilling, such as doing the reading for your most boring class or tackling that research paper that accounts for a large chunk of your grade.

People tend to think of all that they have to do to get from start to finish and then become overwhelmed. Because the problem seems too big to tackle, people end up simply doing nothing. Then the anxiety builds as we think about how we still have to do it and again, instead of starting, we put it off again. To alleviate the guilt about putting it off, they do other stuff, often household tasks like laundry, to make it seem like they are accomplishing something.

Rather than becoming overwhelmed by what seems like an insurmountable project, start somewhere to get something small done. Once you break up a big project into smaller and more manageable steps, it is easy to accomplish and you will feel more motivated to continue.

Procrastination and effective time management do not go well together for most people. However, there are things that you can do to reduce this tendency.

Remind yourself of the consequences of inaction. It always helps to think of all the negative things that will result from you putting off your schoolwork until the last possible minute. It will almost certainly be worse than actually doing what it is you are supposed to be doing, no matter how difficult or boring it may seem.

Putting aside a certain amount of time to work and mixing up tasks within that time helps. It keeps your mind fresh and taking on the paper, reading in smaller chunks may reduce that sense of anxiety that you may feel when thinking about doing the whole assignment at once. Your mind stays a bit fresher, and you will feel good knowing you have made a dent in the various tasks you need to finish for school.

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