Time Management for Working Students

University student writing at desk

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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. We lament how our busy lives make it tough to keep up with it all and how we wish there were more hours in a day; while I have no doubts that many people are truly busy, the truth is that it is not lack of time that is usually not the issue, but poor time management. 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 4 hours of television instead of starting that research paper outline you have been putting off the last week. 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, I think it is 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. We think of all that we have to do to get from start to finish and we may feel a bit overwhelmed; instead of taking on the task in smaller chunks, we just do 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 our guilt about putting it off, we do other stuff instead to make it seem like we are accomplishing something; but usually, that something is trivial like doing the laundry or re-organizing your closet.​

Procrastination and effective time management do not go well together for most people. I tend to procrastinate as well, and here are a few things that have helped me do it less. First, 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. I also find setting 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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