Flickr user Nathan Rupert

Flickr user Nathan Rupert

During your college years, there will be many different things that require your attention. Your schoolwork, extracurricular activities, maybe a part time job, and if you’d like to have a social life, that too. Time will be the most important commodity you have. Learning to make the most of it is vital to your success both inside and outside the classroom. But what if you’re horrible at managing your time right now? What if you’re the master procrastinator? Where do you start to get on track? That’s ok. At some point or another we’ve all been there, and we can tell you it’s going to be ok. Here are our do’s and dont’s for balancing your schedule.

Do: Set goals

Before you begin any task, it helps to know exactly what needs to be accomplished. Setting a goal allows you to do that. You can set short term goals for the day or for the week, like getting a paper done before the weekend, or long term goals like getting an A in one of your most difficult classes this semester. You should have goals to accommodate every area of your life, not just academics. You can also have personal goals, like making a new friend, or extracurricular goals like joining a student organization you’re interested in. When you set clear goals, you are more likely to stay committed to them and get things done.

Don’t: Take on too much

Along that same vein, when setting goals be aware. Try to avoid those that are unrealistic. Don’t pile your plate up with too much, and only you know when you’ve had enough. That is a set up for failure that breeds disappointment, and we don’t want that for you. Your goals are supposed to help you grow, but they have to be attainable and appropriate. If you’re not sure whether they fit that description, test them using the SMART method. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. By using this method, you’re able to have an even clearer idea of what you want to achieve and how to get there. You can also measure your progress and make adjustments if need be. So in essence, it pays to be SMART.

Do: Prioritize

Now that you’ve set goals and know what needs to be accomplished, the next step is to prioritize. Put the important things first. In college, that should be your academics. After all, your goal is to graduate. Having a personal life, being involved on campus, and meeting new people is great, but your primary focus should be to leave with a degree in a reasonable amount of time. Here’s a little bonus tip: it helps to get into the habit of listing your priorities each week. For example, maybe on a Sunday just take 10 minutes and see what’s on schedule for the week ahead. What do your academic, personal, and other activities look like? What needs your immediate attention and what can wait? Prioritizing helps you to plan ahead which usually saves you time and stress in the end.

Do: Organize

Learning how to properly organize will save your life in college. Luckily for you, there are plenty of tools out there to help you do so. Calendars, weekly planners, even apps on your tablets and phones. For example, using a Google Calendar is a great alternative to buying a physical one. Take advantage of everything that’s out there according to your needs. When you get your syllabus during the first week of classes, pay attention to the due dates for assignments, quizzes, midterms etc, put those in your calendar to avoid missing deadlines. You can also set reminders if needed. If you’re apart of a student organization that has weekly meetings or events, pencil those in also. Your personal activities that might include a friend’s birthday party or a night out, all go in there. You can even color code them if you want just to keep it all straight.

Have a folder for every class. Keep the syllabus, and everything related to that class in that folder. This includes papers, quizzes, classwork, and all graded things. This way if you ever need anything pertaining to that subject, you already know exactly where to look and won’t waste any valuable time. Organizing makes things simple. Adjusting to college and the college life is already hard enough, keep it simple.

Don’t: Procrastinate

This is a big one. Remember how we said organizing will save your life in college? Well, procrastination will do the exact opposite. Now, you might say that you’re a procrastinator and it hasn’t hurt you yet. It may not have hurt you academically, but it has cost you something down the line. For example, sleep, time you could’ve spent hanging out with friends/family and more. That’s what it does, it steals time and adds stress. Avoiding the urge to do so is not easy all. Especially when there are things more interesting than school work or your other responsibilities taking place around you. There might even come a time where you have to wait until the last minute to do something. However, we hope by following the aforementioned suggestions of setting goals, prioritizing and organizing that it happens less and less.

Do: Have a backup plan

Our parents tell us, in school they teach us, you hear it everywhere: always have a backup plan. This is even more true in college where the unexpected is bound to happen from time to time. So on the off chance that you’re slammed with schoolwork and can’t seem to get it all done, what’s your backup plan? First, talk to your professors. Explain your situation and see if they offer any extensions on assignments, extra credit, things like that. If you have a job, have a conversation with your boss. See if they will modify your hours to accommodate your schoolwork for a period of time. Usually, employers and professors are very understanding. Once you’ve established a solid backup plan, do your part and get to work.

Don’t: Be afraid to ask for help

You can’t do it all. More importantly, you can’t do it all alone. Part of becoming an adult is being independent, doing things on your own. But, you should also recognize when it may be time to get some extra help. The beautiful thing about college is that they have a number of different resources readily available. The sooner you take advantage, the better it will be. You can reach out to professors, academic advisors, student health and counseling services, etc. anything you need help with you should be able to find on your campus. Don’t be embarrassed about asking for help either, it’s perfectly normal. We all need help sometimes.

Learning how to manage your time and balance your schedule is a skill. It’s not something you’re born with it’s something you learn. So if it takes a while, don’t panic. You’ll get the hang of it with time and consistency. The purpose of college is to make you a well-rounded individual. Well-rounded people usually do a little bit of everything. It is possible for you to do well in school and have a social life complete with extracurriculars. We hope that you use these tips to your advantage and find your balance.