This is the first study skill to master, because all of the others depend on it. Most students whose grades are low simply don't spend enough time studying. In college, your professors expect you to spend two hours studying outside of class for every hour in class. In other words, if you have a typical load of 15 credits, you will want to devote about 30 hours a week to studying.
Time management may seem tedious at first, but the rewards are substantial: better grades, less anxiety, more time to participate in campus activities, and guilt-free play time (and more of it!). There is enough time in the week to balance class, study, work, activities, and recreation if you are thoughtful and deliberate in your planning.
Create a Schedule
- List all your fixed daily time obligations. This includes the time you are sleeping, the time it takes to get ready in the morning and to eat, class time, work hours, and any other commitments. Use realistic estimates!
- Add in the study time you need each day.
- Schedule in weekly tasks such as laundry, shopping, cleaning, paying bills, etc.
- Include something pleasurable each day—working out, riding your bike, pleasure reading, visiting friends—something you really enjoy.
- Fill in extra-curricular activities.
- In the evening, write down all the things you hope to accomplish the next day, then write an “A” by the items that are vital, a “B” by the items that are important, and a “C” by the items that would be nice. Remember, the only critical items are the “A” items.
You are aiming for a regular amount of hours spent studying each day. Five hours a day throughout the week plus one long morning session on Saturday would give you your thirty hours during the week. It would also give you the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday free to play. If you have to cut back on the study hours one day because of work or special activities, you should compensate for it during the same week.
Get the Most from your Time
- Be realistic. Allow the time it really takes you to get ready in the morning, not the time you think it should take.
- Don't let the odd hour between classes get lost! Use it for review, library time, or necessary errands.
- Pay attention to your best hours, and arrange to do your studying then.
- Don't attempt marathon study sessions. Two 2-hour sessions separated by a long break will be more efficient than one long session.
- Put your hardest subject first, and your easiest (usually your favorite) last. Interest will pull you through when stamina begins to wane.
- Review, and then review again—this is a great thing to do with odd bits of time; it is also good at the end of the day when you start to get sleepy.
- Don't waste time being stuck. Call a friend for help, or put the work aside for a while and come back to it fresh.
- If you find that you're not sticking to your schedule, pay attention to the things that are getting in the way. You may have left something important out of your weekly planning — adequate travel time between classes and work, for example, or enough time for errands. Or you may need to make a change in your habits, like moving your study place away from the telephone or TV, or doing something active after classes before you go back to the books. You may also find that you're unhappy with your week, even though you've worked hard and accomplished most of your goals. This may be a sign that you aren't spending time on the things that are most important to you. What things matter most to you right now? Are you making time for them each week? You can trust your instincts.
Adapted from Active Learning: A Study Skills Worktext by Rory Donnelly (1990).