Goals, Plan, Action!
College students self-report that one of the biggest challenges in their first year is managing their time. Why is this so? On the one hand, things should be easy: you’re probably in class no more than half the time you were as a high school student, and you’re not likely to have a job (at least at first). But on the other hand, you’ve probably never had this much freedom: no one is telling you when to go where, and in many cases, class attendance is not required. Your time is very unstructured, and this is we where the problem sometimes sets in.
Some students find it helpful to think about these issues as the “GPA of Time Management.”
The Importance of Goals
First and foremost, time management is self-awareness about what is important to you. You’ll be on the road to good time management skills if you can internalize the following statement:
“The way I spend my time must be a reflection of my goals.”
Of course this requires you to know something of your goals. Many students come to college with several goals for themselves including things such as to have fun, to become more independent, to meet people who are different than they are, and to learn more about themselves and other parts of the world. These are legitimate! But almost everyone also comes to college with one or more goals that require doing well academically. These can look slightly different: You may be genuinely interested in challenging yourself to learn. Others have a specific career goal in mind that demands academic success, such as becoming a doctor, teacher or accountant. Or maybe you are interested in a certain lifestyle that mandates academic success (you want to live in a big house and travel the world, for instance). Lots of people, including your friends, your parents, and faculty and staff here at Georgia Southern, may try to encourage you down a certain path, but in the end, the goals must be your own.
Assuming you are like most people for whom academic success is at least a means to an end (if not the end itself), the way you spend you time must reflect the importance of that goal. The trick is often to think of the end goal that truly motivates you when the urge to procrastinate kicks in. Don’t want to study for College Algebra? Tell yourself that your success in that course is central to your ability to be come a veterinarian (or whatever your goal is). To best achieve this goal, you will probably have to say “no” at least occasionally– to yourself and to your friends. When you do have to turn down that request to go to Savannah for a concert, tell yourself that what you really are doing is saying “yes” to the more important goal you have set for yourself.
Planning to Meet Your Goals
Once you identify your goals and are genuinely motivated to achieve them, the rest of time management is a matter of logistics, but this too can be a big hurdle for first-year students.
Many don’t realize where their time goes. One way to find out is to use a time management grid (.doc) to plot where your time goes for the week. What are you spending time on that is not either necessary (sleeping, eating, exercise, etc.) or central to your goals? Remember that having fun is is a legitimate goal, although one that needs to be kept in balance with other important goals. Work on cutting back activities that are either simply peripheral to your goals or those things that you do excessively. Playing your X-Box isn’t a bad thing in itself– it might help you relax. Playing for eight hour a day; however, is probably not the best way to achieve what you want here at Georgia Southern. After you’ve identified your problem areas, fill out another copy of the study windows with a realistic plan for how you want to spend your time the following week. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it can help you make good decisions.
Many students find that using a planner can be very helpful, and the Eagle Eye you received at SOAR is a great one. Another tool is the “Semester-at-a-Glance” calendar (Spring 2019). A “Semester at a Glance” allows you to plan out major assignments on a single sheet of paper. Completed, it might look something like this (example from Fall 2018). You might post this in a place where you see it frequently– over a bedroom mirror, for instance– so you refer to it often. If you have a lot of ink coming up in a particular week, you can make good decisions (heard that before?) about how to allocate your time to meet your goals.
In the end, we don’t manage time– it will do its own thing with or without us. We manage ourselves! All the goal-setting and planning doesn’t mean a thing if we don’t act. Take charge of the way you spend your time, and you’re well on your way to success.
Last updated: 1/10/2019