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1.3: Organizing Your Time

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    Learning Objectives

    • Discover your time personality and know where your time goes.
    • Understand the basic principles of time management and planning.
    • Practice time management strategies to help ensure your academic success.

    When you know what you want to do, why not just sit down and get it done? The millions of people who complain frequently about “not having enough time” would love it if it were that simple!

    Time and Your Personality

    People’s attitudes toward time vary widely. One person seems to be always rushing around but actually gets less done than another person who seems unconcerned about time and calmly goes about the day. Since there are so many different “time personalities,” it’s important to realize how you approach time. Start by trying to figure out how you spend your time during a typical week with this exercise.




    In-Class Exercise 1.3: Where Does the Time Go?

    See if you can account for a week’s worth of time by creating this chart in your Literacy Journal. For each of the categories, make your best estimate of how many hours you spend in a week. (You can estimate for one day and multiply by seven for daily activities.)

    Category of Activity

    # of hours per week


    Eating (including preparing food)

    Personal hygiene (i.e., bathing, etc.)

    Working (employment)

    Volunteer service or internship

    Chores, cleaning, errands, shopping, etc.

    Attending class

    Studying, reading, and researching (outside of class)

    Transportation to work or school

    Getting to classes (walking, biking, etc.)

    Organized group activities (clubs, church services, etc.)

    Time with friends (include television, video games, etc.)

    Attending events (movies, parties, etc.)

    Time alone (include television, video games, surfing the Web, etc.)

    Exercise or sports activities

    Reading for fun or other interests done alone

    Talking on phone, e-mail, Facebook, etc.


    Now total your estimated hours. Is your number larger or smaller than 168, the total number of hours in a week? If your estimate is higher, go back through your list and adjust numbers to be more realistic. But if your total is fewer than 168, don’t just add more time in categories. Instead, ponder this: Where does the time go? We’ll come back to this question.

    Plan your tasks according to time of day.

    When you need to concentrate, such as when writing a class paper, are you more alert and focused in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Do you concentrate best when you look forward to a relaxing activity later on, or do you study better when you’ve finished all other activities? Understanding this will help you better plan your study periods.

    Estimate your time realistically.

    Think about your time analysis in this exercise. People who estimate too high often feel they don’t have enough time. They may have time anxiety and often feel frustrated. People at the other extreme, who often can’t account for how they use all their time, may have a more relaxed attitude. They may not actually have any more free time, but they may be wasting more time than they want to admit with less important things.

    Be prepared for schedule changes.

    People also differ in how they respond to schedule changes. Some go with the flow and accept changes easily, while others function well only when following a planned schedule and may become upset if that schedule changes. If you do not react well to an unexpected disruption in your schedule, plan extra time for catching up if something throws you off. This is all part of understanding your time personality.

    Time Management

    • Time management for successful university studying involves these factors:
    • Determining how much time you need to spend studying
    • Knowing how much time you actually have for studying and increasing that time if needed
    • Being aware of the times of day you are at your best and most focused
    • Using effective long- and short-term study strategies
    • Scheduling study activities in realistic segments
    • Using a system to plan ahead and set priorities
    • Staying motivated to follow your plan and avoid procrastination

    For every hour in the classroom, university students should spend, on average, about two hours on that class, counting reading, studying, writing papers, and so on. If you’re a full-time student with fifteen hours a week in class, then you need another thirty hours for rest of your academic work. That forty-five hours is about the same as a typical full-time job. If you work part time, time management skills are even more essential. These skills are still more important for part-time university students who work full time and commute or have a family. To succeed in university, virtually everyone has to develop effective strategies for dealing with time.

    Look back at the number of hours you wrote in Where Does the Time Go for a week of studying. Do you have two hours of study time for every hour in class? Many students begin university not knowing this much time is needed, so don’t be surprised if you underestimated this number of hours. Remember this is just an average amount of study time—you may need more or less for your own courses.

    Set and Commit to Your Schedule

    Put your schedule on a calendar and post it where you and other people in your life can easily refer to it.

    Once you’ve allotted time for study, stick to it. If you occasionally have more time than you need for your assignments, try working ahead. Get a jump on a paper or on the next chapter of the textbook – you’ll thank yourself later. Sure, you may need to adjust for the surprises, both good and bad, that pop up in all of our lives, but if you’ve made a place in your schedule for your school work, you won’t have to face the stress of rearranging your activities at the last minute.

    Making your schedule consistent and available to the important people in your life (including you) will help you to develop study habits that will make your investment in college a successful one.

    This page titled 1.3: Organizing Your Time is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Amee Schmidt & Donald Winter.

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