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You’ve heard it and your student has heard it. An essential key to college success is good time management.
But although most college students can tell you that time management is important, it may be harder for them to tell you why it is, how to plan their time, and how to make sure the plan happens.
The summer before your student heads to college (or maybe the summer after a less-than-stellar first year of college) is an ideal time to have a conversation about planning and managing time.
One of the biggest differences between high school and college is how students use their time. There will be a lot of things competing for those 168 hours each week!
First, your new college student will spend approximately half the amount of time in formal classes that they did in high school. They need to realize that the extra “free” time simply means “unscheduled” time — students are now free to control and plan how they use their time.
Then, although they spend fewer hours in the classroom, they'll be expected to complete larger, longer-term assignments and projects and to spend significantly more time on academic work outside of the classroom.
Finally, your student will have increasing demands on their time as they balance schoolwork with participation in campus events and activities, a social life that might be more active than it was in high school, and maybe even a part-time job. They're honing life skills and managing the roller coaster of emotions that accompany leaving home and establishing their independence. It's A LOT, and it’s common to feel overwhelmed.
Any time management plan must be based on goals and priorities. We tend to find time for the things that are important to us. It takes drive and determination to stay the course, and without clear goals, it's easy to become distracted.
Your student's goals may be broad and far-reaching or short-term and concrete, and defining them will require clarity of thinking and significant self-reflection.
Whether it's making Dean’s List, successfully juggling academics with sports or a job, eventually applying to graduate school, or building a resume for an impressive internship or career opportunity, each goal will require a different approach and different use of time.
Once your student has identified their goals and laid a foundation for the time management project, here are some practical suggestions for setting up a plan.
Thinking about time management and acting on the plan are different skills.
One of the keys to making a time management plan work is self-management — finding the focus and discipline to stick to the plan and make important things a priority. This is what Sean Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens calls “will and won’t power,” the strength to say yes to your most important things and the strength to say no to less important things and to peer pressure.
Here are seven things for both you and your student to keep in mind as they work to execute their time management plan.
Good time management is a lifelong skill, and many of us are still working at it. Encourage your student to stay the course and assure them that, as they become better and better at mastering time management skills, they will feel more and more in balance and in control of their life.