Time management. So many things, so little time!

Flying the nest for college or university should be an exciting time, but it can often be overwhelming. Bombarded by everything from lectures, essay deadlines, exams, to financial difficulties and the lure of that next party, trying to do everything can leave you both physically and mentally drained.

Juggling so many balls at such a speed will leave you feeling dizzy, and if you’re not careful your health will soon start to suffer. You might be able to party on consecutive nights and still pull all-nighters to get that essay finished for a while, but soon your body will start to complain and if you ignore the warning signs, may give up completely.

With your head turning this way and that, it’s difficult to know not only what to do, but what to do first. Learning prioritisation and time management skills now won’t only serve you well for work but will also prove beneficial for your health and wellbeing.

Where do I start?

That’s easy. Get a calendar, in whatever format works for you. Whether it’s an old-fashioned paper copy to hang on your wall, or an app on your Smartphone, make sure you use it!

  • Prioritise. Write down all of your commitments and tasks and then order them by importance. Hint: Lectures are more important than Diagnosis Murder, but having a night out should rank higher than reading through your entire back catalogue of lecture notes.
  • Plan. Add exam times and deadlines as soon as you know them, including any important social commitments like birthdays. Set up reminders for key dates and make it part of your routine to check it regularly. Leave room for unexpected events, both pleasant and nasty. If there’s room to manoeuvre you can still be spontaneous.
  • Colour-code. Add colour or labels for study, social and work commitments, this will let you see at a glance how balanced your life really is.
  • Stick to it. So many good intentions go the same way, to a dark guilty place where no one wants to look. Once you’ve made a plan, make sure you follow it. If it’s not working it can always be changed, but be honest about how much you can do in both areas of your life.

Do I have time for a social life?

Of course. You’ve heard of a work-life balance right? Extremes either way will have a negative impact on your health and capabilities. Amongst your friends, or perhaps in yourself, you’ll be able to recognise the people who are constantly in fear of the next deadline. Chained to their desk from week one, with sallow skin and deep rings round their eyes, it’s obvious that their studying fervour is unhealthy.

Equally there are those who make their social life a priority. They go out more nights than they stay in and can’t turn down the offer of one more. Their enthusiasm is drained by the morning and they frequently miss lectures, hastily copying up notes that they don’t read properly.

Manage your time well and you’ll be able to meet your deadlines, attend all your lectures and still leave plenty of time to party with the best of them. Perfect this balance now and you’ll be much better equipped to find that happy medium for the rest of your career.

How do I know I’m doing too much?

Listen to your body. You recognise the signs that you’re hungry or thirsty, you just need to tune in to the signal that you are overloaded. Sallow skin, persistent sniffles and spots and pimples are often manifestations that you’re not looking after yourself properly.

Slow down. Make sure you’re eating balanced meals, exercising and getting enough rest. Take a bath, read a book and get an early night. If you are still feeling under the weather then reassess your schedule. Check that you aren’t working too much, a member of too many clubs or still going out too much.

Can I fit in a part-time job?

Financial difficulties are hitting students harder than ever and it’s the lucky student who doesn’t have to get a job at some point to support their studies. If you need extra cash then waiting until the holidays is ideal. Summer jobs for students are plentiful and can give rise to great opportunities as well.

But if the situation is dire and money’s too tight to mention, a part-time job can still be incorporated into your student life with a generous touch of time management.

Don’t let money worries make you forget you’re a student. Your studies should you be your priority, so don’t skip lectures or miss deadlines to further your career as a call centre operative. Get a regular shift pattern that doesn’t interfere with your studies so that you can plan a routine around it. Don’t forget to pencil in time to relax as well, or you run the risk of burning yourself out.

What if it’s not working?

Perhaps a time management scheme doesn’t quite fit with the wild image you had for your student days or you’re still finding it hard to take time off. It’s important to make the most of this time, both for your social freedom and the studying opportunities. Don’t end three years with a bad grade and alcohol dependency, or a good grade that came at the expense of your health.

Don’t beat yourself up if you slip on occasion. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. However, if you’ve planned something meticulously but find it impossible to stick to, it’s probably not suitable for you.

Everyone’s different. Don’t schedule in revision before lectures if you’re not a morning person. If you work better under pressure then make sure you attend all of your lectures, this way you’ll be prepared for when the time comes to work like a demon.

Time management may sound like something your business lecturer droned on about but it’s the key to having it all during your time as a student. Plan your time well and you can be top of the class and still party with the best of them.