Time Management

Time management is a skill that everybody seems to think is important and few people seem to have mastered.  As a student, it’s one of the most important improvements you can make not only to increase your current academic performance, but also to become more effective in your extracurricular activities, social life, and future education and career.  In this guide we discuss proven strategies to improve your time management skills.

A Constant Expectation

“Are you sure you have time for that?”

“Well, maybe if you planned your time better…”

“I’m sorry, I was busy. I ran out of time.” 

Sound familiar?  It’s the incessant drone that every high school student hears.  Adults, parents, and teachers alike keep stressing “time management” and youths keep zoning out.  It’s not that kids today don’t care, it’s just that they are being torn in too many directions: becoming the perfect student, athlete, volunteer, leader, child, and friend.  The world pushes us to balance our quests for each of these characteristics, yet there is very little information out there telling us how to succeed. 

Time management does not mean that you can do everything, but it doesn’t necessarily limit your desired activities either.  Rather, time management allows you to fit in activities you want while still maintaining your duties and responsibilities.  Keep in mind that everyone manages time differently, and strategies that work for a friend may not be the best for you. However, advice from others often provides a good starting point. With that in mind, here are some suggestions and comments to think about:

Know your limits.

In order to take on more activities, you have to be willing to make sacrifices elsewhere, whether it’s volunteering instead of going to the movies on Friday night or spending less free time at home to take on more responsibility at work or on a team.  Everyone has a different ability to handle stress and multiple commitments, and now is the time to explore what you are able to handle.  It’s about what is comfortable for YOU, not your classmates or siblings.

Time is precious.

Feel like there’s no time to do homework?  Try making better use of your time.  Car rides are a great place to start.  If you are not driving, then take out your books and get some reading or homework in.  If you are driving, then consider finding an audiobook related to your work, or look at study questions or vocabulary beforehand and mentally review during the drive.

Generally, we all like to protest the fact that we have “no time” while knowing full well that some of the hours in front of the TV or computer could be better spent.  Try putting off fun activities like these until your work is done for the day.  On the other hand, you do need some time where you can turn your brain off – it’s up to you to find and strike a balance.

Choose your priorities. 

What is really important to you?  Many students like to insist that everything they do is important.  You should think, however, about what would happen if two events conflicted.  Which would you choose?  In addition, you may want to watch a movie with friends, when finishing your homework should take priority.  What you want to do and what you need to do can be very different things.

On the academic side, a major project that you’ve put off until the last minute should probably take precedence over nightly homework that counts for a tiny fraction of your grade.  Stay aware of due dates and how important assignments are and plan your time accordingly.

Take Responsibility.

Everyone is going to mess up with time management at some point; it’s okay.  The key comes in recognizing when and how you messed up so that you don’t repeat the mistake.  Most students have had the experience of putting off a major paper until the night before and then promising themselves or their parents at 3 AM that it “won’t happen again.”  Unfortunately, many students find themselves in the same situation a few months later.

This is the time to learn personal accountability – when you’re considering putting off a project on Saturday night to go hang out with friends, just remember how miserable you were the last time you made a similar decision.

Have fun.

Believe it or not, fun should be an important factor in time management.  You should enjoy all the activities that you participate in.  Many students think quantity of activities, not quality, is what will get them into college, and therefore they commit themselves to endless clubs, teams, and competitions.  Your commitments have to be worth sacrificing free time and other activities for.  Don’t be afraid to slim down your resume if it will improve your grades, happiness level, or meaningful free time.

Know yourself.

What kind of social dynamics help you work faster and accomplish things, and which do not?  For many students, progress on clubs, extracurricular activities, and projects is best made in a group setting.  When studying for tests, many students flourish in the same kinds of groups, while others become too distracted and social and never get work done.  You have to analyze your own optimal settings for each kind of activity and plan accordingly.  Avoid the temptation to hang out with friends when you know you have to buckle down and study in a quiet setting.


  1. Explore how many commitments you can handle before getting too stressed
  2. Plan your time more efficiently and put off fun activities at home until work is done
  3. Be aware of priorities in both your academic and extracurricular commitments
  4. Turn mistakes into learning experiences and develop personal accountability
  5. Make sure that your commitments are fun enough to sacrifice time for

Know which settings you function best in for different activities and plan accordingly

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