Making the Most of the Time You Have

Procrastination can be the number one enemy of college students. How do we combat it?

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“The right activities are as accessible as bad influences. They are as plentiful as anything else.” According to writer Ryan Holiday, “What you do with those assets is up to you. But choose wisely, because it will determine who you are.”

Time is a valuable resource. The way we spend our time determines the kind of life we build, and the kind of college career we create. Yet, the average student finds time management to be one of the most difficult aspects of the college experience. The tension between social, educational, and financial responsibilities becomes overwhelming.

Time is an asset; it is a tool that can be used to our advantage. Procrastination and stress are not helpful responses. If this is true of you, there is no reason to be ashamed. In reality, everyone struggles with procrastination. While a lack of urgency in our work is often a result of laziness, it is often caused by overwhelm, too. Everyone, from time to time, becomes so overwhelmed by their to-do list that they do nothing at all. Rather than finding shame in our lack of productivity, it is simply more beneficial to shift our approach.

There are simple ways to make all the parts of a full life manageable. Time blocking is one such tool. Take the Pomodoro Technique, for example. Created by Francesco Cirillo, this time management theory uses an awareness of time to cultivate urgency. Rather than working from a sense of scarcity, this technique helps individuals utilize the time they have by breaking up a study or work session into manageable increments.

Here are the basics:

  1. Make a to-do list of all the tasks you want to accomplish on a given day. Remember, this will only work if you are realistic with the work you can actually accomplish in a given day.
  2. Choose one task. It could be completing a reading assignment, writing the rough draft of a paper, or reviewing flash cards for an exam. Schedule time for this task and the other tasks that follow.
  3. Focus in for 25 minutes. This is deep work kind of stuff. (For help with this, use the Tomato Timer.)
  4. Take a 5 minute break. Go outside, walk around, get more coffee, watch a funny cat video. Do what you need to step away and refresh.
  5. Go back to work.

While you are working, take note. What is distracting you? What comes to mind when you do not want to keep working? Rather than being frustrated, get these thoughts out of your head and onto paper. When you complete the task at hand, you can address the additional things on your mind.

Also, be flexible. If practiced too rigidly, you will fail. Remember, meetings happen at strange times, roommates interrupt, and plans change. All things in moderation is an important practice for time management.

Time management does not need to be stressful or unnecessarily rigid. When seen as a tool, it can create the space you need to do good work the first time around.

For more information and ideas, read Deep Work by Cal Newport or visit College Info Geek.

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