5 Time Management Tips for Busy Students

You're busy. You work. You have a family. Maybe a garden or some other great project. And you're a student. How do you balance it all? It can be overwhelming.

We gathered five of our favorite time management tips for busy students. The great thing is, if you practice them as a student, they will already be a part of your schedule when your new life begins after graduation. Bonus!

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Just Say No

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When you're stretched to your limits, you're not very effective at any of the many things you're trying to accomplish. Determine your priorities and say no to everything that doesn't fit within them.

You don't even have to give an excuse, but if you feel you must, thank them for thinking of you, say you're going to school and that studying, your family, and your job are your main priorities right now, and that you're sorry you won't be able to participate.

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You don't have to be bossy to be good at delegating. It can be a very diplomatic process. First, realize that responsibility is different from authority. You can give someone the responsibility to take care of something for you without giving them the authority they perhaps shouldn't have.

  • Decide who is best for the job
  • Explain the job clearly
  • Be very specific about your expectations
  • Be very specific about the consequences of not doing the job correctly
  • Ask the person to repeat what he or she understands the job to be, and to anticipate possible problems
  • Provide whatever training or resources the two of you determine are necessary
  • Trust that this person will do a good job
  • Remember that they might not do it the same way as you, but if the end result is the same, does it really matter?
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Use a Planner

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Whether you're the old-fashioned kind like me and prefer a printed datebook, or use your smartphone for everything, including your calendar, do it. Put everything in one place. The busier you get, and the older, the easier it is to forget, to let things slip through the cracks. Use a planner of some kind and remember to check it!

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Make Lists

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Lists are great for just about everything: groceries, errands, homework assignments. Free up some brain space by putting everything you need to get done on a list. Better yet, buy a small notebook and keep a running, dated list.

When we try to remember everything with brainpower alone, especially the older we get, the less gray matter we seem to have left for the really important things, like studying.

Make lists, keep them with you, and revel in the satisfaction of crossing items off when you’ve completed them.

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Have a Schedule

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From "The Secrets of College Success," by Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman, comes this handy tip: have a schedule.

Having a schedule seems like a pretty basic organizational skill, but it's amazing how many students don't exhibit the self-discipline they should have to be successful. It might have something to do with the proliferation of instant gratification. Regardless of the cause, top students have self-discipline.

Jacobs and Hyman suggest that having a bird's eye view of the entire semester helps students stay balanced and avoid surprises. They also report that top students divide up the tasks on their schedule, studying for tests over a period of weeks rather than in one crash sitting.

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Peterson, Deb. "5 Time Management Tips for Busy Students." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/time-management-tips-for-busy-students-31205. Peterson, Deb. (2023, April 5). 5 Time Management Tips for Busy Students. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/time-management-tips-for-busy-students-31205 Peterson, Deb. "5 Time Management Tips for Busy Students." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/time-management-tips-for-busy-students-31205 (accessed June 10, 2023).