Spring Break is behind you and the semester is entering the last stretch of the year. For many, the end of the semester can mean an extra dose of stress, a last-ditch effort to pass that class that has been nagging at you for months. Or, maybe it’s time to end strong and cement that high grade that is going to seal your summa cum laude status.
Regardless of where you find yourself at the end of semester, it is important that you set realistic time management skills to finish off your school year in the best spot possible.
- Get Your Priorities Straight
- Set Goals
- Analyze Your Past Performance
- Avoid the All-Nighter
- Can You Really Multitask
- Remember to Breathe
Get Your Priorities Straight
One of the most important time management skills a person can develop is the ability to prioritize. Taking a moment to analyze your responsibilities and obligations, and then acting on those activities in order of importance will ensure that you have enough time to get your school work done. At the end of the semester, being organized is as important now as it was when you were trying to figure out how to make your freshman year incredible.
Many of us tend to delegate tasks in the order they arrive. We spend a lot of time “putting out the little fires” or addressing the first assigned project when we should be paying attention to larger, more important tasks. If your goal is to finish four classes with minimal stress and the highest possible grades, then it might be time to spend less time playing Call of Duty and more time writing that daunting essay due.
Your goal-making ability is critical to knowing what you are ultimately trying to accomplish; a soft skill important not just in the classroom, but in life as well. Everyone has a life outside their schoolwork, and it is completely okay if your primary goal isn’t to give a valedictorian speech for your graduating class. That doesn’t mean you aren’t committed to doing well in your classes, it just means you recognize that there are other important facets to your life that won’t help you increase your GPA. Knowing where to save time in and out of class helps you understand what your goals are—for the next five weeks through the time you're going on job interviews. Establishing your goals and having your priorities aligned are the foundation of time management.
Analyze Your Past Performance
With these two concepts in place, you can now focus on your most timely academic obligations for the end of the semester. It is likely that you have already had a number of assignments and assessments in your classes, so take a moment to reflect on these experiences and analyze how much time it took to accomplish them.
For example, if you had a writing assignment that took three weeks, look at how much time you actually spent on the project during that time. Boil the specific times down to the actual hours and minutes you were working on various aspects of the process, and from there, you can peel away the time you spent procrastinating so you’ll know what to expect in similar projects.
According to Forbes, an average college-level reading speed is about 450 words per minute. That’s about 27,000 words an hour, which, believe it or not, should be just under 100 double-spaced pages. Of course, that doesn’t account for distractions, auxiliary information that you need to look up, or rereading sections for comprehension.
These 100 pages an hour translate to the capacity for a lot of reading. Understand yourself to know if you can spend time dedicated to an hour of reading. Measure your own reading pace and be honest with your ability to keep on task. If you know that you aren’t going to be able to read a long passage in a single, hour-long sitting, don’t leave yourself without appropriate scheduling to break up the work.
Avoid the All-Nighter
The science of the all-nighter does not bode well for students of any level. This is why the classic solution to a seemingly universal problem is a woefully ineffective way to prepare for a final. Most people cannot force themselves to read hundreds of pages of an entire semester’s texts in one shot, which is why breaking up the effort over extended periods for more urgent tasks will keep you ahead of the curve and help you build effective time management strategies.
Can You Really Multitask?
Many successful people, proven at being good at time management, understand the concept of “chunking” their responsibilities or obligations. You may have even heard people tell you how good they are at multitasking or being able to accomplish multiple tasks at one time. The truth is no one “multitasks” cognitive functions. “Research in neuroscience tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly,” explains Nancy K. Napier, PhD in The Myth of Multitasking.
In other words, when we try to multitask, we are actually forcing our brains to stop and start over and over, sometimes only spending microseconds on each task. When we fail to stay focused on an individual, cognitive activity (like studying one subject), we cause our brain stress by forcing it to keep up to the changing influx of information. Scheduling times of the day to focus on one thing, we are more apt to absorb information more completely and with more details. We are also more likely to understand things more quickly if we are focused on an individual task.
Remember to breathe
Finally, remember to build time into your schedule for relaxation or fun. It is important to give yourself an appropriate amount of extracurricular time to allow your body and brain to recover. Studying and doing projects for class is exercise for your brain. A dedicated athlete does not exercise their body twenty-four hours a day. The world’s most elite athletes know the recuperative value of sleep and honor their body by getting enough rest to allow the body to heal.
Your brain is no different; you cannot go 100 mph, studying twelve hours a day, straight. Allow for some mental recreation into the mix, but remember that you must adhere to the scheduled amount of fun. Losing ourselves in a video game or social media can be reenergizing, but if you have pressing deadlines, it’s probably not the time to take a two-hour break. To that point, researchers have discovered that the optimal length of a nap should be ten-to-twenty minutes.
With a bit of analysis and planning, any student can manage their time effectively as the semester winds down, avoiding undue stress and aggravation.
With no shortage of unique tips to prepare you for college, try a combination of the concepts to improve time management skills and manage your entire task-list regiment.