It’s officially fall in Amherst. My senior year is in full swing, and Halloween is slowly approaching. So, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t posted in a while… It’s for a scary reason, no doubt. I’m here to tell you about one of the scariest monsters in my life… the Time Management Monster! AAHHH!
(Am I lame yet?)
Before I get into that, let me tell you that senior year is a monster in itself. It’s been eating up all of my free time – I can never seem to have enough. I’m taking 5 classes this semester (officially starting my psych minor), but on top of that I’ve got a lot of extracurricular activities going on. I somehow managed to land a lead role in the UMass Theatre Guild‘s production of the musical Starmites – I’ll be playing the evil queen Diva – which takes up the majority of my free time (and I love it)! I’m also an associate brother of Alpha Phi Omega this semester, as well as a communication pal for the Pal Project, a soon-to-be research assistant at the Speech and Hearing Lab on campus, and I’m starting my observation hours for grad school. Along with fall festivities and social events, you could say my semester is pretty packed. 😲
I love having a lot going on because I love being busy (and thus, needed). But there’s one aspect of my life that I’m always busy with – keeping my Time Management in check. I imagine the concept of time management as a very overbearing and needy monster, who’s constantly hanging over my shoulder. He’ll get pissed off and wreaks havoc if you don’t pay enough attention to him. We have not gotten along in the past. He has driven me off the edge and has made me cry more than once when I haven’t made enough time for him in my life.
I’m writing this to highlight the importance of time management and in response to something that happened over my weekend at home. My brother, who is only in 8th grade, is already having time management issues. He’s on a travel baseball team, but that seems to be the only thing he makes time for, along with video games and hanging out with his friends. I know he can be smart if he wants to be, but here’s his problem: There isn’t enough balance in his life yet between what he wants to do and what he has to do/what is expected of him as a middle school student. The same theory applies to everyday college students like you and me.
My point is, time management is crucial to having the least stressful college experience (while still accomplishing everything you need/want to do) possible. Time Management’s frenemies Procrastination, Stress, and Anxiety still visits me every now and again when there’s a lull in my schedule or when I feel burnt out. I avoid being crushed by all of these “monsters” by:
🎃 Planning my life around my classes.
Okay, now this seems super, super obvious, but classes should be a priority to you. (Why would you spend so much on college to not get an education out of it?!) I assume that every day that I’m feeling well enough, I will be attending all of the classes I have that day. I plan out when I’ll have time to eat, hang around with people in between classes, and do homework when I pick my schedule for each semester.
I know people that almost never go to certain classes because they’re “easy”. HOW DO YOU DO THAT?! That would stress me out so much! Seriously, go to class as much as humanly possible. Make it an unavoidable part of your day, no matter how much the class might suck. Going to class AND taking care of yourself are two important aspects of your life that you can absolutely plan out around each other.
🎃 Allowing myself at least some free time – self-care, self-care, self-care.
Having time to yourself is so, so important. As an introvert, I use my free time to “recharge” so to speak from my daily life. I love interacting with people, but it’s important for me to have “me” time so I can be the best version of myself possible. I’ll use this time to watch Netflix or my favorite shows (aka Once Upon a Time or Impractical Jokers) or do something even stupider like playing around with Snapchat filters. Whatever I do, it makes me feel a lot better when I get back to work.
BuzzFeed actually put together a really great compilation of “27 Quirky Websites You Never Knew You Needed” a while ago that I highly suggest checking out to get in the self-care zone. Look for The Office Stare Machine and Emergency Compliment (my two personal faves). AND if you really, really, bored, you should also check out the Bored Button. Seriously, you won’t regret it.
🎃… but not using the “free time” excuse to procrastinate.
How many times have I said “I’ll do this after this episode’s over…” and 3 hours will have gone by without me touching a scrap of work? Don’t do this to yourselves, I beg of you. Recognize when you’re ready to jump back on the work horse. The show/social media/whatever will be waiting for you ONCE you get everything done, I promise!
If you feel like you getting distracted too much to the point where you can’t seem to get anything done, some browsers offer plugins that can temporarily block certain websites. You won’t be able to visit them within a certain time period so you’ll be able to focus on what matters. A few examples to check out for Chrome are StayFocused, Block Site, and Nanny (all of them are free!).
🎃 Finding some super-fun things to do on the weekends.
And it doesn’t always have to be parties. Take a hike, walk to town with friends, go shopping at the mall, volunteer somewhere. Anything to get you out of your room and away from your work, at least for a little while. It’ll give you something to motivate you throughout your week!
🎃 Having a plan weeks in advance.
I love having things planned out well in advance. It eases my anxiety knowing that things are taken care of and I don’t have to worry as much for things to work themselves out. There’s not much more satisfying to me than a full and organized calendar. Obviously, that’s not always feasible, but as I learned in one of my Psych classes this semester, humans (especially this human) like predictability in everyday living. I love having a routine and I love having a plan, whether it’s for the day or for the year. When I don’t, that’s when my mind wanders and things go awry.
Alexa over at The Icing on the Playlist wrote a really great article about how she plans out her daily life while in college while balancing a job, classes, and an internship while still making time for a social life (she sounds like Superwoman)! But I think everything works out for her because she takes time to plan everything out before she dives in deep. Read more about her strategies here.
🎃… and writing EVERYTHING on my calendar.
I kid you not when I say I write everything on my calendar. Exams, rehearsals, blog chats, volunteer and social events: if it has a date, time and place, it’s going on the calendar. Why? So I’m super informed about my busy, busy life and I’m not confused about anything. Also, it’s fun to look back at how busy you’ve been when you’re not busy and revel in the memories. 🙂
If you’re not a fan of handwriting everything like yours truly, there are lots of ways you can digitize your calendar and keep it with you always! There are loads of calendar apps that you can use to keep tracks of all the wonderful things going on in your life.
🎃 But, knowing when to be spontaneous.
This is something I have difficulty with. As I said above, I love being the girl with the plan. I need a few days to process that yes, we’ll hang out on this day at this time. It’s important to sometimes say “screw it” and do something unexpected, though. Some of the best days and nights I’ve had at UMass were almost completely spontaneous (like ending up at a diner after a party at 3 AM). Some of the best workouts I’ve had at the gym were the times where I said, “You have rehearsal in an hour? Good. Let’s run two and a half miles beforehand to get you ready.” Being on a time crunch can sometimes make for the best of times, it’s true.
🎃 Setting goals for the week and month.
For me, this comes in the form of to-do lists. I jot them down quickly on the side of my planner so the goals are always there for me to look at. Usually, this helps me get them done. My planner also has a section on the monthly calendar where you can write goals for the entire month for yourself. I hope I can utilize this more as time goes on!
***Bonus: I sometimes write myself notes of encouragement in the blank spaces of my planner if I’ve had a rough week. It helps. 🙂
🎃 Knowing when to say no.
This is a really, really hard thing for me, even though I’ve gotten better at it. You know what they say about college only coming around once in your life and seizing every opportunity,
yadda yadda yadda. They forgot a disclaimer in that quote about seizing too many opportunities, and I’m a real-life example of this. FOMO (or the Fear of Missing Out) is a real thing for me, and many other college students, I’m sure. You want to do everything you can and make the most out of it, so much so that you barely realize you’re running yourself ragged trying to make things happen for yourself. I think part of the college experience is learning your limits and only taking on what you can. Realizing that you are enough through and through is one step in mastering time management (and I think college life in general).
🎃 If it helps you, splitting assignments into smaller bits that you can accomplish day by day.
This usually doesn’t work well for me personally for assignments (I like to get everything done in one fell swoop), but it does when I have to study for a big exam. I like deciding that one day I’ll cover one topic in full, and then the next day I’ll cover something else. The day before the exam, I’ll review everything in full.
*** Pro Tip: I also like to make review sheets and completely handwrite them out, it helps me remember everything better. 😍
🎃 Finding the right planner and color coding the crap out of it.
I think part of my problem last year was that I had a planner that didn’t work for me. I’d forget to write things down, the weekly setup didn’t make sense, and it was hard to manipulate. For this year, I invested in a slightly more expensive planner but one that makes more sense to me. I’m so happy with my Happy Planner by Me and My Big Ideas because it’s the first planner I’ve owned that’s organized vertically. they days are in columns, so what I do is dedicate a little bit of each column to a class and write down my assignments where they belong. If I don’t finish an assignment that day, I shift it over to the next day’s column so I never forget about it.
A few weeks ago, I also decided to start color coding my writing in different color inks in my planner as well so I could more clearly see what assignment belongs to what class. I’m never going back! I’ve never felt more organized when it comes to my classes and assignments.
🎃 Strategizing with a friend, or better yet, a therapist.
One of the best decisions I made last year was going to see a therapist at my university. She really helped me rationalize the thoughts rushing around in my head and helped me feel better about certain aspects of my life. She helped me unclutter my mind and helped me focus on what matters, what makes me tick and what makes me happy.
This really doesn’t have to do with time management per se, but she did help me in unstressing my life, which in turn helped me feel less burnt out and time-manage better. I highly suggest it to anyone who needs someone to rant to.
🎃 Joining clubs that you actually find fun, not just so they’ll look good on your resume.
I had a realization my freshman year that I needed SOMETHING to do other than classes in college, otherwise I’d go insane. Now is the time to have fun before you’re forced into the “real world” post-graduation (cue all the tears 😭). My tip for freshmen is to join as many clubs as you can that seem even remotely interesting, then weed out which ones stick over time. You’ll probably end up with two or sometimes three that strike a chord with you. For me, that ended up being my beloved community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega that I pledged freshman year and the UMass Theatre Guild, which I didn’t really get involved in until I got cast in my first show with them last year (and I should have gotten involved with them earlier)! I was also a part of the UMass chapters of Autism Speaks U and Her Campus for a little while as well. And make sure you write down when they meet so you’ll always be prepared!
🎃 If you know you’re going to be busy, getting it done early.
(I still don’t do this, but it’s good advice, right?)
So what’s the secret to keep the monster from unleashing itself? Keeping it in check and maintaining balance between the things you have to do and things you want to do. I’m obviously no expert, and I still battle with time management on occasion, but I hope this helps if you feel like you’re in a mid-semester rut.
Have any other time-management tips or articles you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments!