How to Make More Time

It's a common college problem: you have a full load of credit-hours, a job, you're involved with a handful of clubs and organizations, you're playing sports, AND you have midterms coming up. What is that, a 20-hour day? Maybe you feel like you've bitten off more than you can chew, or you just can't find the time to get it all done? Not to worry, there are many ways you can lighten the load on yourself, and find some more of that precious, precious time.

Some Questions to Ask Yourself

1) Are you socializing too much?

Socializing is a very healthy thing, but it can be easy to get carried away in college. When you feel a big time crunch, you may have to cut back on time spent with your friends. Maybe your friends can take a raincheck this time, just until your term paper is finished.

2) What isn't absolutely necessary?

Maybe you love playing intramural volleyball, and it's a very valuable thing to do for health of body and mind. However, if you're going out of your mind and only getting 3 hours of sleep a night, you may have to consider cutting it out of your schedule. Or, at least, lowering your commitment level. Maybe you can only play once a week instead of three times a week? Or maybe you don't run for team captain after all?

Examine your commitments. Some of them aren't crucially necessary, and those are the ones that may need to be set on the back burner. Don't worry, you can always pick them back up when you have more time to invest.

3) Are you able to focus on your studies?

Many students try to study in their dorms, surrounded by a mob of their boisterous friends. Unsurprisingly, these students often have a hard time focusing, and take a lot longer to finish their work. If you're struggling with this problem, you may need to find another place to study where you can really focus and work well (such as the library, a coffee shop, or outside on a patch of grass).

4) Are there any study groups you can join?

Often, working with a friend or a study group can do wonders for your productivity. Of course, you'll want to choose your study partners carefully, making sure they're as motivated and focused as you are. When you find this group, you'll be amazed at the difference it makes in your schedule. You'll be more motivated to keep your schedule on track when you're meeting with others, and by collaborating and exchanging ideas you'll probably get your work done much faster.

Check Out this Handy Graph!

Maybe you've answered all those questions, but are still feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Here's a simple tool that can help you organize and prioritize your commitments. It only takes a moment to put together, but it can really lift a huge weight off your shoulders. Get a piece of paper and draw a big "t" in it to make 4 sections. Next, label the sections to make your graph look like this:

Now, it's just a matter of deciding which of your commitments goes into which box. Here's a little guide to help:

URGENT and IMPORTANT: Any work with an imminent deadline, such as that big exam on Monday, or the term paper due tomorrow morning.

URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT: Distractions (like an unexpected phone call from Mom), or the day-to-day commitments that just can't wait (such as laundry, filing a report, or making an agenda for a weekly club meeting).

NOT URGENT and IMPORTANT: Any work that requires focused and creative effort, but doesn't need to be done immediately. Also, any activity that's important to your health and happiness. Your group project that's due next month would go in this box, and so would family time, valuable social time, meditation, and quiet time for rest and recuperation.

NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT: "Time-wasters," such as video games, Facebook, TV, etc.

I bet you already know what comes next. Do the things in Box 1 FIRST. Don't try to do too many at once, just pick one thing (the thing that is the most urgent and the most important), and focus on doing only that one thing until it's done! Everything else can wait, which is why you didn't put it in Box 1 to begin with.

The items you placed in Box 2 (urgent but not important) are often what slow us up. As much as you possibly can, reschedule these things ("sorry Mom, can I call you back later?") or delegate them, to allow more time for the things in Box 1. If you absolutely can't reschedule those things, take care of them as soon as you finish the items in Box 1.

The items you placed in Box 3 (not urgent but important) can wait. They're very important, however, so make sure you schedule them later on, during a time when you won't be so busy (like after midterms are over, or once your paper is turned in, or during the weekend). Don't cut these things out, just plan them carefully so you can give them the time they deserve.

The items in Box 4 (not urgent and not important)? Forget 'em. Don't do 'em. They can wait until you have free time to waste again.

Usually, students who fill out this graph find that many of the things that were stressing them out can simply be rescheduled or cut out completely. Regardless, to have your commitments down on paper, where you can manage and organize them, instead of swirling around in your head and causing you anxiety, can be a great relief in itself.

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