Time management tips


Getting organized

1. Monitoring Time: We are all given the same resource of time = 168 hours per week. Find out how you are using your time. Use this calendar or a notebook, and write down in 15 minute intervals what you did with that period of time. This permits you to find out where your time is going.

2. To-Do List or Action List: Make a list of promises to yourself about what you are going to do for each day and for the week. This is a commitment that you are making to yourself that you will do what you say you will. You have 4 options with this list:

  • Do it now.
  • Get someone else to do it.
  • Schedule time to do it later.
  • Put it aside and come back to it later. (This one is not recommended for items on the list that are important).

3. Daily or Weekly Planner: Include scheduled appointments, work, classes, labs, study time, free time, family time, etc.

4. Long Term Calendar: When your get your course syllabi, put important due dates and test dates on a semester calendar. Include dates when you plan to start studying for the test or writing the paper.

Making the most of your time

Working Smarter (Not Harder)

  1. Be aware of your personal time bandits: What are the things that keep you from doing what you planned (such as the TV and telephone)? Try to keep these as a reward once you have completed your school related work.
  2. Find a good study area: Schedule some study time, turn off the TV, and at least turn down the stereo; leave a message on your answering machine saying that you are studying and will call them back later.
  3. Try to be somewhat flexible: Go with what works the best for you. Discover your prime time when you have the most energy, and study your hardest subjects during this time, if possible.
  4. Avoid marathon study sessions: Study for 50 – 60 minutes, and then take a 5 minute (non-TV) break.
  5. Use waiting time: Use time that you spend waiting for an appointment or your next class to review your 3x5 study cards.
  6. Learn to say "NO": Be assertive about protecting your planned time.

Working on large projects

  1. Write a plan: Make your plan answer questions such as: "When should I start?", What should I do first?", "What resources do I have, and what do I need?", "How long will I need?".
  2. Divide and conquer: Divide the project into manageable sections, and prepare a schedule for each section.
  3. Prepare the work area: Clear everything away except the material needed for the project. Have everything ready that you need.
  4. If you have started and are stuck:
  • Go back and do a different activity for a few minutes, such as proofreading what you have written, working on the bibliography, etc. Take a 5 – 10 minute break so that you can return to the project with a fresh perspective.
  • Change the environment; change rooms, go to the library.

Taking notes

  1. Record ideas in your own words; this improves learning and comprehension because you must think in order to do it. There also are times when you will want to record directly what the professor or text says.
  2. Be brief; only put down enough information to be sure that you can understand the idea. Leave out unnecessary words such as "a", "the", etc. Develop your own symbols. For example, the following sentence "organize your notes as soon as possible" could be shortened to "org. notes asap."
  3. Make notes about ideas, not just topic headings; put down enough so that you understand the information under the topic heading.
  4. Take as many notes as you conveniently can, but do not record everything. Taking notes keeps your mind alert and helps you recall information much later. There is a correlation between the number of good notes taken in class and good grades.
  5. Organize your notes as soon as possible; clarify any incomplete or confusing notes that you took in a rush and try to add any information that was given that you didn't have time to record.
  6. Put the information in block form; leave space between each separate idea or group of related points of information. This allows you to add additional information from your reading or lectures.
  7. Leave a wide space on the left side of your paper. Use this to write questions about what you read or heard, to add information, or to put key words to help you when you study.
  8. As you take notes, try to include information on Who?, What?, Where?, When?, How?, and Why?
  9. Before you begin taking notes, be prepared. Sit in the front row. Use a loose-leaf notebook with a separate section for each course; this allows you to re-organize, if necessary.

Taking notes for research (papers or speeches)

Use 3x5 cards; there are two kinds of research cards: source and information.

Source cards identify where the information is found. For ex., a source card on a book will show the title, author, publisher, date, and place of publication. Give each card a code, such as a number, the author's initials, etc. These cards will also serve as your bibliography. Information cards are used for writing your notes. At the top of each card, put the code for the source of the information. Write only one piece of information on each card so that you can sort them and reorganize them as you want.

Provided by the Center for Advising and Career Development, Washington State University