Easy Time Management Tips for Students

I’ve seen students fail out of college. Many times, in fact. And I can’t recall a single time that their unsuccessful academic experiences were due to a lack of intellect. What was it? Lack of time management skills. Full stop. Time management tips are all over the internet, but here are mine. I’m a bit biased, but I love them!

Time management is one of the most important skills for you to master as a college student. In my opinion, it’s the most important skill to help you succeed. And not just in college, either. The need for time management skills doesn’t vanish once you’re out in the “real world.”

You have a lot of things on your plate, and it might be difficult for you to know how to best allocate your time. That’s why I have provided you with some time management tips and tricks on how to better manage life so you can be successful in all areas.

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How To Get Started With Time Management

Before anything else… get a freaking planner! PUH-LEASE!

I’ll come back to this, but get one ordered! I love the following two planners because they are simple and straightforward!

Grab a weekly planner if you want to plan out a week at a time. This is my preferred kind of planner because you can see the whole week at a glance. I would say this is what most students (and people) use.

This planner gives you space to plan out each hour of your day.

If you have ADHD like me, or you’re super motivated to tackle each day and want to stay on task, this daily planner is perfect for you!

Some people will actually use both a weekly and daily planner. It’s all a matter of personal preference and what time management techniques work best for you.

Draw a picture of what you want your life to look like in 10 years

I’m not kidding. This will help! This is your ultimate WHY.

Where do you want to be in 10 years? Do you want to be in grad school? Married with a career? Kids? In a house in the country? What will you do in your free time? Draw it all!

Put the picture in a frame where you can see it every day. This will help you focus your energy on what you need to accomplish to get one step closer to that picture. If you don’t know why you’re ultimately trying to improvement your time management skills, it won’t be as effective.

Know what your immediate goal is | Find your immediate WHY

If you are totally out of control with your time, and you’re trying to calm the chaos, you’re probably going to be overwhelmed. Remember WHY you are trying to manage your time better.

Are you tired of handing in assignments late? Sick of working under pressure? Exhausted from pulling all-nighters? Want to stop cramming for tests?

You need to figure the immediate benefits of time management for your own situation. The picture is your long-term goal; how is learning how to manage your time better going to help you NOW? (ex: it will help me get all of my homework on time; I will have more energy so I don’t fall asleep in class, etc)

Setting SMART goals is one of my time management tips.

Set SMART goals

What are SMART goals? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Specific – What are you going to achieve? Make sure it’s specific enough! Don’t just say “I will do well in school”. Instead, a more specific goal would be, “I will earn all As and Bs until I graduate from college in May 2025.”

Measurable – Can you measure the goal? How do you know if you’ve achieved it? My example will be achieved when I graduate, and I can see if I met it by looking at my grades.

Achievable – Can you actually accomplish the goal you wrote down? If you say you are going to earn all As and Bs when you normally get Bs, Cs, and Ds…. that doesn’t seem realistic, does it? Maybe a more achievable goal for you would be all Bs and Cs. SMART goals are there to keep you motivated – not to discourage you. By all means, shoot for all As and Bs – surpass your goal if it’s within your reach!

Relevant – How does your goal relate to your larger goal you drew in that “10 years from now” picture? Why is this particular goal important? Maybe grades are important because you want to go onto graduate school for a master’s degree. And to get better grades, maybe you need to attend 100% of classes and turn 100% of your assignments in on time.

Time-Bound – When will this goal be achieved? For my example, it will be until I graduate in May 2025. You can’t say “in the future”; provide a specific date.

After writing down your first SMART goal for your ultimate destination in 10 years, write a few more.

Now it’s time to get to the actual management of your time!

Time Management Tips

Complete a time audit

Where are you spending your time? Do you really know? Fill out a time audit worksheet for at least three typical days: one day on the weekend, and two typical weekdays.

Once that is completed, take a look at where you spend your time. Are you using your time in a way that will help you achieve your goals? What changes can you make? Maybe you spend three hours a day on social media. That’s a no-brainer. That’s three hours a day you could have spent studying or working towards your ultimate goal somehow.

Use your planner

Every hour has a job

There should be absolutely no white space left on that time grid.

Did you block out time to study?

Create a routine

What will you do every morning before leaving your home? Write it all down. What will you do in the evening when you return home before you go to sleep?

Do you need to adjust your sleeping habits? I know I’m not very productive on little sleep; most people aren’t.

Plan out your semester

Read my post about the 4 easy steps to take in order to plan out your entire semester as far as assignments are concerned.

Plan out each week on Sunday

If you have a work schedule that fluctuates each week, you will need to move around your studying blocks, etc. Maybe ask your boss to give you a more regular schedule if it’s at all possible.

You make think I’m being ridiculous, but if you plan out your entire week, you will know what you should be doing and when. There will be no ambiguity.

Write down your Most Important Tasks (MITs) each night

Pick three things – just THREE – that you consider to be of the highest priority for the following day. Maybe yours will be about finishing an assignment, studying for a test, going to the doctor, meeting with an instructor, paying your monthly bills, etc. Write down whatever YOU deem to be MITs that you absolutely have to get done the following day.

If you’re an early bird, consider waking up earlier

It’s so quiet and peaceful in the early morning hours when the majority of people are still asleep. This is a good time to make potential changes to your daily schedule and determine your MITs.

Stop trying to multi-task

Did you know that multi-tasking really isn’t even a thing, anyway? Humans are wired to work on one thing at a time. What you’re really doing is task-switching.

The Cleveland Clinic explains why multi-tasking doesn’t work.

Manage distractions

This seems easy enough, right? Riiiight. Out of all of my time management tips, this one might be the most difficult!

Look at how many distractions that is!

There are so many things demanding your attention. If you need to leave your dorm/apartment/house to get your work complete, then do so. Find a quiet place where you can focus.

Turn off your phone notifications! Or better yet, turn off your phone.

And don’t hop on social media for “just a few minutes.” You know how those black holes suck you in! haha I just had to close my tab for Facebook because I was allllll over the place with where I was putting my focus.

Make them wait

You don’t have to answer every text message or email as soon as you get one.

Block out a time in your time grid for replying. A lot of people call this method batch processing.

Learn to say “no”

This is the hardest tip in this list for some people. But this is when you need to be selfish. If your friend wants to go out to eat, but you have a big exam or you’re behind on a big assignment that’s due the next day, you may have to tell him/her no. It’s hard, right?

I’m not saying stop all socializing. In fact, if you’re managing your time effectively, you probably could go get something to eat with your friend because you’ll have studied enough for the exam.

If have to choose between two things, choose the one that is going to help you reach your goals faster.

Break big assignments/projects down into smaller tasks

Write out the things you need to do before you’re able to complete your essay/assignment, and write those in your calendar or planner, spacing out tasks appropriately.

Never heard of this? Read more about how to break down big assignments into smaller tasks.

Keep your workspace clean and stay organized

There’s nothing worse than knowing you have something you need, but not being able to find it because you’re a slob. Trust me, I know. I know that all too well. Just the other day, I knew I had my health insurance card out, but then I couldn’t find it on the day I needed it… it was under some papers. That’s not the kind of anxiety you need before going to class.

I once had a 20-minute presentation. Holy shit, that consisted of me making a LOT of notes for a LOT of different books, articles, etc. Organization and a clean workspace helped tremendously. And because I had procrastinated on it, I had to work on it during my Thanksgiving break.

Stop being a perfectionist

If you’re letting three of your classes slide because you’re worried about getting things done perfectly for two of your other classes, just stop. STOP.

All perfectionism does to us is STRESS US OUT! Who needs more stress in their lives? I know I don’t. So I stopped striving perfection a long time ago. It’s OKAY if you don’t get an A on everything. Remember that your short-term goal needs to be achievable. Perfectionism isn’t achievable because it just doesn’t exist.

Use all your little pockets of time wisely

Take notes or notecards with you wherever you go. Doctor appointments, your kid’s concert, on an airplane, etc.

Pull out those notes every time you have to wait for more than a few minutes. You know… like a doctor appointments. 😉

Utilizing that extra time will build up more than you can imagine!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

You can’t always do it all, and you shouldn’t have to. Even you single moms out there!

Utilize your resources like tutoring, a library, family, neighbors, etc. Ask for what you need – there’s no shame in needing help!

Celebrate your successes

You don’t have to wait until your SMART goal is achieved before you can celebrate. Sometimes all you need to keep going is a small “win”, so celebrate.

Just remember to schedule for it. 😉

The Benefits of Time Management

There are a lot of benefits you gain when you’re able to effectively use the time management tips above.

Productivity will skyrocket

If you’re scheduling your time effectively, you’ll be able to get things done in a more timely manner.

Clear goals

Remember that you’re writing out your MITs for each day. Now you don’t have to spend so much time thinking about what you should do next on any given day. You’ve got it all planned out!


Focusing will be a lot easier because you’ll have eliminated distractions and said “no” to things that aren’t going to help you achieve your goals.

No late work

You will no longer be late with your assignments or projects

No missed appointments

If you stick to the schedule you created for the week, you’ll remember where you need to be and when – you won’t forget appointments, review sessions, etc.

Less stress!!

You’ll be a lot less stressed! If you’ve made a true SMART goal that’s achievable, you’ll know what to do, when and where to do it, so there’s no guesswork or decision-making happening to slow you down.


When you get your shit together, it feels good! Turning all of your work in on time, making time to study so you do better on tests, no longer being late for meetings or appointments, etc. Those small wins will start accumulating immediately, and they will help build your confidence!

The Drawbacks of Time Management

No one ever talks about the downside of using time management tips effectively. I don’t want to discourage you – remember what I said about why many students fail. I also don’t want to make it seem like managing your time better is going to be easy. It’s a process.

Less socializing

You may have to socialize less to fit in things you need to get done. By no means should you completely stop socializing – you need work/life balance like everyone else!

Going to bed earlier

I put this in as a drawback for the night owls out there. Morning work hours or classes can be brutal. Though getting more rest is actually a benefit, I knew you might be complaining about having to go to bed earlier. 😉

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Go Back To Paper Planners

I hear you. You hate paper planners. You do you! The weekly planner and daily planner I recommended are the traditional kind of planners I used in college.

I just really love a planner I can hold in my hands. It’s easier for me to navigate, and it doesn’t put more strain on my eyes.

Final Thoughts

One of the most important things that contributes to college success is time management. Unfortunately, many students don’t realize that until it’s far too late. If you catch it early enough, managing your days with at least some of my time management tips can make all the difference in what grades you earn. The benefits far outweigh the costs.

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