Time management in high school is incredibly important, but for most people, is limited in scope. By the time you get home from school and extracurricular activities there’s only a four hour window or so in which you can eat dinner, spend time with family, and do all of your homework. During the school day, there are pre-defined chunks of time which you have to yourself, and they may not be long enough to fit in anything but eating lunch.
In college, all of that structure goes out of the window! The only mandatory events you have are classes and even then, not all of them have graded attendance. Your mornings, afternoons, and nights are entirely yours to design, and this freedom feels incredibly liberating— when I got to college I felt like I was truly living for myself and my interests for the first time.
This is exciting until you realize that there is a lot to keep track of. It is incredibly easy to have meetings fall through the cracks, forget to wake up for your 8:00 AM, and feel overwhelmed as a result.
Given this, time management suddenly transforms from a yucky buzzword in high school to your best friend in college. It’s important to develop a system that works for you.
Personally, I have a two-part method. One is a pack of sticky notes I keep with me at all times on which I have a to-do list separated by category of activity and priority level. This is where I keep track of my homework and any tasks which need to be done that pop up during the day.
My google calendar is the other part of this method. I color code activities and schedule in classes, meetings, meals, time to go to the gym, and time to finish homework. Sometimes my plans change and that’s totally fine— it’s normal to skip a workout, have lunch with a friend go long, or need a nap. Nevertheless, I like having a suggested structure for how the day will run. Check out an example of a Monday without many meetings or club activities below! Impromptu activities pop up all the time— this doesn’t include the half hour I may have spent chilling in a friend’s room, the walk around Penn Park I took when the weather was nice outside, or a run to Gourmet Grocer to pick up a snack. However, it is a pretty good indication of what an average day looks like.
This method is an extension of how I operated in high school. Then, I had a planner in which I wrote down homework assigned to me during the day. In the planner was a sticky note with all my chunks of free time for the day written out along with what I intended to use that time for. Now, I find that google calendar fits the fluidity in my days better and is more useful for long term planning. A physical planner used to do this job but because so much of college life is on the go, it’s oftentimes easier to have an electronic system that can be accessed from a phone.
So far, the system is working for me. I have time to study, be involved in extracurriculars, have fun with friends, and take care of myself. I’m by no means perfect at this— there have been a few instances where it’s 11:30 PM and I’m struggling to get my homework in by 11:59— but for the most part I feel in control and content.
Taking a step back every few weeks is important too. At Penn people, classes, the environment around you, and your response to these factors move and change rapidly. I find it helpful to take time to reflect on where I’m directing my energies and if the output of that work will lead me to an outcome that I want, be it a stronger friendship or deeper learning in class.
Being organized and planning my days gives me the freedom to not constantly be thinking about where I need to be— my google calendar notifications do it for me! It helps me analyze how I spend my time, ensure that I’m sticking to my priorities, and build routines that give me comfort.
All of this can seem like a lot, but I promise that it’s worth it! You’re creating the life that you want for yourself and time management is simply a tool that enables you to build fulfillment. Have fun with it, and good luck!