Fresh. Fit. Focused.: Adding structure to your time management


Melissa Schmitz, Asst. Opinion Editor

The Cram-Collapse-Coast Method

Many students believe that very little, if any, structure is needed to be successful in school. “Winging it” can work if your classes have periodic work due (like papers) rather than day-to-day assignments. You follow this method if you have a vague sense of due dates and make to-do lists with no specific structure. You may not need the structure given your workload or it could be that you don’t feel like it.

This can be great for students who like a flexibility. However, the drawbacks are numerous. It can create chronic procrastination and lead to cramming. This prompts students to do the minimum amount of work, failing to meet one’s potential. It also fails to enforce work habits that will be useful in a future career (i.e., you need better time management skills for the real world).


The Weekly Planning Method

This method provides an additional level of structure. Basically, you take one day to plan out your week. Start by making a list of what needs to get done for the week, then schedule it. You end with a list of what you plan to accomplish each day. Simple, right? You just need the ability to prioritize tasks and keep up with deadlines. While this method requires motivation and planning, it is still a very simple way to keep organized.

This method works great if you love to cross off lists, since you’ll have a fresh one to tackle each day. Just realize that there are some days that you’ll be unable to cross off everything, so some degree of flexibility is crucial. This is great for reducing procrastination, but there are drawbacks. It can be easy to push off tasks that are difficult, boring, or overwhelming, so be sure to focus on breaking things down into small, digestible steps; try to save easy tasks for later. Thus, if you have problems with discipline it may be difficult to adjust.


The Segmented Method

This method splits up the day into morning, afternoon, and night. With this method you recognize the most productive parts of your day and fill in tasks that require more focus. For example, if you find you’re really productive in the morning, try to tackle your most difficult or boring tasks then. You don’t even have to be specific! You can label time as “focused time” or “easy time” and choose what class needs the most work on a given day.

This method works great for thwarting procrastination while still being relatively simple. It just requires more preparation and know-how to implement properly, because you need to set realistic goals and know how long tasks will take. For the latter, I recommend keeping a log of how long it takes to do each task. I discovered that it takes 30 minutes or less to type up notes, so I chopped off the extra 30 minutes I originally set aside for the task.


The Hourly Method

This method is by far the best to keep yourself feeling in control of your time. It works just as it sounds—tasks are scheduled on an hourly basis. This gives you a great picture of exactly how much work needs to get done and whether or not you can get it done in one day, as well as ensuring your “peak” times are planned wisely. In my case, I set aside the entire night after labs to work on the report while other days I allot time after each class to rewrite notes or start homework.

This method is very specific and seems very restrictive, but planning “flexible time” can help. It is a sophisticated method that can practically eliminate procrastination if kept up. The only problem is that it is difficult to keep up because it requires motivation, discipline, and thoughtful decisions on how best to spend your time.

One way to maintain this structure is to give yourself adequate breaks so you don’t burn out and quit. If you can study effectively in the presence of friends, plan some study time together for each class to keep each other focused. You may also consider creating calendar events on your phone to periodically remind you. Start off at one level higher than your organizational level and gradually work upwards.