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Managing Your Time Better

Time is something of which we always do not have enough. Being a student is comparable to having a job. Many students find that this is supplemented by other part-time jobs and family and social responsibilities which add a great deal more time. A common student complaint, therefore, is that there is just not enough time to go around.

The job of being a student, like most other jobs, can be carried out either efficiently or inefficiently. The way we use time (or waste it) is largely a matter of habit patterns. One of the best techniques for developing more efficient habits of time use is to prepare a time schedule. The work habits of people who have achieved outstanding success invariably show a well-designed pattern or schedule.  When a person has several duties confronting him simultaneously he often will fail to do any of them. The purpose of scheduling is not to make a slave of the student, but to free him from the scholastic inefficiency and non-commitment anxiety that is, at least partially, a function of wasted time, inadequate planning, hasty, last minute study, etc.

Time scheduling will not make you a perfectly efficient person. Very few people can rigorously keep a detailed schedule day after day over a long period of time. In fact, many students who draw up a study schedule and find themselves unable to stick to it become impatient and often give up the scheduling idea completely.

The following method of organizing time has been helpful to many students and does not take much time. It is more flexible than many methods and helps the student to establish long term, intermediate, and short term time goals.

Long Term Schedule

Construct a schedule of your fixed commitments only. These include only obligations you are required to meet every week, e.g., job hours, classes, church, organization meetings, etc.

Intermediate Schedule

One per week

Now make a short list of major events and amount of work to be accomplished in each subject this week. This may include non-study activities. For example:

  • Quiz Wednesday
  • Paper Tuesday
  • Ball game Tuesday night
  • Finish 40 pages in English by Friday
  • Finish 150 pages in History by Friday

These events will change from week to week and it is important to make a new list for each week. Sunday night may be the most convenient time to do this.

Short Term Schedule

One per day

On a small note-card each evening before retiring or early in the morning make out a specific daily schedule. Write down specifically what is to be accomplished. Such a schedule might include:

Wednesday :

• 8:00 - 3:30   School
• 3:30 - 5:30   Soccer practice
• 5:30   Shower and change
• 6:00   Dinner
• 6:30 - 8:00   Geometry problems
• 8:00 - 9:00   Read history
• 9:00 - 9:30   French vocabulary
• 9:30 - 10:00   Journal
• 10:00 -   Phone calls

Carry this card with you and cross out each item as you accomplish it. Writing down things in this manner not only forces you to plan your time but in effect causes you to make a promise to yourself to do what you have written down.

Study at the Same Time Every Day

In so far as possible, a student should schedule certain hours which are used for studying almost every day in a habitual, systematic way. Having regular hours at least five days a week will make it easier to habitually follow the schedule and to maintain an active approach to study.

Make Use of the Free Hours During the School Day

Many students have study hall or homeroom period. Use these times to review notes, do assignments, or do research in the library.

Space Study Periods

Relaxation periods of ten or fifteen minutes should be scheduled between study periods. It is more efficient to study hard for a definite period of time, and then stop for a few minutes, than attempt to study on indefinitely.

Plan for Weekly Reviews

At least one hour each week for each class (distinct from study time) should be scheduled. The weekend is a good time for review.

Leave Some Unscheduled Time for Flexibility

This is important! Lack of flexibility is the major reason why schedules fail. Students tend to over-schedule themselves.

Allot Time for Planned Recreation, School and Church Activities, Etc.

When a student plans his schedule, he should begin by listing the activities that come at fixed hours and cannot be changed. Classes, eating, sleep, job, church activities, soccer practice, and flute lessons are examples of time uses which the student typically cannot alter. Next, he can schedule his flexible time commitments. These hours can be interchanged with other hours if he finds that his schedule must be changed during the week. Recreational activities, including watching television and talking on the phone with friends, are planned last.

When forced to deviate from his planned schedule (and that will invariably occur), the student should trade time rather than steal it from his schedule. Thus, if he has an unexpected visitor at a time he has reserved for study, he can substitute an equal amount of study time for the period he had set aside for recreation.

Improving Your Concentration

Do you have trouble concentrating on your work when you are studying? Here are some time-tested, effective tips to use to help concentration during studying.

Set aside a place for study and study only!

Do you have a place for study you can call your own? As long as you are going to study, you may as well use the best possible environment. Of course, it should be reasonably quiet and relatively free of distractions like radio, TV, and people. But that is not absolutely necessary. Several surveys suggest that 80% of a student's study is done in his own room, not in a library or study hall. A place where you are use to studying and to doing nothing else is the best of all possible worlds.

After a while, study becomes the appropriate behavior in that particular environment. Then, whenever you sit down in that particular niche in the world you'll feel like going right to work. Look at it this way; when you come into a classroom, you sit down and go to work by paying attention to the instructor. Your attitude and attention and behavior are automatic because in the past, the room has been associated with attentive listening and not much else. If you can arrange the same kind of situation for the place where you study, you will find it easier to sit down and start studying.

Insure that your study area has the following:

  • good lighting, ventilation, a comfortable chair, but not too comfortable (you don't want to wake up next Tuesday), a desk large enough to spread out your materials.

Insure that your study area does not have the following:

  • a good view (for example: pretty girls or handsome guys walking by), a telephone, a loud stereo or radio, a 27-inch color TV, a sociable/talkative roommate or friend, a refrigerator stocked with scrumptious goodies.

Divide your work into small, short-range sub-goals

Before you begin an assignment, write down on a sheet of paper the time you expect to finish. Keep a record of your goal setting. This one step will not take any time at all. However, it can be extremely effective. It may put just the slightest bit of pressure on you, enough so that your study behavior will become instantly more efficient. Keep the goal sheets as a record of your study efficiency. Try setting slightly higher goals in successive evenings. Don't try to make fantastic increases in rate. Just increase the goal a bit at a time.

Don't set a goal as vague and large as ... "I am going to spend all day Saturday studying!" You will only set yourself up for failure and discouragement.

Take the time block that you have scheduled for study and set a reachable study goal. Set small, short-range sub-goals for yourself.  Divide your assignment into subsections. Set a time when you will have finished the first page of the assignment, etc. If you are doing math, set a time goal for the solution of each problem. In other words, divide your assignments into small units. Set time goals for each one. You will find that this is a way to increase your ability to study without daydreaming.

If your mind wanders...
…stand up and face away from your books. Don't sit at your desk staring into a book and mumbling about your poor will power. If you do, your book soon becomes associated with daydreaming and guilt. If you must daydream, and we all do it occasionally, get up and turn around. Don't leave the room, Just stand by your desk, daydreaming while you face away from your assignment. The physical act of standing up helps bring your thinking back to the job. Try it! You'll find that soon just telling yourself, "I should stand up now," will be enough to get you back on track.

Stop at the end of each page, and count to 10 slowly when you are reading. This is an idea that may increase your study time, and it will be quite useful to you if you find you can't concentrate and your mind is wandering. If someone were to ask you, "What have you read about?" and the only answer you could give is, "About thirty minutes," then you need to apply this technique. But remember, it is only useful if you can't concentrate -- as a sort of emergency procedure.

Set aside a certain time to begin studying

Certain behavior usually is habitual at certain times of the day. If you examine your day carefully, you'll find that you tend to do certain things at predictable times. There may be changes from day to day, but generally parts of your behavior are habitual and time controlled.  If you would be honest with yourself, you'd realize that time controlled behavior is fairly easy to start. The point is that if you can make studying - or at least some of your studying - habitual it will be a lot easier to start. And if the behavior is started at a habitual time, you will find that it is easier to start. And if the behavior is started at a habitual time, you will find that it is easier to get going without daydreaming or talking about other things.

Don't start any unfinished business just before the time to start studying

Most people tend to think about jobs they haven't finished or obligations they have to fulfill much more than things that they have done and gotten out of the way. Uncompleted activities tend to be remembered much longer than completed ones. If we apply that idea to the habit of daydreaming, you might suspect that uncompleted activities and obligations would be more likely to crop up as a source of daydreaming than completed ones. Therefore, when you know you're about to start studying because it's the time you select to begin, don't get involved in long discussions. Try to be habitual with the time you start, and be careful what you do before you start studying.  This can be one way to improve your ability to concentrate.

Keep a reminder pad

Another trick that helps increase your ability to concentrate is to keep pencil and paper by your notebook. If while you're studying you happen to think about something that needs to be done, jot it down. Having written it down you can go back to studying. You'll know that if you look at the pad later, you will be reminded of the things you have to do. It's worrying about forgetting the things you have to do that might be interfering with your studying.

Relax completely before you start to study

One approach to concentration is to ask yourself, "Do study and bookwork scare me?" If you have to do something unpleasant, something that you know you may do badly, how do you react? Probably, you put it off as long as possible, find yourself daydreaming, and would welcome reasons to stop studying. If you do react this way, you might be said to suffer from learned book-anxiety. The key to breaking this book-anxiety daydream series is learning how to relax. When you are physically, deeply, and completely relaxed, it is almost impossible to feel any anxiety. Associate the book with relaxation, not with tension and anxiety. When you study, study; when you worry, worry. Don't do both at the same time.

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