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Social Sci LibreTexts

2.3: Organizing Your Time

  • Page ID
  • Learning Objectives

    1. Discover your time personality and know where your time goes.
    2. Understand the basic principles of time management and planning.
    3. Learn and practice time management strategies to help ensure your academic success.
    4. Know how to combat procrastination when it threatens to prevent getting your academic work done.
    5. Use a calendar planner and daily to-do list to plan ahead for study tasks and manage your time effectively.
    6. Learn effective time management techniques for students who work, students with family, and student athletes.

    This is the most important part of this chapter. When you know what you want to do, why not just sit down and get it done? The millions of people who complain frequently about “not having enough time” would love it if it were that simple!

    Time management isn’t actually difficult, but you do need to learn how to do it well.

    Time and Your Personality

    People’s attitudes toward time vary widely. One person seems to be always rushing around but actually gets less done than another person who seems unconcerned about time and calmly goes about the day. Since there are so many different “time personalities,” it’s important to realize how you approach time. Start by trying to figure out how you spend your time during a typical week, using Activity 2.

    Activity 2: Where Does the Time Go?

    See if you can account for a week’s worth of time. For each of the activity categories listed, make your best estimate of how many hours you spend in a week. (For categories that are about the same every day, just estimate for one day and multiply by seven for that line.)

    Category of activity Number of hours per week
    Eating (including preparing food)
    Personal hygiene (i.e., bathing, etc.)
    Working (employment)
    Volunteer service or internship
    Chores, cleaning, errands, shopping, etc.
    Attending class
    Studying, reading, and researching (outside of class)
    Transportation to work or school
    Getting to classes (walking, biking, etc.)
    Organized group activities (clubs, church services, etc.)
    Time with friends (include television, video games, etc.)
    Attending events (movies, parties, etc.)
    Time alone (include television, video games, surfing the Web, etc.)
    Exercise or sports activities
    Reading for fun or other interests done alone
    Talking on phone, e-mail, Facebook, etc.
    Other—specify: ________________________
    Other—specify: ________________________

    Now use your calculator to total your estimated hours. Is your number larger or smaller than 168, the total number of hours in a week? If your estimate is higher, go back through your list and adjust numbers to be more realistic. But if your estimated hours total fewer than 168, don’t just go back and add more time in certain categories. Instead, ponder this question: Where does the time go? We’ll come back to this question.

    Think about your time analysis in Activity 2. People who estimate too high often feel they don’t have enough time. They may have time anxiety and often feel frustrated. People at the other extreme, who often can’t account for how they use all their time, may have a more relaxed attitude. They may not actually have any more free time, but they may be wasting more time than they want to admit with less important things. Yet they still may complain about how much time they spend studying, as if there’s a shortage of time.

    People also differ in how they respond to schedule changes. Some go with the flow and accept changes easily, while others function well only when following a planned schedule and may become upset if that schedule changes. If you do not react well to an unexpected disruption in your schedule, plan extra time for catching up if something throws you off. This is all part of understanding your time personality.

    Another aspect of your time personality involves time of day. If you need to concentrate, such as when writing a class paper, are you more alert and focused in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Do you concentrate best when you look forward to a relaxing activity later on, or do you study better when you’ve finished all other activities? Do you function well if you get up early—or stay up late—to accomplish a task? How does that affect the rest of your day or the next day? Understanding this will help you better plan your study periods.

    While you may not be able to change your “time personality,” you can learn to manage your time more successfully. The key is to be realistic. How accurate is the number of hours you wrote down in Activity 2? The best way to know how you spend your time is to record what you do all day in a time log, every day for a week, and then add that up. Make copies of the time log in Figure 2.4 “Daily Time Log” and carry it with you. Every so often, fill in what you have been doing. Do this for a week before adding up the times; then enter the total hours in the categories in Activity 2. You might be surprised that you spend a lot more time than you thought just hanging out with friends—or surfing the Web or playing around with Facebook or any of the many other things people do. You might find that you study well early in the morning even though you thought you are a night person, or vice versa. You might learn how long you can continue at a specific task before needing a break.

    Figure 2.4 Daily Time Log


    If you have work and family responsibilities, you may already know where many of your hours go. Although we all wish we had “more time,” the important thing is what we do with the time we have. Time management strategies can help us better use the time we do have by creating a schedule that works for our own time personality.