Time Management: 6 Steps for Creating a Weekly Schedule

When I first tell them, college students find it hard to believe that after classes, studying, eating, sleeping, clubs/teams, and grooming, they can still have between 20-40 hours of time each week solely to themselves without having to worry about any of the above. Where is all of that time going?

The simple answer is that we all (including professionals…AKA ME) tend to waste more time than we think we do. In my defense, however, I’ve been focusing on trying to help students stay on track with their own time management and strategies for success this semester, which has kept me from blogging for a while!

The 10min Study Session Example

Typically, if a college student has back to back classes, there are about 10 minutes in between each that they are given as travel time. Assuming you have 5 classes, you should have about 40 minutes between your classes per day for travel time. Now, lets also assume that you live on campus (dorms or apartments), it may take you roughly 10 minutes in the morning to walk over to class and about 10 minutes in the evening going home.

Adding these all up, you’ve spent about an hour traveling around campus from various places each day (5 hours a week). Now, the real question is what are you doing during that hour each day? Some of you may be listening to music trying to drown out everything that is happening around you. Others may be having a phone conversation via text or voice. Then again, you can also find the students who are complaining about how much homework a professor just assigned them last minute. While there is nothing wrong with having that time to unwind, there are multiple things that can be done in each of those ten minute segments that are more useful for reducing your studying later on.

Image: http://spanishplans.org/memes/teacher-memes-5/
Image: http://spanishplans.org/memes/teacher-memes-5/

In those ten minutes before and after class, you can be reviewing the notes you just took and solidifying the information you’ve learned. You can also be prepping yourself for the next class you’re headed to by looking over any notes you’ve taken on the readings, or even just looking through the syllabus to have an idea of what you’ll be talking about that day. Many skeptics of this say that 10 minutes between classes is barely enough time to breathe let alone study, but I believe that if students understood what it actually meant to study, they would rethink that sentiment and be on board (for the most part) with the suggestion I just gave.

Does this suggestion seem a bit obsessive? Well sure! If you’re going to try and utilize every minute of each day, you’ll find that you’ve taken on a lot more stress than you needed to. The point of managing your time efficiently isn’t to cause stress, it’s to help relieve stress and understand where you can find the best use of your time. One starting point of getting yourself on track is by creating and learning how to efficiently use a schedule.

Design an “Ideal” Weekly Schedule

Think of an ideal weekly schedule as a template that outlines where and when you’re spending your time doing things. Take this Sample Schedule for example; this student will be done with classes, studying, eating, sleeping, and work all by 7:30pm each day! It’s hard to believe that a full-time college student could have so much free-time, but it’s entirely possible if he/she were to manage their time correctly. The example schedule creation that you will see in a moment is only one of many ways you can successfully manage your time. By no means will I say to you that my method is “the best” – students constantly show me new ways of designing and implementing time management schedules. Be creative and explore what will help you find enjoyment in scheduling your time more efficiently!

The 6 Steps of Designing a Weekly Schedule

  • Step 1: Find/create a blank weekly template that includes Saturday and Sunday.
    • I personally have been using one created by Vertex42, which will also be the template I’ll be using in this post. They have multiple schedule templates including daily, weekly, monthly, etc. free of charge.
    • However, if you’re not good with using Microsoft Excel, or you just don’t feel like it, you can always create a handwritten schedule that will work just as well
    • Click on the images to enlarge them, in case the photos are too small.
  • Step 2: This is the first step where you will begin adding all of the things you HAVE to get done throughout the week. In this screenshot, I’ve begun by adding in all of the courses.
All classes have been added since as a college student, these should be top priority!
All classes have been added since as a college student, these should be top priority!
  • Step 3: Next, we’ll add in our employment/work schedule times (not to be confused with study time).

    There is more work later on in the day, but the morning/afternoon are the only times being displayed currently.
    There is more work later on in the day, but the morning/afternoon are the only times being displayed currently.
  • Step 4: Now, begin adding in all of your meal times. You’ll notice that all mealtimes are relatively consistent, which helps form habits of doing things at a certain time and make things feel more “second nature”. But as you’ll see in later examples, consistency isn’t always feasible for every student.

    Notice that the student has started adding breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all 7 days.
    Notice that the student has started adding breakfast and lunch for all 7 days.
  • Step 5: This is the fun step where you get to add in your soon-to-be favorite pastime… SLEEP!  Put in the time that you would like to go to sleep during school nights as well as when you would like to sleep in until on the weekends.
    This student would be in bed/asleep by 11pm on all school nights.
    This student would be in bed/asleep by 11pm on all school nights.

    You'll notice that you'll actually have time to sleep in until 10 or 11am, but this student doesn't want to break their habits and chooses to wake up at 9am on the weekends in order to get the day started.
    You’ll notice that you’ll actually have time to sleep in until 10 or 11am, but this student doesn’t want to break their habits and chooses to wake up at 9am on the weekends in order to get the day started.
  • Step 6: Finally, you’ll want to begin adding in your study time.
    • But before we do so: what does it mean to be a full-time college student? Well, basically the same thing as being a full-time employee: 40-50 hours devoted to your job each week.
    • School is a 40+ hour/week job that we need to make sure we show up to!

      Notice how much free time (white space) that this student has! This is time that can be kept for yourself, clubs/events, significant others, etc.
      Notice how much free time (white space) that this student has! This is time that can be kept for yourself, clubs/events, church, significant others, etc.

The Importance of Blocking out Study Time

It’s extremely important for you to add in the blocks of time that you should be using to study. Otherwise, you can start to confuse study time with free time and the next thing you know NOTHING will get done in a timely manner. Look at this schedule, which doesn’t include food, sleep, nor studying.

Nothing is inherently wrong with a this schedule, but when trying to form good time management habits, you should lay out EXACTLY where your time will be going and when.
Nothing is inherently wrong with this schedule; but when trying to form good time management habits, you should lay out EXACTLY where your time will be going and when.

Now, please tell me that you wouldn’t look at all of that white space and say to yourself, “I’ll just do that assignment ‘later’, I’ve got tons of time”. Go ahead and tell me you wouldn’t; I love the way you lie.

Image: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3snndf
Image: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3snndf

Not blocking out times of the day that you will deliberately use for study time is going to lead to chaos and confusion, which will then lead to all-nighters and caffeine overloads. Cal Newport in his book “How to Become a Straight-A Student” labels this phenomenon as “Pseudo-Working”. Pseudo-working is essentially spending lots of time studying but only doing so with an intensity of a 3 on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the least, 10 being the most). His philosophy is that if students were to study in shorter bursts of high intensity, they’ll notice that they can get as much work done in shorter time frames as they would have in that 10-hour study-athon they had last weekend. In a later blog post, I’ll go over different ways to keep yourself in check when it comes to staying focused while studying and preventing yourself from pseudo-working.

Concluding Thoughts

College is not about working HARDER, it’s about working SMARTER and more EFFICIENTLY. Organizing your time and making the most of any “downtime” in your schedule will help you to realize that you have much more time than you thought!

Real Student Schedule Examples

Here are some examples of other schedules that students have created:

  • Abby

    Abby
    Image: http://spanishplans.org/memes/teacher-memes-5/
  • Loren

    Loren
    Notice that the latest this student has to study is 8pm and only Monday-Thursday.
  • Sydney

    Sydney
    This student took her schedule a step further by designating each study time to a specific course as well as scheduling in her free time. This will help her stay accountable and focused on whatever it is she should be doing at a specific time.
  • Tyller

    Tyller
    Here is yet another student who decided it would be in her best interest to designate her study times to specific courses.
  • Monthly

    Monthly Example
    Some students prefer to just have their assignments laid out for them a month or so at a time.
  • Weekly To-Do List

    Weekly Planner.png
    There are also many students who prefer to manage their time in the shape of to-do lists.

All schedules have been used with consent of the student they represent.

Featured Photo: http://quotesgram.com/time-management-quotes-funny/

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