If you have four hours to study on a Tuesday night and four classes to study for, and you need to devote about the same amount of time to each one, should you study Class A for an hour, then Class B for an hour, then Class C, etc.? Actually, this is sort of a trick question. Everyone has a different attention span, and while this approach might be ideal for one student, it might be very unproductive for another. Regardless of age and background, many people have difficulty focusing for an entire hour on the same subject. Their minds tend to wander, they get bored and distracted, and they end up wasting much of the hour instead of actually learning the subject matter.
If you have a set routine for studying that is working for you just fine, there is no need to change anything. On the other hand, if you find yourself constantly getting off track during your study time, wondering, for instance, what your friends are up to on Facebook or checking your email constantly, it may well be because you are trying to study the same subject for too long, which has caused you to lose interest in the material. Ask yourself if your mind starts to wander after you have been studying for a while. If that is the case, then start experimenting by trying a different approach.
Try breaking each class session into shorter segments and rotating them. Spend a half hour on Calculus, a half hour on Statistics, a half hour on Chemistry, and a half hour on Biology. Once you have reached the end of the cycle, start over again. You will have spent the same amount of time on each subject, an hour, but you may well find that you get much more accomplished because you are able to stay focused for the entire time. Some people swear by 15-minute segments, but for many people that is not long enough because it is simply not enough time to delve into a subject. Thirty minutes seems to be the ideal length of time. If you find that half an hour is not long enough, try 45-minute time spans for your study periods. If you experiment, you will find what works best for you. Of course, there may be times when it is necessary to deviate from a shorter span, but that is usually because you have a deadline or test coming up in a certain class, which will make it easier to stay focused. For the most part, though, you should find a time span for studying that works well for you and stick with it.
Keep TV Time to a Minimum
If you want to be successful in college or high school, you must get used to watching very little television. When it comes to wasting time, there are few things in life that compare to the television. Every show is at least half an hour long, and these days it is often possible to choose between hundreds of channels if you have cable or satellite service. For many people, having all these different viewing choices is wonderful, but for a student it can spell disaster. Before cable and satellite TV were so ubiquitous, it was not nearly so hard to avoid spending too much time in front of the boob tube, but nowadays it seems as if there is always something “interesting” on, no matter what time of day or night it is.
Generally speaking, there is a direct correlation between how much TV a person watches and how successful he or she in life. Study after study has shown that on average, the more TV a person watches, the lower his or her income is. CEOs, surgeons, renowned entrepreneurs, and other high achievers simply do not spend much time sitting in front of a television. They are doers, not spectators. They make things happen; they do not watch them happen. The opposite is also true. The poorest segments of American society spend the most time watching TV. If you doubt this, just do an experiment. Turn on a daytime TV show, such as Divorce Court or Judge Judy, and check out the commercials. Many of them will be ads for truck driving schools, trade schools, and ambulance-chasing lawyers. These advertisers know who is watching TV during the day: the unemployed, as well as a fair number of people would rather sue someone for money than work for a living. These are the people who spend their lives watching television.
As a high school or college student, you simply do not have time for watching a lot of television. Even watching “for just a little while” has a way of turning into several hours, and you cannot afford that much of a time commitment. Do not watch TV on a regular basis; most days you should not even turn the television on. There certainly should never be a TV in your study area. TV is the greatest time waster of our age, and any time management plan that does not take this into account is flawed. Avoid watching TV as much as possible; you will get far more done, you will stay better focused on your goals, and your odds of success in both school and life will skyrocket.
Take Control of Your Mobile Phone
Cell phones, mobile phones, smart phones-no matter what you call them, there no denying that they have changed the way we communicate in America. Cell phones have also gotten increasingly sophisticated; much more than simple telephones, they continue to revolutionize our lives in amazing new ways. For most of us, our mobile phone is as much of a part of us as our shoes or socks; we rarely go anywhere without our phones. These amazing devices are certainly advantageous in many ways, but cell phones can also be a curse, and students need to take control of them, rather than letting their phones control them, as is too often the case.
To put it bluntly, cellular devices are responsible for much of the wasted time in a student’s life. Most young people spend far more time on their phones than they realize. Whether texting, talking, checking out Facebook, getting the latest sports scores, or playing one of the thousands of downloadable games available, most people in their late teens or early twenties fritter away several hours a week on their phones. If you are going to be successful at managing your time, this is one area in which you are going to have to crack down. Take an honest look at how much time you spend on your mobile phone, and if you are like the vast majority of young people, it is a lot more time than you realize. Frankly, much of that time is simply wasted. Here are three tips for taking control of your mobile phone, instead of letting it control you.
1. Do not give your number out to very many people. It is natural to want to be sociable and make new friends, but that does not mean that everyone you meet needs to have your phone number. Most of the people you meet will never be anything more than acquaintances. They do not need to be able to contact you on a whim. Give your cell phone number out only to people you know well. With this in mind, do not feel as if you are being rude if you decline when someone offers to give you his or her phone number. There is no need to be rude; just tell them that your phone book is getting pretty full.
2. Much of the time, you should keep your phone turned off. Unless you are on your scheduled free time and are caught up with all your goals and tasks for the week, texting, chatting, and other uses of your phone will serve as a distraction. How many times have you been in the middle of doing something productive, only to be interrupted by a phone call you thought would last a couple minutes? Before you know it an hour has gone by. Such situations have happened to everyone; however, you must be disciplined about keeping your phone turned off if success in school is going to be your top priority.
3. Stop taking your mobile phone with you every time you leave your dorm or your house. This will take some getting used to; at first it will feel very strange to be without your cell phone. Once you have gone without it a few times, however, you will begin to feel like a sense of freedom, much like smokers do when they finally kick the habit. In many ways, people are slaves to their phones, just like smokers are slaves to their cigarettes. So break the habit; next time you head to the campus library to study, leave your phone at home. You will be surprised how much more work you can accomplish.
Schedule Most of Your Social and Leisure Activities on Weekends
For some people, this will be one of the more unappealing time management techniques. Many of us have become accustomed to having fun on almost a full-time basis. In today’s society, such an attitude is understandable. Just think of the many sayings that reinforce the idea that having fun on a regular basis is one of the most important goals in life. “You are only young once.” “Nobody on his deathbed ever wished he’d spent more time at the office.” “Go for the gusto.” “You only live once.” You have heard them all, but if you are going to do well in high school or college, this kind of attitude will make it difficult to be successful.
Do not get the wrong idea, though. Having fun is important, and you need to do be able to relax and enjoy yourself frequently. However, for most students, the majority of your fun time should be on the weekends. Weekdays and weeknights should be dedicated to reaching your goal of success in high school or college. Your academic life must take priority during the week, or you will be setting yourself up for failure. It may seem old fashioned and boring to keep your nose to the grindstone during the week; in fact, there is no denying that studying every day and night is often boring. Doing so is boring mainly because there are usually a great many things you would rather be doing than studying. However, working hard during the week is how people become successful. It is how they have been doing it for millennia, and unless you are some sort of super genius, it is the only way you are going to become successful.
Another way to look at it, though, is to understand that saving most of your social and leisure activities for the weekend makes those activities much more enjoyable, because they do not become routine when you do them only two days a week. On top of this, because your weekends are going to be special, you will look forward to them more than most students, which can inspire you to stay on top of your daily and weekly goals. If you are caught up, or better yet, ahead on your studies and other obligations, you can enjoy your weekends without worry or anxiety about having to play catch up. This is not to say that you should not have any social or leisure activities during the week at all. You should, but they should be scheduled so that they do not interfere with your studies and other tasks.
Study groups are a great way to socialize while getting work done, and mealtimes are also perfect for socializing and having a good time. In case of something unusual that comes up, such as a basketball game that is really critical for your school’s playoff chances, it is okay for you to make rare exceptions to studying every single day. However, such instances must be infrequent, and you must keep in mind that you may need to hit the books on the weekend to make up for lost study time. To be honest, though, there really are not very many activities that are all that important in the scheme of things when compared to doing well in school. So it is best to stick to the books during the week and plan your fun times for the weekend. This is not to say you should not have some kind of fun every day (we’ll cover that in another tip), only that most of your fun should be had on the weekends.
Do not Let Your Job Interfere with Your Studies
One of the most difficult aspects of effective time management for high school and college students is balancing the demands of school, a social life, and a job. All three are necessities for the vast majority of students. It is the rare student these days who is fortunate enough not to have to work for spending or tuition money, but everyone need some sort of regular social life. Juggling all three areas of student life can get very tricky, and it is at this point that many students lose their way when it comes to effective time management. There are only so many hours in a day, and when one area of life suddenly demands more time and attention, that time and attention is going to have to come out of one of the other two areas.
Many times, unexpected demands on your time will arise from your job. Your supervisor will inform you that he is transferring you to another store, a job that will require more travel time, or let you know that you are going to have to start putting in more hours. Because you need the regular paycheck, you have to go along with these job changes, and something will have to give when it comes to the time you spend on either your studies or your social life. For too many students, the first choice is to spend less time studying. Do not make this mistake. It is true that social life is a necessity, but it is equally true that your studies must take priority over everything else. When you find that you need to cut back on something to make time for work, make sure you cut back on your socializing.
This is not to say that you should become a hermit. We are not suggesting that you have no social life at all; it is just that you will not be able to spend as much time socializing as you did before. Your studies are more important; that is the whole reason you are in school, and probably much of the reason you are working is to pay for school either now or in the future. So when you have to make adjustments to your schedule because of changes in your job situation, make sure the adjustments come out of your social time, not your study time. By the way, this is one very good reason that college students should look into scholarship jobs that are available on campus. It may not be “cool” to work in the dining hall or on a maintenance crew, but when you are working for the college or university, you can usually count on your manager or supervisor to work around your class and study schedule.