A woman looking at her schedule on her computer.

Attending college online can be a challenging experience for many students. Juggling assignments, projects, exams, a career, and other responsibilities can be difficult and ultimately lead many students to feel overwhelmed and burned out. 

According to licensed psychologist William Knause, roughly 90% of college students struggle with improper time management and procrastination. However, by following certain methods, you can greatly improve your time management abilities and experience less last-minute stress.

Here are 10 of the most helpful tips and tricks that can help you improve your time-management skills, stay productive, and produce quality work. 

 Tips and Tricks for Successful Time Management

  1. Create a schedule: When designing a schedule, it is important to set realistic expectations. This means that if you want to get several assignments done in just one day, then it is smart to dictate which of those assignments takes priority, as completing all of them in one day might not be feasible. “I highly recommend utilizing Google Calendar to manage your time and plan out when you will be working on classes throughout the week. Since Global Campus classes are asynchronous, this really helps you set consistent times to work on assignments and readings,” said Ezra Kitchings, a student success advisor at SDSU Global Campus. Scheduling your day on platforms like Google Calendar is especially helpful, as it allows you to schedule assignments and meetings throughout the week and is linked to your Google account. Simply put, any meeting that you will attend or have been invited to via Gmail will automatically sync into your calendar.
  2. Prioritize your well-being: To be a successful student, you need to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself can look a little bit different for everyone. Although eating nutritious meals and moving your body is important for everyone, it’s also important for each person to dedicate time to spend partaking in their favorite hobbies and activities. “Include regular study times into your calendar, with a few extra times added in for when life throws a curveball. Make sure to schedule some rest, relaxation, and fun,” said Victoria Cafasso, an admissions advisor at SDSU Global Campus. It’s important to dedicate chunks of time towards personal fulfillment and your well-being. Otherwise, you won’t be able to contribute your best efforts to your work.
  3. Identify the biggest distractions: When trying to manage your time more effectively, the first step to take is to identify and limit distractions. For many students, this may look like spending too much time on the phone, watching too many YouTube videos, or not staying focused on the task at hand. Once you finish identifying your distractions, you should then find ways to limit them. For example, if your phone has proven to be distracting, then downloading an app that locks you out of certain apps or leaving your phone in a separate room while you work is a great way to minimize that distraction.
  4. Identify your most productive period of the day: Figuring out what time of day is your most productive period is another great step to take to improve your time management abilities. Although research shows that the majority of people are most efficient in the morning, that certainly is not the case for everyone. Therefore, it is important to dictate the time of day when you are the most productive. Once you decide if you’re a morning, evening, or afternoon person, you should plan to complete the most difficult and time-consuming tasks during your prime time. By following this technique, not only will you see improvements in the quality of your work, but in your efficiency as well.
  5. Minimize multitasking: Humans are simply not built for multitasking. Although reading emails and texts periodically and scrolling through social media in between tasks is very appealing, the consequences are not worth it. According to Indeed, a website dedicated to outlining career trends and job postings, it usually takes about 23 minutes to refocus when switching between activities, which results in a 40% loss of productivity. This means that focusing on one assignment at a time is the best way to make your time worthwhile.
  6. Remain flexible: Even though creating and following a schedule is an integral part of managing your time, being flexible in unexpected situations is also key. Surprises happen nearly every single day, but it should not be an excuse to waste your time on pointless activities. Instead of letting your day fall to shambles because of a surprise event or task, it’s best to take a moment and think about how you can incorporate that into your schedule. That way, you can block off time to enjoy the spontaneity of an unexpected event or finish a last-minute assignment, while also finishing your other daily assignments.
  7. Stay consistent: Consistency is key. Although having the ability to be flexible is important in unexpected scenarios, remaining consistent is crucial when managing your time effectively. The best way to stay consistent is to practice habits that encourage productivity and efficiency. For example, if you identify your phone as a distraction, then consider making a habit of not scrolling on it until after all your work is completed. If you consistently follow this step and make a habit of it, then you will see an improvement in your time management abilities.
  8. Limit technology use: Even if using your phone or laptop is not a primary distraction, minimizing technology use is still highly recommended when implementing time management techniques. Although communicating via text message or email may seem like the most convenient way to reach out to your coworkers, it can sometimes lead to more distractions. This is because words and ideas can be misinterpreted or not understood over the phone. Therefore, talking face-to-face with your coworkers can be more effective than emailing or texting them, as it allows you to clarify any misunderstandings right away.
  9. Set boundaries: As a busy college student, people will always try to reach out to you. Even though responding immediately may seem satisfying, it can also lead to losing valuable time. According to the Harvard Business Review, it can take up to 20 minutes to regain your initial momentum after switching tasks. This means that responding to an email or sending a quick message might be more time-consuming than you think. Therefore, allowing yourself to check your messages or email account only during certain times is a great way to improve your time management skills. With this technique, you can reply to messages every few hours, while not losing focus on other vital tasks.
  10. Follow the 80/20 rule: According to Forbes, the 80/20 rule was developed by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, in 1897. Through studying the economic landscape of several countries, Pareto realized that 80% of the results and outputs are a result of the 20% of input and action. Although completing 20% of your assignments won’t result in the other 80% being finished as well, you can still use this rule when improving your time management abilities. You can do so by spending 80% of your time working on assignments and other productive matters and 20% of your time doing things you enjoy. For example, if you spend two hours studying for an upcoming exam, then you should spend the next thirty minutes taking a break and giving your brain some time to rest. By using this technique, you will not only see improvements in your productivity and time management but also in your overall well-being.

Time management is an issue that many college students struggle with. However, each of these techniques can lead to a better use of your time. By following each of these steps, you will slowly but surely increase your productivity and use your time more effectively.