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Master Time Management

Do you waste time during the day?

Wasting time during the day results in study tasks getting pushed to the evening (sometimes very late in the evening) and the weekend.

To use weekday time more effectively, start by pinpointing the periods when you usually waste time. Some of the most common ones are:

  • One or two hours between classes
  • Between the last class of the day and supper time
  • Sleeping in and wasting time in the morning before classes begin
  • Extending lunch or supper breaks so they’re too long.
  • Try some of these strategies to free up more time in the evenings and on weekends when there are usually more fun activities taking place.

Strategy #1: Make the most of time between classes

Many students believe that there isn't enough time to get anything significant done between classes. By the time you get a coffee, walk to the library or your room, and get settled with your books and computer, it's almost time to go to the next class.

So what's the point?

Here are some ideas that might help:

  • If you're not within five minutes walking distance of your res, apartment or the library, don't go there.
  • If there isn't another class coming in, stay in your classroom and work, or find an empty classroom, lounge, or space in a corridor nearby.
  • Go to the building where your next class will be and find an empty room there.
  • If the weather is nice, sit outside.
  • Stay away from food courts and restaurants ‐ they're like fly paper. Once you land there, you're stuck forever.
  • Let go of the myth that you can't get anything worthwhile done in less than several hours. Even ten minutes can be put to good use:
    • review and edit lecture notes
    • skim a chapter
    • study a chart or diagram
    • memorize a couple of vocabulary words or body parts
    • check a definition
    • formulate a question.

Strategy #2: Make the most of time before supper

If you’re tired after a day of classes:

  • Have an afternoon snack with protein rather than caffeine or sugar to keep your blood sugar level steady
  • Get a good night’s sleep to reduce sleepiness in the late afternoon
  • Don't do academic work that requires focused concentration right after a day of classes
  • Use late afternoon for checking e‐mail, making phone calls or photocopies, running errands, working out, or doing laundry or other housekeeping.

Strategy #3: Make the most of mornings

  • Whenever possible, go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
    • A regular sleep pattern is easier on your body, so it makes sense that it will be easier to get up at a time in tune with established, biological rhythms.
  • If you're not a morning person, realize it, accept it, and work around it.
    • Don't feel guilty or get hung up about when you think you should be getting up
    • Don't leave important study tasks for the morning to try to force yourself to get up. Chances are that your concentration will be less than ideal
  • If you don’t have classes until the afternoon, set up something structured in the morning to help you get a reasonable start.
    • For example, meet with a friend to hit the gym or go grocery shopping, or, if possible, schedule work or volunteer hours in the morning.

Strategy #4: Make the most of meal breaks

Meal times often become extended beyond what is desirable because students need this time ‐ to relax, to socialize, to digest what you’ve put into your body and your mind so far that day.

  • If extended meal breaks are a recurring problem for you, look at the rest of your day and ensure that you're getting the breaks you need.
  • Allow a reasonable amount of time for meals.
    • The rule of thumb is an hour for lunch and 1.5 – 2 hours for supper, even if you can eat in 20 minutes.
    • Breaks are essential to using time effectively. For more on this see Master Time Management: Boosting the Benefits of Breaks and Rewards.
  • If you're still finding it tough to get back to work after lunch or supper, here are some strategies to try:
    • Set up your class, lab and work schedule so you don't have more than an hour for lunch or two hours for supper
    • Schedule anything you can that involves other people (appointments, group meetings, workshops, etc.) for the time you'd like to get started after meals
    • Meet a friend after the meal to study together.

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