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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
  • Time between classes and dinner
  • Time in the morning before classes begin
  • Lunch or dinner breaks that become very long
  • Long blocks of unplanned time

Try some of these strategies to use your time more efficiently.

Strategy #1: Make the most of time between classes

Using a limited block of time, like an hour or two between lectures, is an opportunity to be efficient and focused in your work. 

  • If you take classes in person, find a study space within 5 minutes of your classroom. Go to the library or find a space in an empty classroom or on a bench in a hallway.
  • Choose a study goal that can be done in a few minutes:
    • 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 dinner

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, get exercise, 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.
    • Set aside 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 Making the Most of Breaks and Rewards.
  • If you're still finding it tough to get back to work after lunch or dinner, 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 dinner
    • Schedule anything you can that involves other people (appointments, group meetings, workshops, etc.) for the time you'd like to get started after meals
    • Make a plan to study with a friend after the meal.

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