“Adulting” is hard.

As adults, we must prioritize and manage our time between our long list of professional (work or school), personal, family, and social commitments.

This aspect of “adulting” can be especially challenging for first-year college students. Often living independently for the first time with freedom, flexibility and plenty of distractions, students can struggle to manage their time effectively.

Help set your student up for success by talking about wise time management NOW—before they launch—so they can thrive academically and enjoy the bonus of added free time and reduced anxiety.


Get Organized: Find time management tool(s) that will work for you

With multiple classes, a social calendar, and often a work schedule, students need a place to track assignments, deadlines, exam times, projects and other commitments or responsibilities. Whether a physical (as in paper and pen) planner or a digital one (yes, there’s an app for that!), it is important to make a planner part of a daily routine.


Be honest with yourself: Identify time-wasters & not-so-great habits

Pay attention to your habits. What draws your focus away from your studies and completing your assignments? Where are you wasting valuable time?

Do you procrastinate?
Do you answer texts or phone calls while studying?
Do you get sucked into social media for hours?
Do you wait to study until the wee hours when you are too tired to focus?
Does your gaming system see more of you than your laptop does?

Notice where you are actually spending your time so you can make adjustments to set yourself up for success. Set clear priorities to separate “time wasters” from actions that actually move you toward your academic goals. That means prioritizing and blocking study time, and removing distractions by turning off notifications while you work.

Plan Ahead: Create your to-do list to stay on track

You’ll receive a syllabus from each professor on the first day of class. It will include class information, including reading assignments, quiz and test dates, and project deadlines. Review all syllabi and identify what you need to do for each class. Then prioritize the tasks based on due dates and how much time you estimate you’ll need to complete them. While you’ll need to update you list throughout the semester, having a plan ensures you know what you need to be working on and when.

Expert tip: Consider wrapping up the day’s most important tasks early in the day instead of putting them off until last—when you’re likely more tired and less focused. Starting small is acceptable when you are overwhelmed, but keep in mind that few things soothe frayed nerves faster than completing a to-do list.

Time Block: Treat study time as if it were an important appointment

This is all about using the finite 24 hours you have each day to the best of your ability. Schedule study time in blocks—and keep them faithfully, just as you would an important appointment. For example, you might block Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 2:00-5:00 as library/quiet study time. No exceptions. By doing this, you are setting a routine (of good habits) and making it a priority. The more often you do this, the less you’ll stress about when you’ll accomplish the tasks you need to finish. It will become your normal routine. Strive for consistency whenever possible.

Expert tip: Baby steps are still steps in the right direction, so keep your end goal in mind and use shorter time blocks as well as longer ones. Do you have an hour between classes? Find a quiet spot to get ahead in classroom reading or to review your planner and assignments. Just remember to set an alarm so you don’t miss your next class.

Schedule Downtime: Don’t underestimate the value of regular rest

Sleep is one of the most underrated keys to academic success. Yet he college years are notoriously sleep-deprived due to an overload of activities. Research confirms that insufficient sleep impacts your health, your moods and anxiety levels, your GPA, your safety, and your overall wellbeing. Make time to recharge. Your body needs a break. Your brain needs a break, too. While academics are a priority, it’s important to make time for adequate rest.

Expert tip: Do your best to maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, even on the weekends. Sleeping in more than 1-2 hours over what your body is used to on the weekend can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythms, so a regular wake schedule is important.


Want more tips on successfully navigating the college years?

Learn how you can help your student not only survive–but THRIVE–during the college years. Order your copy of  Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage today!


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