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Tips for better time management

Next week you have three papers due, a meeting with your advisor, work at your part-time job, practice for your club sport, and group study for that big test.

To succeed, time management will be critical, especially if you want to carve out time for friends and fun activities, like catching up on episodes of Game of Thrones before next month’s new season premiere.

Erin Schnepp, an academic advisor in College of Engineering Undergraduate Student Services, runs a series of “Roadmap to Success” workshops each semester that cover topics ranging from goal setting to study skills. But she says her time management workshop always draws one of the biggest groups of students. (The workshops are targeted for students majoring within the College of Engineering, and the next one, on April 13, will focus on conquering test taking and exam anxiety.)

Here, Schnepp offers three time-management tips that can benefit any student.

1) When students receive their course syllabi at the start of the semester, Schnepp suggests that they combine all of them into one document that lists when every paper and project is due. “It can be intimidating to keep track of four or five syllabi all at once,” she says. “But when you have one it’s much more helpful.”

2) Schnepp encourages students to find a planner or record-keeping mechanism that works for them and then stick to it. This could be a traditional pen and paper planner of the daily or monthly variety or an app or another digital tool on your smartphone. “You need a go-to item that keeps track of important dates, meetings, job hours, club and volunteering hours, you name it,” she says. “And each night, look ahead to the next day or few days to think about how you can complete everything on your schedule.”

3) When it comes to study time, Schnepp says, students should avoid marathon sessions. “I like to compare it to going to the gym,” she says. “If you work out from 8 a.m. to midnight, it’s not healthy. Your brain needs time to relax just as much as your other muscles do.” She suggests studying for 30-45 minutes at a time and then taking a short break to refresh by eating a snack or taking a walk. This is the Pomodoro Technique. “If you give yourself ample time to do an assignment, you can spread out your energy,” she says.

Students in her Road to Success workshops on time management have also suggested some tools for their peers to try out. One is Focus Booster, which works in tandem with concepts from the Pomodoro Technique. Others are Remember the Milk and Evernote.

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