Building Success: Time Management, part 1

Posted on October 6th, 2019 to College Search

Regardless if you are starting the college admission journey, in the midst of applying to college, or in college you need to have a strategy for time management. This topic is a big one, and generally I use up many advising sessions to help students figure out what their system will be. So here we will break it up into 2 parts. In part 1 I will address the overall theory t, and in part 2 I will discuss the different tools (analog and digital) I recommend to students.

There is a lot going on during the college admission process and in college itself. There is no way a single brain can keep track of it all. Having a system to catalogue, process, plan, and execute will only aid to ensuring you can achieve your goals. A colleague and friend of mine has a saying, “control it or it will control you.” I personally think that is very true. If you don’t have a system or process by which to capture all of the multiple priorities, myriad of tasks, and short term and long term deadlines “it will control you.” Fatigue will inevitably take over, with a resulting “Oh no, I forgot!”

One of the things that separates us from other species is our ability to create and use tools. When it comes to time management there is no shortage of tools out there. From planners, to to-do lists, to apps, to calendars there is so much to choose from. Equally important to having the right tools is knowing how to use them–knowing the skill. Put another way, it’s impossible to hammer a nail properly if no one has taught you how to hold and swing a hammer. Also, like learning any skill, practice is important. That’s when we learn how to do it, how to make it relevant to us, and turn it into a habit. So let’s break down the skill first, then I will offer some tools that I think could be helpful. The practice part is up to you!

1. Write

So first things first. The only way to keep track of everything we need to do is to catalogue it. When it comes to keeping track of tasks, a to-do list is still the most effective method. Whether using the ol’ reliable pen and paper or something more advanced like an app, this is the only way to remember all the tasks you have to complete. Our brains only have the capacity to remember so much, and a to do list is a tool that helps. In tandem, writing down deadlines is equally important. Whether in a calendar or planner, what is to follow here will be impossible to execute if you don’t know when your tasks need to be completed.

2. Review

After you have written all of your tasks and deadlines down, its time to start looking it over. This will be helpful as you move into the planning phase. It will also be helpful in catching any items you may have missed. I know even if I am keeping track of stuff as I go, I inevitably miss something. Reviewing will really be helpful as you start to strategize.

3. Plan

It’s hard to know how to get somewhere if we don’t create a road-map to get there. This is the time when you look over all of your tasks and deadlines and start to map out when you will do them. Assign tasks to a specific day. I have always found it useful to give myself some leeway when making my map. There is always unanticipated “stuff” which may prevent me from executing my plan. That’s ok…that’s how life operates. I think it best to accept that fact and build it into my plan.

4. Execute

GET IT DONE! Simple as that. Just do it. Look at your plan and get after it. Focus on one item at a time. Cross tasks off as you complete them. Move stuff around as needed. Sometimes this final phase can be the most cathartic part of the experience.

At the end of the day time management is all about input and output. The more you put in, the more you get out; the less you put in, the less you get out. It takes some discipline. That effort will pay off in the long run. The more disciplined you are in keeping up with your time management, the more free time you are going to have later on to do the things you want to do. Having your own system to process everything will greatly impact your stress levels and your ability to navigate the journey successfully. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, nor does it mean you won’t face adversity–you will. This skill will help you deal with anything that is thrown your way–anticipated or not. Good luck!


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