Time Management for Students Guide

This time management for students guide gives you the tools to manage your time and improve your grades. Picture the moment....it's the night before the big exam or a major deadline for an assessment. There is so much to do! Your heart is pumping and you can't think straight...you are stressing out!

"If only I had started earlier!"

We’ve all experienced these moments of crisis in our academic lives. There just does not seem to be enough hours in the day. You feel out of control and stressed-out!

This time management for students guide helps you to take control!

This is not a magic pill for your time management but I can assure you that if you practice these time management skills you will notice more control, less stress, and perhaps even better grades!

1. List all of your activities for the next week

When feeling overwhelmed and faced with a lack of time it is important to list all of the activities that you need to do. Here are the steps to take.

1. Download your printable master to do list (PDF file).

2. In your master to do list, include your class times, assignments, study commitments, work commitments, and personal commitments.

3. Try to list everything that is longer than 15 minutes into your master to do list.

This simple act of getting everything out of your head and onto paper is good for two reasons

  • it reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed,
  • it is the first step to prioritizing your work.

2. What to do if you don't have enough time

Do you stop doing certain things or do you try to shave time off everything that you have to do? What you are talking about is Prioritization!

Here it is important for you to determine what is important and what is urgent?

Time Management Activity 1:

To help you prioritize your schedule, write the appropriate number (1, 2, 3 or 4) after each activity that you have put in your master to do list.

time management for students

Ask yourself: Is the task important?

Important tasks for the student are those that are essential for achieving success in your student life. For many, this may be spending time studying and working towards a career, maintaining and enhancing your health, or sharing time with family and friends.

Activities that are important are those that contribute to your student goals. These exist in Quadrants 1 and 2 of the time management student matrix.

Unimportant tasks are such things as surfing the Internet, watching TV, or taking unimportant phone calls. Focusing on these tasks at the expense of more important tasks leads to feelings of lack of purpose as you are not moving towards your goals. These tasks exist in Quadrants 3 and 4.

Ask yourself if the task urgent?

Asking this question is probably a good indicator of the amount of stress that you feel as a student. Urgent tasks are those tasks that are ‘tapping you on the shoulder’ and asking to be done now.

They are Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 3 tasks.

Quadrant 1 tasks are are the Urgent/Important 'must do' tasks that require immediate attention! They may be a crunching assessment deadline or the study that you must do for tomorrow's exam.

Quadrant 3 tasks are not important but they are asking for our attention e.g. some interruptions, emails, etc.

3. Use the time management for students prioritization tool

With the list of activities that you wrote in your master to do list write the appropriate number (1, 2, 3 or 4) after each activity. If you are stressed with too much to do and not enough time then you will need to:

  • reduce your time in quadrants 3 and spend more time on quadrant 2
  • reduce your time in quadrants 4 and spend more time on quadrant 2
  • focus your immediate attention in quadrant 1

Time Management Activity 2:

time management for students

From a time management perspective, your effectiveness increases and your stress decreases as you spend more time in Quadrant 2. Tasks in Quadrant 2 are important but not urgent.

For a student they may involve:

  • time on readings before lectures,
  • preparation of tutorials,
  • planning key dates in your academic planner,
  • studying this week's course content, or
  • planning your week schedule.

By spending your time on Quadrant 2 activities you devote time to important activities before they become urgent.

The problem is that often with so many different responsibilities to juggle, students can become dominated by the tyranny of the urgent.

This is where urgent things crowd out the important things.

For example, some students may procrastinate and put off tasks. It is often easier to watch TV (a Quadrant 4 activity) than prepare early for an assignment. I talk more about beating procrastination with these college time management tips.

Crowding out your important activities can result in more stress and is a less effective use of your time.

Moving from Quadrant 2 to Quadrant 1 increases student stress

Often, it is these unimportant activities that are urgent or that we enjoy that crowd out planning, setting goals, and preparing for exams and assignments. However, when Quadrants 3 and 4 activities crowd out Quadrant 2 activities this is a recipe for stress and burnout.


Well, those important but not urgent tasks do not go away - this is because they are important! So the longer that you leave your important tasks the more chance they will become urgent. 

Urgent important tasks are those that can be a significant cause of stress. For example, you can put off studying or preparing for an exam but eventually the stress of a nearing deadline means you have to cram the night before.

This equals STRESS.

Another example is if you put off doing exercise and looking after your health this may lead to the doctor ordering you to exercise and eat well. Being in Quadrant 1 of the time management for students matrix is stressful!

4. Time management for students involves reducing time in Quadrant 3 and 4

What activities do you do that fall into Quadrant 3 and 4?

These are activities that are not important to your long-term goals. The phone call or the tasks that lands on our desk and grabs our attention. These are urgent - it is very difficult to avoid a ringing phone, regardless of how important the activity you are doing.

All of us get distracted - but this where you can make the biggest inroads to your student time management.

Can you think of any urgent but unimportant activities that exist in your Quadrant 3? By reducing activities in this area, or batching these distractions and interruptions, time management for students improves.

What about quadrant 4 activities?

Quadrant 4 activities may include watching TV, surfing the Net...they are generally things that we enjoy, or provide us with a sense of disengagement from the work at hand.

Keeping a student's time management log is a useful way to diagnose your student time management problems.

If Quadrant 2 is so important to good student time management, how can I get more time in this quadrant?

As a student you want to spend time in Quadrant 2. You want to be focused on your most important tasks with minimal stress. How can you spend more time in Quadrant 2 of the time management for students matrix?

Like most students you are juggling many demands so cutting down on those urgent and things is probably not an option. But you can't continue to "spin your wheels and go nowhere."

You can spend more time in Quadrant 2 by:

Clarify what is important. Use student goal setting to focus on your important goals.

In student goal setting you can download a goal setting plan that builds upon a foundation of the values and beliefs that are important to you.

Know what your timewasters are. Once you identify them (using a time management log makes it objective) then you set goals to overcome procrastination, manage interruptions, and schedule your time.

I talk about the importance of scheduling with this time management college activity.

Use a student planner. Develop a semester and weekly plan that focuses on activities that are important to you. Download free student planners that enable you to plan your work and then work your plan.

Maintain good study techniques. Now that you have planned the time to study and put it into your schedule it is important to maintain good study habits that maximize the use of your time at the desk. I talk more about developing good study techniques that are effective time management for students.

If you liked time management for students you may also like this time management story.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.
› Time Management for Students