Time Management

Coach Objectives

  • Normalize time-management challenges in college and share strategies for effectively managing time
  • Connect students to resources on campus that are designed to help students plan for and maximize their study time

Student Objectives

  • Evaluate time-management systems/strategies and employ one that meets personal needs
  • Identify the places and people on campus that are available to support with time-management challenges


College is often the first time that students have the opportunity to set their own schedule. In contrast to a predictable high school schedule, the day is completely theirs to plan classes, meals, work, social activities and study time, amongst other things. Classes can be at the very start of the day or in the evening, with large gaps in the middle of the day. Once students do find a good balance for their schedule, a new semester arrives, and they have to re-calibrate.

This freedom is exciting, but it often comes with challenges as students are now accountable for managing their time and doing so wisely. The challenges vary from student to student: some find it hard to prioritize study time in a new and exciting social environment, while others struggle to balance work, family responsibilities and a commute. 

Decisions that students make about how to budget their time can and often do impact academic performance. In general, students spend less time in class in college, but need to carve out more time for reading and studying—as students progress into upper-level courses, outside study hours continue to increase.

Managing time effectively is an academic skill, but it’s also one that will help students beyond their studies. As with other skills, managing time effectively takes intentional effort and commitment and gets better with practice. Whether students already keep track of their schedule or if it’s their first time seeing a daily planner, we want to make sure that all students understand that time management is an important skill to learn and strengthen.

Coaching Session

Time management is a relevant topic throughout a student’s college experience and one that is worth returning to. Systems or strategies that may work one semester or year may need adjusting when work schedules, class schedules or course loads change. Time-management challenges are often at the root of academic struggles, so this can be a helpful topic to pair with conversations about study skills. 

When incorporating this topic into a coaching session, the goal is to learn more about a student’s current time-management approach, help them reflect on what’s working and what’s not, identify any necessary adjustments, and support them in making improvements. Remember to share power with students; build a plan with them, not for them.

Key Messages

  • Time-management challenges are really common amongst college students. In a recent study, 78% of students surveyed said that time management is a struggle at least sometimes.
  • Physically charting out their typical week at the start of each semester will help the student get the full picture (and see where they spend the bulk of their time). Students can also take their planning a step further by laying out important dates for the semester, which will help them backwards-plan to stay on track.
  • Procrastination and distractions are two very common barriers to successful time management. Minimizing distractions that compete for students’ attention and identifying strategies for combating procrastination can go a long way in preventing time crunches and stress down the road, as well as in helping to build self-management skills.
  • Budgeting time to study is essential. Remember, for every hour of class, students should typically be setting aside 3 times that amount to study each week.
  • Some students may commit themselves to more academic, extra-curricular, work, and personal obligations than they realistically have time to manage. It is important for these students to practice regular self-awareness and make constructive choices about prioritization.
  • Share a personal story of what time-management skills you learned when you were in college and how you learned them.

Questions for Students to Consider

  • How do you keep track of your schedule?
  • How do you feel about your ability to balance your priorities? What do you find most difficult to make time for?
  • What are the things (people, places, devices, etc.) that distract you most? How can you minimize those distractions when you need to be productive?
  • What are some of the things that take up most of your time each week?
  • How do you keep yourself accountable?
  • What time of day do you feel like you produce your best work?

Differentiated Guidance

In prioritizing this topic within your portfolio, look at students who either self identified as needing additional support or students who are juggling many priorities, like those who have full-time jobs, are commuting, have time consuming family demands or are taking an especially challenging class load.

  • Look into reports of students’ current course enrollment, class attendance, missing assignments, ongoing semester grades or any current academic warnings to prioritize outreach.
  • Host informal events or office hours to support students’ time management. You could reserve study rooms/tables during midterms and finals, plan ‘brown bag lunch’ events that students can more easily fit into their schedules, or host ‘office hours’ at the beginning of new semesters to help students update their calendars with all their important dates (assignments, exams, add/drop deadlines, breaks, etc.) for that term.

First Year/New Enrollees

  • Time management in college is very different than it was in high school, and requires students to take complete control of all parts of their schedules.
  • For first years, this is often the first time students will be setting their own academic schedule and may end up with significant gaps between classes, work, and other scheduled activities. It can be a learning curve to figure out how to use that time productively.
  • Encourage students to create an organizational system and perform a time audit to understand how much time is being spent on various activities and how time can be used more wisely.
  • Students often need support learning how to effectively budget enough study time and hold themselves accountable to their plan.

Core Years

  • Core year courses may be more demanding than introductory classes, and may require more prep time and/ or group work that can place new demands on students’ time.
  • Core years tend to be the time students get more deeply involved on campus and take on additional leadership roles. It is important for students to be self-monitoring to ensure they are still dedicating adequate time and energy to coursework.

Approaching Graduation

  • Students may be working on long-term projects like writing a thesis or preparing a presentation or portfolio, which can require new or different study skills than what has worked for them in the past.
  • Students who are preparing to take certification exams (teacher certification, NCLEX nursing exam, certified public accountant exams, etc.) or who are applying to graduate programs that require entrance exams (GMAT, GRE, LSAT, etc.) will need to study for those in addition to studying for their academic courses. They will need to practice self-management by identifying relevant study resources (prep books and courses, workshops, practice tests, etc.) and making studying a priority to ensure they meet their goals and earn competitive/qualifying scores.

Coaching Resources

Weekly Planning Grid

Hourly Planner

Self-control (for Mac)

Prioritizing tasks

The Psychology of Time

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