My Secret to Time Management in College

Student working in library at night

April 14, 2014 • How To, Life Tips




Be better at time management. Here’s how.

What I really wanted to name this post was:

How I Never Had to (or Chose to) Pull an All Nighter while at Princeton

Let’s face it. When you think of the college grind, you think of students slaving away all night in a library (or some other equally well-suited place on campus), perhaps even staying up all night pulling the dreaded “all-nighter.” When you think of Princeton, you may think of this concept on crack (or quadruple or maybe x 3,000).
I’ll tell you a fact about me. Throughout my four years at Princeton, I only had to pull one all-nighter. Then again, I don’t know if it actually counts because I actually slept. I went to bed at 5am after finishing writing a paper and woke up 7:30am to hand it in. That was Freshman year. I never did it again.
All-nighters suck. They actually aren’t too good for your health. Read this article if you don’t believe me.

There’s no if, ands, or buts about that. Personally, I don’t think drowning myself in coffee or Redbull to stay awake is that sexy.
I just don’t believe in staying up all-night to do homework. Sure, I’d say up all night to talk to my friends, but homework? Nope.
Here are some of my secrets to time management in college that I thought I’d share with you. You can also apply these to other facets of your life.
1. Do the last things first and the first things last. I developed this mantra while in high school. It’s rather simple. Start on things that are due in the future first. For me, this meant outlining papers as soon I got the assignment. Then, I’d focus on the things that are due in the near future after I finished. This means that, in theory, I was always ahead. Hard to put your finger on? In fact, I’ll go one step further and keep it real simple:

DO THINGS IN ADVANCE. Don’t wait until the last minute. Got some spare time? Read 20 more pages into the text than the original 5 you were assigned.
2. Schedule the hell out of your life. Personally, I like knowing what I have to do ahead of time. That may come from my need to be organized and know the plans. There’s a lot going on in college, so you need to have a grasp on your day (in my opinion.) I’d recommend making a schedule for yourself that you try to adhere to each day. You can use Google Cal, Outlook, or iCal. Whatever you decide, it’s important to have a visual idea of what your day entails even if you don’t end up accomplishing everything on your plate. Trust me, just the fact that you scheduled out your day and had some GOALS is great.

3. Just stop and go to bed. Listen to your body. If you’re tired, you’re tired. Throughout college, I never was that girl who stayed up late just for the sake of staying up late. Sure, some of my friends may have thought I was lame, but I know myself. I don’t do my best work when I’m tired. If I was studying and I found myself yawning more then reading, I normally stepped away from my work. If it was bedtime, I’d go to bed (unless I had procrastinated and needed to ABSOLUTELY finish the assignment.) However, that won’t be you because you’ll listen to my first tip, right?

4. Know how you get things done the best. I don’t like completing homework around other people. I get distracted. I don’t focus as well as when I’m by myself. All throughout college, my dance company had study rooms for its members. I never actually went to them if I knew I had to study or had an important assignment due. Why? I knew I wouldn’t get anything done. Knowing this about myself helped me ALOT during college. Sure, I may have sacrificed some social time, but I knew that if I got my work done in an efficient manner I’d have more stress-free social time.

5. Be Moderately Busy. There’s a saying that goes, “The person with a lot to do gets a lot done.” This really resonates with me. In college, I had 4-5 classes a semester, worked at Princeton’s Office of Career Services, was a full-time dancer in an on-campus hip hop dance company, volunteered in prison, and was the President of Princeton Caribbean Connection. I was pretty busy. I think this helped me in a way. I knew that I didn’t have a lot of idle time (and the idle time that I did have I didn’t want to spend stressing about all the work I needed to do.)

6. Outlines and lists are your friend. Write down what you need to get done. Break down items into very small action-oriented items. I loved making my lists in my planner! (Yes, I still bought a planner each year.) Here is an example of a to-do list I may have created during college:

  1. Pick essay topic for SOC 101
  2. Outline possible themes/sources for SOC 101 essay
  3. Send email to Amina about PCC
  4. Schedule meeting room for PCC board meeting
  5. Read Chapters 1-2 for LAO
  6. Take Notes on Chapter 1-2

Get the gist? Be as specific as possible with your to-do lists. This will help a lot.

7. Take days off. I never did work every single day of the week. It just wasn’t my style. I don’t remember exactly, but for the most part, Saturdays were my no-work days. Everyone needs time to chill and relax and do things that aren’t work-related. Because I had a no-work day, I knew that I didn’t have time to slack on other days. I also could afford to have a no-work day because I managed my time throughout the week. If you can’t afford to take a whole week off, perhaps you can take a certain block of time where you don’t do any work!
What are some tips you can share to those who might want some insight into time management (especially those in college?). COMMENT BELOW.

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Rana Campbell is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of, a site dedicated to personal branding and helping people learn how to SHINE in their personal and professional lives.

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