This post is a continuation of our previous post, which focused on time management as an important college skill. We continue the discussion here by focusing on how students can manage their behavior as well as their time.
College students are told over and over again that one of the secrets to success in school is a good system of time management. And with only 24 hours a day and 168 hours a week, managing time is important. In the case of outstanding students, the old principle often holds true – “If you want something done, ask the busiest person around.” Some students just seem to be in control of their lives and their success.
Time management is important, but even more important may be the ability for self-management or priority management. The difficulty is not always in getting organized and coming up with a plan to get everything done, it is in making sure that you stick to the plan. Students often fall prey to the three big enemies of self-management – procrastination, interruptions, and distractions.
Although your college student will need to find his own way to cope with the issues that may sabotage his plans, you may be able to share some ideas with him to help him anticipate and deal with the self-management challenge. Once he has a system in place and a plan for keeping track and getting things done, help him think about some of the following strategies.
- When in doubt, just do something. Taking a single step and getting started may be enough to motivate you to toward your goal.
- Be flexible and willing to adjust. You may get off track, but work at recovering, readjusting and moving on. Don’t dwell on the times when the plan falls apart, just pick up the pieces and continue.
- Try to stick with one thing at a time. Be careful of trying to multitask. Focusing on completing one thing and moving on often works better than trying to juggle too many things at once.
- Take ownership of the choices that you make. Stay in the driver’s seat and don’t give control to others. “There wasn’t enough time” gives control to others. “I made a choice to do A rather than B” may not be comfortable, but it puts you in charge of your decisions and your life. Once you know you’re in charge, you may be better able to take control and make different choices.
- Be willing to say no when it is appropriate.
- Prioritize tasks. Do the most important things first – even if you don’t want to.
- Don’t wait until doing something “feels right” or you are in the mood. There are some things for which you will never be in the mood. If it needs to be done, get it done.
- Cross things off as you complete them – and relax when your list for the day is done. Build in some rewards.
- Consider the consequences of not doing something. Is it worth it?
- Remind yourself of your goals and important values. Use these to motivate yourself.
- Partner with someone else and motivate each other. Keep each other on track.
- Remember that learning to manage yourself is a lifelong skill. It doesn’t always come easily. Be patient with yourself. If something doesn’t work, try something else.
It will take time, once your student arrives at school, for him to design a system that works for him. He will probably struggle with the school/work/social balance for a while. But if he has given some thought to planning, organizing, and staying the course, he’ll be in a better position to continue to develop a system to manage both his time and himself.