Uses of Time in Daily Life

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe time management concerns in college and identify effective strategies for proper time management

Consequences of Poor Time Management

Students often struggle with managing their time effectively in college. Many college administrators and faculty members who work directly with students are aware that a single mishap or a case of poor time management can set into motion a series of events that can seriously jeopardize a student’s success. In some of the more extreme instances, the student may even fail to graduate because of it.

Imagine that a student has an assignment due in a business class. They know that they should be working on it, but they aren’t quite in the mood. Instead they convince themselves that they should think a little more about what they need to complete the assignment and decide to do so while looking at social media or maybe playing a couple more rounds of a game on their phone. In a little while, they suddenly realize that they have become distracted and the evening has slipped away. They have little time left to work on their assignment. They stay up later than usual trying to complete the assignment but cannot finish it. Exhausted, they decide to work on it in the morning during the hours they had planned to study for their math quiz. They know there will not be enough time in the morning to do a good job on the assignment, so they decide to put together what they have and hope they will at least receive a passing grade.

At this point in our story, an evening of procrastination has not only resulted in a poorly done business class assignment, but now they are going to take a math quiz that they have not studied for. They will take the quiz tired from staying up too late the night before. Their lack of time management has now raised potential issues in two courses. Imagine that each of these issues also causes additional problems, such as earning low scores on both the assignment and the quiz. They will now have to work harder in both courses to bring their grades up. Any other problems they have with future assignments in either course could cause a domino effect of circumstances that begins to overwhelm them.

Let’s say this same student had the same academic responsibilities, but they were also working part time in the college bookstore and were asked to cover a shift for a coworker who was sick. Now they have less time to prepare their business assignment and study for their math quiz. How should they proceed? Without re-prioritizing their work or being flexible with their plan, they may end up in the same position, turning in a sub-par assignment and taking their math quiz without a full night’s sleep. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so it’s important for students to learn how to not only manage their time effectively but to have a back-up plan for when the unexpected happens.


Time Management in College Is Different

If you have come straight from high school to college, you’ll notice that there is a significant difference in time management requirements because a lot of your schedule is left up to you. While it is true that there are assignment due dates and organized classroom activities, learning at the college level requires more than just the simple completion of work. It involves decision-making and the ability to evaluate information. Time management is best accomplished when you are an active partner in your own learning activities.

A student quietly reading her textbook.

Students may set aside specific times and specific places to study.

As an example of how this works, think about a college assignment that involves giving a classroom presentation. To complete the assignment, you are given time to research and reflect on the information found. As a part of the assignment, you must reach your own conclusions and determine which information that you have found is best suited for the presentation. While the date of the actual presentation and how long it will last are usually determined by the instructor, how much time you spend gathering information, the sources you use, and how you use them are left to you.

Try It


Students offered their views on these three questions and the results are displayed in the graphs below.

  1. How difficult is it for you to keep track of multiple tasks over the course of a term?
  2. Do you use a particular app to help you manage your time?
  3. Rank the following in terms of what you would most like to improve regarding your time management skills.


How difficult is it for you to keep track of multiple tasks over the course of a term?

How difficult is it for you to keep track of multiple tasks over the course of a term? 10% of students said extremely easy, 33% said somewhat easy, 53% said somewhat difficult, 4% said extremely difficult.


Do you use a particular app to help you manage your time?

Do you use a particular app to help you manage your time? 34% said Google Calendar, 14% said I used my calendar on my phone, 30% said I use a paper / notebook planer, 4% said I use the calendar in my learning management system, 5% said I use another app or system, and 13% said I don't use any type of planner app.


Rank the following in terms of what you would most like to improve regarding your time management skills.

What you would most like to improve regarding your time management skills? 25% said my ability to predict how much time tasks will take, 21% said my ability to balance various obligations, 39% said my ability to avoid procrastination, and 15% said my ability to limit distractions.

One of the main goals of a college education is learning how to learn. To be successful in college, it’s imperative to be able to effectively manage your time.

In the following Alleyoop Advice video, Alleyoop (Angel Aquino) discusses what many students discover about college: there is a lot of free time—and just as many challenges to balance free time with study time.

You can view the transcript for “Alleyoop Advice: Time Management in College” here (opens in new window).

Effectively Manage Your Time

Schedule Your Assignments and Study Time

As you think about strategies to effectively manage your time, it is important to consider what tasks you need to complete. First review your syllabi to understand when assignments are due and when quizzes and tests are scheduled during the semester. Using a digital calendar is a great way to keep track of when your assignments are due and quizzes and tests are scheduled. Consider using the calendar included with your personal or school email, such as Google Calendar or the calendar app that comes preloaded on your phone such as Apple Calendar, to document these important dates. Working backwards, you can schedule time to work on specific assignments, breaking them down into manageable tasks and scheduling time to study for quizzes and tests.

Now that you know when assignments are due and when quizzes and tests are scheduled along with scheduling time to work on these assignments and study for these assessments, you can now create to-do lists to manage your time. These lists can include a semester to-do list along with a daily to-do list based on what assignments, quizzes, and tests are on your monthly and weekly calendar.

Be Flexible

While having a clear understanding on when assignments are due and when quizzes and tests are scheduled, it is important to be flexible as we all know things will come up during the semester. These unforeseen circumstances mean you may need to increase the number of tasks on your daily to-do list to ensure everything that needs to be accomplished can be accomplished.

Have a Backup Plan

Finally, while being flexible is helpful, it is also important to have a backup plan in case an emergency arises. Have a plan in case you experience technical issues with your computer or phone or cannot access your online classroom because it is down for maintenance. In this case, you should know where you can go for help with technical issues such as your institution’s information technology department’s help desk or going to your institution’s library to use a campus computer. It may be helpful to download important documents from your online classroom at the start of the week to ensure if there are technical issues or scheduled down-time for maintenance, you have hard copies of the documents.

Ultimately, managing your time effectively requires that you develop a plan by including all important dates for assignments, quizzes, and tests on the calendar at the start of the semester. Schedule time to study and complete your assignments. Create daily and semester to-do lists to keep you on track, and build in backup plans to ensure you are flexible when you need to be. These safeguards will ensure you are managing your time well.


active partner: the self-regulating status that a college student assumes in contrast to the ready-made schedules of high school, which entails greater responsibility for managing one’s own time within the parameters set by one’s teachers


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