Once you’ve evaluated how you have done things in the past, you’ll want to think about how you might create a schedule for managing your time well going forward. The best schedules have some flexibility built into them, as unexpected situations will always pop up along the way.
Your schedule will be unique to you, depending on the level of detail you find helpful. There are some things—due dates and exam dates, for example—that should be included in your schedule no matter what. But you also might find it helpful to break down assignments into steps (or milestones) that you can schedule, as well.
Again, this is all about what works best for you. Do you want to keep a record of only the major deadlines you need to keep in mind? Or does it help you to plan out every day so you stay on track? Your answers to these questions will vary depending on the course, the complexity of your schedule, and your own personal preferences.
Your schedule will also vary depending on the course you’re taking. So pull out your syllabus and try to determine the rhythm of the class by looking at the following factors:
- Will you have tests or exams in this course? When are those scheduled?
- Are there assignments and papers? When are those due?
- Are there any group or collaborative assignments? You’ll want to pay particular attention to the timing of any assignment that requires you to work with others.
You can find many useful resources online that will help you keep track of your schedule. Some are basic, cloud-based calendars (like Google calendar, iCal, Outlook), and some (like iHomework) are specialized for students.
We all have exactly 168 hours per week. How do you spend yours? How much time will you be willing to devote to your studies?
Questions and Answers About Schedules
Student 1: Do I really need to create a study schedule? I can honestly keep track of all of this in my head.
Answer: Yes, you really should create a study schedule. Your instructors may give you reminders about what you need to do when, but if you have multiple classes and other events and activities to fit in, it’s easy to lose track. A study schedule helps you carve out sufficient time—and stick to it.
Here is a tool to create a printable class study schedule to help you plan your time during the week from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.
Here are ways to plan time (semester, week, days) from Ohio University’s Academic Advancement Center. Ohio University uses a quarterly system (11 weeks); you may need adapt their schedule to reflect your academic needs.
Student 2: Realistically, how much time should I spend studying for class?
Answer: This is a good question and a tough one to answer. Generally speaking, for each hour of class, you should spend a minimum of two to three hours studying. Thus, a typical three-hour class would require a minimum of six to nine hours of studying per week. If you are registered for 15 credits a semester, then you would need to spend 30 to 45 hours each week studying for your classes, which can be as much time needed for a full-time job. If you think of college as a “job,” you will understand that it takes work to succeed.
One important college success skill is learning how to interact with the course materials. Think about learning a sport or playing a game. How do you learn how to play it? With lots of practice and engagement. The more you play, the better you get. The same applies to learning. You need to engage with the course material and concentrate on learning.
Access The 168-Hour Exercise—How Do I Use My Time Now? from Ohio University’s Academic Advancement Center. It can help you understand how you use your time now and decide if you need to make changes.
Student 3: Aside from class time requirements, should I account for anything else as I draw up my schedule?
Answer: This depends on how detailed you want your schedule to be. Is it a calendar of important dates, or do you need a clear picture of how to organize your entire day? The latter is more successful, so long as you stick with it. This is also where it will be helpful to determine when you are most productive and efficient. When are you the most focused and ready to learn new things? In the morning, afternoon, or evening?
Here is a time management calculator for first-year students at the University of Texas El Paso.
Student 4: My life and school requirements change on a week-to-week basis. How can I possibly account for this when making a schedule?
Answer: Try creating a variable schedule in case an event comes up or you need to take a day or two off.
Student 5: I’m beginning to think that scheduling and time management are good ideas, but on the other hand they seem unrealistic. What’s wrong with cramming? It’s what I’ll probably end up doing anyway . . .
Answer: Cramming, or studying immediately before an exam without much other preparation, has many disadvantages. Trying to learn any subject or memorize facts in a brief but intense period of time is basically fruitless. You simply forget what you have learned much faster when you cram. Instead, study in smaller increments on a regular basis: your brain will absorb complex course material in a more profound and lasting way because it’s how the brain functions.