Time Management

Many university students find that they do not have enough time needed to obtain the A's in their classes, especially those who have other responsibilities outside of academics (e.g., family & work). Taking time to plan your schedule may seem overwhelming when you already don't have enough time. However after some initial set-up time, the 5 minutes you spend each day on time management can significantly improve your effectiveness in various aspects of your life.

Where Do You Spend Your Time?

The first step in organizing your time is to assess where you are currently spending your time. Try one of these worksheets to get an idea: Weekly Calendar or Time Log Tool. After completing your worksheet, decide whether the time you spent on various activities fit with your priorities.


Although the following tips may seem overwhelming when you are not used to regularly using a scheduler/planner, you will find that implementing these tips will increase your effectiveness in various areas of your life.

Priorities/values. Before you try to manage your time, it is helpful to know your priorities/values in life.

  • Make a list of what is important for you. (e.g., physical health, deep relationship connections, continual intellectual development, etc.)
  • Differentiate between what is IMPORTANT and what is URGENT; Urgency (e.g., phone call) does not necessarily mean it is important at the moment.
  • For the items that are important to you, make sure you set aside time for them (e.g., eating lunch for your health).


  • Identify long-term (5-year; 1-year) goals according to your priorities. Be specific in your goals, and make sure they are realistic & achievable (e.g., finish college within 4 years with a 3.5 GPA).
  • And, create short-term goals (weekly and monthly goals) that get you closer to your long-term goals.
  • Keep your list of goals and priorities with you and visible at all times so that you are reminded often of your desired life direction.

Use a planner.

  • Create a semester (for that big picture) and weekly schedule that relates to your goals. If your priority is "to get at least a 3.5 GPA this semester," then write in your planner the things you need to do to accomplish that GPA. For example, you may want to block out time in a specific date when you will go to the library to start that research paper that is due at the end of the semester.
  • Remember that a planner is only effective if you use it at least once a day, and keep it with you at all times in cases when you need to change your pre-planned schedule.
  • During the first week of class as you get your green sheets (syllabi) from various classes, write in your planner when exams, quizzes, and projects are due. Then, estimate how much time you need to complete those assignments. Divide each assignment into smaller goals, and write the tasks associated with those smaller goals in your planner as well, spacing them out over time.
  • Insert all the regular commitments on your calendar (e.g., classes, work, meetings).
  • Keep priorities/goals in mind.
  • Include study and non-study activities.
  • Include time for family and exercise, if family and your health are important for you.
  • Block out class time, group project time, and time for meals, sleep, so that you have a balanced schedule.
  • Keep in mind that in order to obtain that A in a class, it is recommended that you study 3 hours per week outside of class for every unit of the class. (This time recommendation is for the majority of university classes, though some will require more or less depending on the demand of the class.) Thus, block out your schedule to fit this recommendation.

Optimal performance.

  • Know the time of day when you are most effective. Block out your schedule and study most difficult or boring subjects at that time.
  • Use the same place to study every time -- enhances concentration ability.
  • Avoid noise distractions -- research indicates that silence is best.

Use all the minutes and seconds.

  • Use waiting time -- 3x5 note cards can be reviewed, for example, while you wait for a doctor's appointment.
  • While you wait for the next class to start, take the few minutes to review your notes from the class that you just had. Research has found that you retain more information if you review the material immediately after a lecture.

To-do list.

  • Create a daily to-do list, preferably alongside your daily schedule.
  • Use the ABC system to rank your priorities on the to-do list. A=Have to do that day; B=preferably do that day; C=Would be nice, but there's no hurry.
  • Keep your to-do list with you at all times, so that you can add as you remember things to do, re-prioritize if needed, and check off as you complete each item.

Time wasters.

  • In addition to these planning tips, there are some interpersonal skills that may be helpful to learn as well.
  • Learn to say "no" or "let me think about it" before you automatically say "yes." Some other alternate answers include: "Thank you for the invite, but I've promised myself to be better in finishing my class work," "thanks for asking, but I've made other plans" or, suggest another time.
  • Screen calls. You do not have to answer that phone right away or return that e-mail this hour.

Be Flexible!

  • Even with the most efficient planning, things will happen that will throw off your schedule and intentions (e.g., you or someone else may get sick, meetings may be rescheduled to a different time). This is the same reason it is recommended that you have your planner with you to make adjustments when things happen.

Build in extra time.

  • Although you can't add minutes to your day, you can set aside some insulation in your schedule to anticipate unexpected changes. For example, if you estimate that it will take you 2 hours to read for 1 chapter, add in an extra half hour when you block out your schedule.

Know Your Resources

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) (408-924-5910) 
    We encourage you to come to CAPS in Student Wellness Center, Room 300B (third floor), to consult and learn more time management skills. Our personal counselors are available for appointments and for more information, and it's a FREE service for you! 
    We also have educational counselor available to help you with study skills, career decisions, and time management.
  • Student Health Center (408-924-6120)
    Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and a Registered Dietitian are all available to help you maintain a physically healthy life
  • Learning Assistance Resource Center (408-924-2587)
    Tutoring services
    Academic improvement workshops
  • Career Center (408-924-6031)
    Career Consultants will help with choosing a major that matches your career goal.