A successful college career relies on time management. College students have a lot on their plates with classes, homework, extracurricular activities, and social obligations — and now the holidays are coming up. But, effective time management is essential for students to stay on top of their work, avoid procrastination, and reduce stress.

Plus, it’s an essential life skill that you carry you through college and beyond.

“Your ability to manage your time is one of the critical factors that will define your success or failure throughout life,” explains Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “Those who are always late almost always miss out on opportunities.” Professional skills aside, tardiness frustrates employers and managers alike.

“You can start improving your time management skills while you’re in college,” Deanna adds. And here’s how you can start.

1. To plan ahead, use a calendar.

To manage your time effectively, you need a calendar. After all, it is impossible to manage a busy schedule without planning ahead.

It is a good idea for students to enter their commitments into a calendar at the beginning of each semester. On the calendar, mark deadlines and exams for all classes with color coding. For example, green for exams and red for deadlines.

In addition to class times and work shifts, the calendar should also reflect fixed commitments. Extracurricular activities or a weekly study group are examples.

To put it another way, by adding a bit of color to your calendar, you can visualize your goals and distinguish between events. It will also be immediately apparent when the busiest weeks will occur so you can plan accordingly. Overall, by planning ahead, you can avoid missing deadlines.

Additionally, I recommend keeping your calendar visible daily, such as in your planner or desk. For those who prefer a digital calendar, check it every day first thing in the morning to ensure you are always aware of those important events. If possible, integrate it with your other tools, such as email, to make it even more efficient.

Digital calendar options include:

  • Google Calendar
  • Outlook Calendar
  • Calendar

2. Make sure you check in every day.

There is no doubt that technology makes our lives easier. You can access it 24/7 so that you can learn, be reminded, communicate, and find academic and social resources.

As a result, staying on track is now easier than ever. To stay up-to-date on your schoolwork, set a daily reminder on your phone to check your student email or online discussion thread.

By checking in daily, you’re prepared for upcoming assignments and discussions, so you’re not surprised by changes to the syllabus or project details.

3. Don’t forget to set reminders.

Be sure to remind yourself periodically to stay on track, such as completing a study guide in advance. Meeting deadlines is important, but keeping track of the micro-tasks that go along with them is equally important.

Adding an alarm to your phone, writing it down in your physical planner, or adding an alert to your digital calendar are all options. During particularly chaotic days, the reminders will prevent things from getting lost in the shuffle.

To prepare for the big test or write that final paper, make sure you give yourself plenty of time. In order to manage your time effectively, you must set yourself up for success in advance and provide yourself with the tools to accomplish tasks successfully.

4. Personalize your schedule.

Having your own schedule work for you is essential since everyone’s day-to-day is different. After you’ve included classes, work shifts, extracurricular activities, chores, and social engagements, consider study sessions as well.

Don’t forget to take into account your own rhythm. You might want to study or complete chores in the morning if you usually start your day energized. When you feel drained in the afternoon, give yourself time to watch TV or spend time with friends.

The best way to maximize your time is to have a schedule that works for you. Knowing your laundry day or intramural basketball practice every week will save you from having to squeeze everything into one day.

5. Prioritize using the A-B-C method.

In order to manage your time effectively, you need to set priorities — aka, what to work on first. Using the A-B-C method, tasks can be prioritized as follows. List all tasks that need to be completed. After that, give each task a letter grade:

  • A – This must be done today
  • B – It’d be nice to finish today
  • C – If necessary, this can be pushed to tomorrow

6. Distractions should be identified (and avoided).

To manage your time effectively in college, you must understand time mismanagement. Throughout the day, even the smallest distractions can add up to a significant amount of time lost. Fortunately, identifying these distractions and making a plan to avoid them is easy.

To begin, make a list of all the activities you do on a daily basis. Be sure to keep track of all the moments you spend with your family, including sleep and screen time. In order to determine how much time is lost due to avoidable distractions, you need to understand how much of it is wasted.

Here are a few common culprits:

Social media.

In a 2022 survey by Morning Consult, 54% of Gen Zers said they spent four hours or more a day on social media, with 38% spending more. Regarding social media platforms, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat are the most popular.

Overall, scrolling endlessly eats up time that could be spent doing something more productive, such as studying. To avoid distractions, consider limiting your social media use on a daily and weekly basis.

Videos and games.

It is impossible to run out of entertainment options with a smartphone. While focusing on coursework, apps, games, notifications, and a sense of constant connection can distract you. While you need to focus on your assignments, consider setting your smartphone to silent or turning off the Wi-Fi.

Emails and chats.

You need brain power and concentration to succeed in your education. With that said, it’s okay to put off emails and chats. Set aside certain times in your day for reviewing and responding to missed correspondence. According to your comfort level, it could be once before dawn and once before bed.


Meetings are an unavoidable part of college, as well as working life for professionals. At the same time, meetings are the number one productivity killer.

To protect your time, plan ahead and ensure everyone knows what’s happening before the meeting starts. Also, do your best to stay within the allotted time and leave the meeting if it goes over.


“Multitasking might be your favorite way to forge through your daily tasks,” writes Howie Jones in an article for Calendar. “The logic is flawless. Accomplishing two things instead of one thing is always better.”

The problem, however, is this. In reality, multitasking does not exist. Why? “The human brain seems to be set up to handle one task at a time,” explains Howie. “It is impossible to change how our brains are set up, so it is better to accept reality and avoid multitasking.”

Because of this, when you multitask, “you cost yourself time and efficiency that you cannot get back.” Focus on one thing at a time and then move on to your next task.

[Related: The Best Calendar Apps for College Students in 2024]

7. From procrastination to task initiating.

What is procrastination? Basically, it’s our way of dealing with negative emotions associated with specific tasks, like boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, and self-doubt so if our brain perceives negative emotions as threats, we try to remove the threat now.

What can we do to move from procrastination to task initiating?

  • Practice self-compassion. It is okay to procrastinate sometimes. Doing this allows you to move beyond maladaptive behaviors and focus on what lies ahead. It is also possible to buffer negative reactions to events through self-compassion.
  • Develop a sense of curiosity. Take notice of how you feel when you are tempted to procrastinate. Is there a particular feeling that triggers the impulse to succumb? As you observe your feelings, how does the idea of procrastinating change?
  • Take the next step. Motivating yourself follows action, so thinking about your next action allows you to accomplish your task now. For example, if you were starting a paper, opening Blackboard or Canvas to look at the rubric might be your next step.
  • Make temptations more challenging to resist. In most cases, we are more capable of changing our circumstances than ourselves. For example, consider working at a table far from your dorm if you’re tempted to nap. Or, putting your phone on the bottom of your backpack will prevent you from checking social media.

8. Take advantage of technology.

In terms of time management, technology can be your best friend. Even better, for help managing your time, you can download plenty of apps.

Our list of the 20 essential apps for college students has everything you need ranging from study apps to distraction blockers. Furthermore, even simple and existing tools, such as handheld timers and calendars, can be used to manage your time.

9. Get the most out of your note-taking.

It is common for us to take notes during lectures, but we don’t do much with them. Instead, students might consider their lecture notes as more of a first draft, suggests educational consultant Frank Buck.

“During class, don’t worry about neatness, form or spelling,” Buck told Rasmussen University. “The magic happens that evening when you interact with those notes for a second time within the same day.”

According to Buck, most people forget new material within 24 hours of exposure. Your ability to retain and comprehend new concepts will improve if you recopy and reorganize your notes. As you do this, reflect on things that did not make sense during the original lecture.

“Look it up in the textbook or perform a quick Google search to clear the confusion,” Buck recommends. “Double-check spelling as needed. This practice is like spinning straw into gold. When it’s time to study for the test, the notes are pristine. The time required for study is lessened.”

10. Master the art of saying “no.”

Having a life and earning your degree go hand in hand. However, there’s always a risk of taking on too much. As such, there are times when you’ll need to decline a social invitation to accomplish an assignment.

Just remember that it’s okay to say “no” occasionally. Your closest friends and family will understand. Plus, using your schedule, you can always schedule time to study and have fun.

11. Get effective at studying.

College students with busy schedules must make the most of their study time. However, they may be behind if their study habits were poor in high school.

Lisa Fulton, a counselor at Eastern Lebanon County High School in Pennsylvania, encourages students to engage in “active studying.”

“A lot of students think that just looking at notes is studying. That’s not really studying; that’s what you should be doing all the time,” explains Fulton, who is also assistant chair of the American School Counselor Association board. “You really need to be making flashcards, having someone quizzing you, or quizzing yourself.”

12. Don’t forget to reward yourself.

Regardless of how far you come in your time management journey, reward yourself occasionally. In order to achieve your time management goals, your rewards should also line up with them. In other words, the reward is something to look forward to once you achieve your goals.

Here are some additional tips for time management for college students:

  • Organize your life by having everything in its place. Keeping track of your assignments, due dates, and other important information is also important.
  • Don’t try to do too much too soon by setting realistic expectations. You can gradually increase your workload as you manage your time more comfortably.
  • Taking breaks during the day is crucial, even if it’s only for a few minutes. You can stay focused and fresh by moving around or taking deep breaths.
  • Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. You’ll need enough sleep, healthy food, and regular exercise. You’ll be more productive if you take care of yourself.
  • Join a study group or find a study buddy.
  • Make use of campus resources like the library, tutoring center, and writing center.
  • Ask for help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend, classmate, professor, or tutor whenever you’re stuck.

Finally, it takes time and practice to get good at time management. However, college students can manage their time effectively and achieve their goals by following the tips listed above.

[Related: Enhance Time Management with Calendar Insights]


Why is time management important for college students?

For college students, time management is important because:

  • Succeed academically. Students who manage their time effectively can study for exams, finish assignments, and participate in class.
  • Avoid stress and anxiety. The more control students feel over their time, the less stressed and anxious they are.
  • Have a balanced life. It’s important for students to balance work, school, extracurricular activities, and relaxation so they don’t burn out.
  • Be more successful in their careers. For success in the workplace, you need good time management skills.

What are the most common time management problems college students face?

Students struggle with time management for a variety of reasons:

  • Procrastination. Putting off tasks until the last minute can cause anxiety and stress.
  • Lack of focus. With so many distractions, such as social media, the internet, and friends, staying focused is hard.
  • Overcommitment. Feeling overwhelmed and stressed is easy when you say yes to too many things.
  • Poor planning. If you don’t plan your time, you’ll waste time and miss deadlines.

How can college students manage their time?

Here’s how to manage your time as a college student:

  • Create a schedule. Seeing what you have to do each day and week will help you stay on track.
  • Set deadlines for yourself. Procrastination won’t happen if you stay on track.
  • Prioritize your tasks. Make a list of the most important tasks and start there.
  • Break down large tasks into smaller ones. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
  • Take breaks. Make sure you take breaks during the day to keep your energy up.
  • Avoid distractions. You’ll need a quiet place to work, as well as turning off your phone and closing your email.
  • Reward yourself. Give yourself a reward when you finish a task. It’s a simple way to help you to stay motivated.

What are some standard time management tools that college students can use?

Among the time management tools college students can use are:

  • Calendars. You can use this to keep track of appointments, deadlines, and other important stuff.
  • To-do lists. It is a useful tool for keeping track of your tasks.
  • Reminders. For upcoming events or deadlines, this can be used to set alerts.
  • Apps. Trello, Asana, and Todoist are some of the time management apps available.

Image Credit: Zen Chung; Pexels; Thank you!