Time management may seem impossible to students. As a student, your days are crammed with classes, assignments, extracurricular activities, and social commitments. No wonder this is a daily struggle.

“Balancing all of those things is challenging,” said 2024 Massachusetts School Counselor of the Year Colin Moge, “and I think sometimes we’re so far removed from that that it can lend itself to the perspective that they should just be able to do it and it’s really hard.”

Time management, however, is a lifelong skill with consequences both in and out of the classroom. For example, the University of Alabama found that poor time management causes college students to sleep poorly. Additionally, Idaho State athletes claim that time management is crucial for academic success.

In short, mastering time management will give you a more balanced and rewarding academic experience. However, the following is a survival guide to time management and stress reduction since this is an area that many students struggle with.

Leveling Up Your Time Management

Feeling overwhelmed by classes, exams, and maintaining a social life? I have good news for you. With these time management tips, you can regain control of both your academic and personal lives.

Taking control of your calendar.

Keep your calendar free of surprises like missed deadlines and forgotten plans with friends. How? Create a central hub to keep all your deadlines, exams, social events, and appointments organized and visible. This could be a physical planner, digital calendar, or even a wall-mounted whiteboard.

Since you probably can’t live without your phone, some of the most popular digital calendars are Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, Apple Calendar, and Fantastical. However, you can find the best calendar apps for college students in our list of the best calendar apps for college students.

Be a pro at setting reminders.

Knowing your deadlines is essential for time management. It is equally important to stay on top of the smaller tasks. Set reminders to schedule study group meetings, hand in assignments, or pick up groceries.

Use phone alarms, planner notes, or digital calendar alerts to prevent forgetting anything.

Create a schedule that works for you.

When it comes to schedules, one size doesn’t fit all. After accounting for fixed commitments like classes and work, add study sessions, extracurricular activities, chores, social engagements, and even “me-time” to your schedule.

Make sure you schedule demanding tasks at times when you feel most energized and take breaks when you like taking a nap. Having a tailored schedule helps you maximize your time and avoid chaotic cramming.

Find the tools you need.

You should pick organizational tools that fit your style, just like your schedule. No matter what kind of planner you use, here are some options to consider:

  • Planners. A range of stylish and functional notebooks are available from Plum Paper and Moleskine.
  • Scheduling apps. You can manage day-to-day tasks with Asana, Trello, and Structured.
  • Note taking. Keeping all your notes in one place is easy with bullet journals, Notion, and Evernote.

Set priorities like a boss.

We don’t always have enough time to do everything we want. If such a situation arises, prioritize ruthlessly.

First, you should consider your energy levels, deadlines, and task complexity. Focus on simpler tasks first to gain momentum and relieve pressure. If you must prioritize studying for a big test, don’t be afraid to say “no” sometimes if your friends ask you to go out. You may not like it, but your friends will understand.

One way to improve your prioritization skills? Use the Eisenhower Matrix.

An Eisenhower Matrix, or the Urgent-Important Matrix or Eisenhower Decision Matrix, helps manage time and prioritize tasks. Developed by former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who you may have learned about in history class, it works as follows:

Start by drawing a 2×2 grid. In the next step, divide the grid into the following four quadrants:

  • Urgent & Important. Whenever possible, these tasks should be completed immediately and without delay. An example would be turning in a homework assignment tomorrow.
  • Not Urgent & Important. These long-term goals don’t require immediate action but are important for your long-term goals—for instance, planning your semester schedule or studying for an exam next month.
  • Urgent & Not Important. There’s stuff you have to do that’s time-sensitive but doesn’t affect your goals. Responding to non-urgent emails and answering a distracting phone call are a few examples.
  • Not Urgent & Not Important. These tasks can be eliminated or delegated as they offer minimal value and do not require immediate attention. A few examples include scrolling TikTok or watching YouTube videos.

Getting the hang of studying.

In addition to contributing to educational development, studying also helps to build personal skills. Developing good study skills can improve your confidence, competence, and self-esteem. Also, it reduces anxiety around exams and deadlines.

Here are a few ways to make studying time more effective:

  • Active versus passive. Don’t rely on mindless memorization and passive note-taking. Become engaged with the material! Consider asking questions, summarizing key points in your own words, and explaining concepts to others. Gaining understanding and retaining information is easier with active learning.
  • The power of spaced repetition. You don’t want to cram the night before. Review information regularly with spaced repetition techniques like flashcards or apps like Anki. By doing this, you’ll reinforce your memory and retain knowledge longer.
  • Are study groups a friend or a foe? Staying accountable and learning together can be great benefits of study groups. You should, however, choose your group carefully. Be sure everyone contributes to the session, and avoid making it a social gathering.

Distractions should be identified (and avoided).

Even the smallest distractions can eat up your time. The good news is that you can easily identify these distractions and make a plan to avoid them.

To begin, make a list of every activity you do every day. Keeping a record will allow you to keep track of all your family time, as well as sleep and screen time. You must figure out how much time you throw away because of avoidable distractions.

A few common causes include:

Social media.

According to a Morning Consult survey, 54% of Gen Zers spend four hours or more per day on social media. The most popular social media platforms are YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat.

The endless social media scrolling wastes time that could be spent studying, for example. As such, limiting your social media usage daily and weekly can help you avoid distractions.

Videos and games.

There are no limits to what you can do with a smartphone regarding entertainment. At the same time, the distractions of apps, games, notifications, and constant connectivity can make it difficult for you to focus on coursework. Put your smartphone on silent or turn off Wi-Fi while working on your assignments.

Emails and chats.

Your education will be successful if you have brain power and concentration. You are okay putting off emails and chats. Consider setting aside specific times in your day to review and respond to missed correspondence. Depending on how comfortable you are with it, you may do it once before dawn and once before bed.


Meetings are an unavoidable part of everyday life in college and the workplace. However, they are also the top killer of productivity.

Plan ahead and make sure everyone knows what’s happening before the meeting begins. If you find the meeting has exceeded the allotted time, leave immediately.


“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.”

Unfortunately, there is one problem. There is no such thing as multitasking in reality. How come? “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.”

As a result, when you multitask, “you cost yourself time and efficiency that you cannot get back.” Concentrate on one task at a time and move on to the next.

Refuel your mind and body with time for yourself.

Managing your time is more than just checking things off your list. Plan some “me-time” to relax and care for yourself. Whether it’s a bike ride, a catch-up with loved ones, or simply sleeping in, prioritizing your well-being fuels your productivity.

Forgive yourself and be flexible.

Sometimes, life throws you curveballs, and things don’t go as planned. If you encounter a hiccup, be patient, adjust your schedule as needed, and try not to beat yourself up. Creating realistic schedules with buffer time can reduce stress and navigate unexpected challenges.

Just one more thing.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, adapt, and celebrate your progress. In no time, you’ll be able to juggle your academic life like a pro!

Essential Stress Relief Techniques for Students

You may not know it, but poor time management is a significant cause of stress. After all, time management aims to give you a sense of direction when you have too much work on your plate so that it can reduce long-term stress.

In addition, it puts you in control of where you’re going and increases your productivity. If you spend your time wisely, you’ll enjoy your studies and have more free time outside them.

However, time management alone won’t wholly relieve stress. Considering that, here are some tips to help you reduce your stress levels.

Knowing your stress triggers.

The first step to conquering stress? Knowing what causes your stress, such as

  • Do you have looming deadlines?
  • A fear of public speaking?
  • Are you feeling alone?

It doesn’t matter who your enemy is; the more you know them, the better you can target your strategy. Journaling, practicing mindfulness, and talking to a therapist can uncover and address underlying anxieties.

Physically calming yourself.

As a result of stress, your sleep, appetite, and energy levels are affected. You can fight these effects by adopting healthy habits:

  • Exercise is your superpower. Even short walks and yoga sessions can release endorphins and reduce stress hormones. Get active by finding an activity that you enjoy!
  • Fuel your body wisely. Ditch the Takis, sugary treats, and cold pizza for breakfast. These types of foods worsen stress. Instead, choose healthy snacks and meals filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Prioritize sleep. As a health scientist at the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences, Dr. Adam Knowlden recommends making it a priority to sleep eight to nine hours a day. Before going to bed, establish a relaxing bedtime routine and avoid using screens. Having a well-rested mind will make you more resilient to stress.

De-cluttering the mind.

Cluttered minds breed anxiety. However, to clear your mind, follow these practices:

  • Organize your physical environment. A messy room can overwhelm you. Decluttering can transform your study area and bedroom into a calming haven.
  • Embrace the power of “to-do” lists. Write down your tasks in order of priority. Crossing things off your list reduces mental burden and provides a sense of accomplishment.
  • Practice mindfulness. Meditating and practicing deep breathing exercises can calm your nervous system and quiet your thoughts. You can find numerous apps, such as Calm and Headspace, and resources to help you calm yourself.

Reach out to your support squad.

You can only go so far with preparation and organization. Luckily, you’ve got lots of people pulling for you.

For example, consider finding a study buddy or accountability partner to keep you and your classmates on track. Also, you can let your roommates know when you need more space to work on a paper. Additionally, you may be able to request an extension from your teacher or professor when you have a valid reason, such as illness, death of a family member, or hospitalization.

But if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, struggling to sleep or enjoy life, or turning to alcohol or drugs for stress relief, it’s time to seek help. Feel free to contact:

  • Counseling services on campus
  • Advisors or resident assistants for students
  • Doctor or therapist
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached by phone or text at 988
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP
  • The American Institute of Stress
  • 211.org

Getting into your Zen Zone.

To recharge and destress, relax, and enjoy your life with these activities:

  • Engage in creative pursuits. You can express yourself and tap into your imagination through painting, music, and writing.
  • Spend time in nature. Let yourself be captivated by its beauty. Spend some time hiking, sitting by a lake, or just walking around campus. Something is calming and restorative about nature.
  • Practice a hobby you love. Take time to do things you enjoy, regardless of whether they are reading, playing video games, or playing with your pet.
  • Decide where you want to focus. Different environments work for other people. As such, test out different study places like libraries, cafes, or quiet corners at home. Ensure you’re in a place where you can be distracted as little as possible. If you need to, invest in noise-canceling headphones as well.

Don’t forget that you are not alone.

Stress affects everyone, but students are particularly vulnerable. You can, however, feel less stressed if you celebrate your accomplishments and ask for assistance.


I still feel overwhelmed even after trying these tips. What should I do?

Remember that finding the right system will take time and experimentation. It may not work perfectly right away, but don’t get discouraged.

Consider combining these strategies, tweaking them to fit your learning style and personality, and being patient with your own process. If you need additional support, don’t hesitate to consult academic advisors, counselors, or even those in your study groups.

What if I struggle with staying motivated?

Take time to celebrate your small victories!

Using a reward system and sharing your goals with supportive friends and family can help you reach your goals faster. Having a sense of purpose and meaning in your studies can also boost your motivation. Also, consider your future career goals or personal interests when choosing coursework.

How can I deal with the constant pressure and stress of student life?

There is no substitute for self-care!

You should make time for activities you enjoy, such as exercising, being in nature, or being with friends. Mindfulness practices such as meditation or deep breathing can also help you manage stress.

Most importantly, prioritize sleep and quality nutrition, and don’t be afraid to say no to commitments that drain your energy.

What are some common time management mistakes students make?

Among the most common pitfalls are procrastinating, multitasking, being unrealistic about workloads, and neglecting self-care. The key to efficient time management is getting started early on projects, focusing on one task at a time, setting priorities, and relaxing.

How can I manage my time effectively when I have a part-time job or extracurricular activities?

It’s all about communication!

If you are struggling in class, speaking up to your teacher or professor is important. You should also carefully plan your schedule, both inside and outside of class, taking into consideration your responsibilities.

What if I have a learning disability or mental health condition that affects my time management?

Don’t forget that you are not alone. Students often face additional challenges that affect their time management skills. As such, if your school has disability services or counseling centers, take advantage of them. Depending on your individual needs, these professionals can offer support and strategies.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels