Episode 247: December 10, 2012
by Stever Robbins
A while back, I shared how to study tips for students returning to school. My friend Murgatroid (his real name has been changed to protect the innocent) went back to school and is immersed in studying. In fact, he’s so immersed in studying that he doesn’t have 10 free seconds. This is especially troublesome because I was visiting his city recently and he didn’t have time to meet me for coffee, much less Oreo Ice Cream Cake. Needless to say, my selfish desire to get together demands we return to the topic of helping students get more free time.
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So how can busy students get a handle on their schedule?
Get a Calendar
If you’re a student in this day and age, you’ve never known the joys of an unstructured block of time. That’s good! It means you won’t spend your adult life yearning for the free days of your youth. You never had those free days.
Now that you’re becoming an adult, however, it’s time for you to take over managing your own calendar. Having a calendar lets you make sure you get things done on time and don’t overcommit.
You can use an online calendar or a paper calendar. If you get a paper calendar, I recommend a week-at-a-glance or month-at-a-glance. Day-at-a-glance calendars don’t give you enough of an overview to make sure you’re balancing out your time.
Next, put all your scheduling notes into your new calendar. If your mom still keeps your schedule, ask her to give it to you. Also, ask her to stop sleeping in your dorm room. It’s cramping your style. If you don’t believe me, then it’s really cramping your style. Check out this video of Modern Manners Guy on FOX with tips on how dropping kids off at college works. (Hint: It involves leaving them there).
Schedule Classes and Travel Time
Now enter your class schedule in your calendar. At most colleges, when you register for a class, you actually have to show up. So your classes represent uses of your time. Block them off.
What’s less obvious is that you need to block off travel time to and from your classes. If you live right next to the classroom buildings, travel time may just be a few minutes. When I was an undergrad at MIT, some students lived in fraternities across the river in Boston. Travel time can be 30–45 minutes to get to the main campus. If that’s your situation, put that into the schedule.
Schedule Study Time and Due Dates
Each class also requires time to study. Block off study time in your calendar. Even though it’s not scheduled, it’s a real commitment that uses up your time. I’ve had classes where we had to read a book a week—and that takes time. Just imagine an Oreo Ice Cream Cake appreciation class. Learning the subtleties that make for truly stellar Oreo mouth feel could easily require 10–12 hours of research each week.
Classes with study groups often schedule the same time each week to gather and study. If you’re studying alone, add a symbol next to the appointment so you know you can move that study block as needed. And do! Move it if you need to schedule an important Human Sexual Response reunion concert at that time. But the moment you schedule the HSR concert, you need to move your study time to make sure you’re still putting in that time somewhere in your week.
Also note project due dates on your calendar, and put in a note a few days in advance so you’re reminded in advance that you have a due date coming up.
Schedule Sleep and Recharge Time
In How to Study, Part 1, I told you to get enough sleep. Schedule it. Yes, that’s right, if you regularly deprive yourself of sleep, put it in your schedule. I recommend 8 hours. Just like your study time blocks, if you want to schedule an all-important game of backgammon at 1 am, only do so if you can still keep your full sleep appointment with yourself.
Sleep isn’t the only rest you need. There’s an awesome book called The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz that discusses in way too much detail how important it is to recharge on an hourly and daily basis. Especially if you’re an introvert and you need recharge time, put some time blocks in your schedule for recharging. Use those times to sit in the student union, stare out the window, and zone out. Don’t play Angry Birds. Daydreaming is an essential part of creativity, and gives your brain a chance to start making connections that help you learn.
Pay Attention to Your Rhythms
Even as you need regular recharge time, your body has natural rhythms. You’ll find you do different kinds of activities better at different times of day. I do my best writing early in the morning, say, 10am. My mental low is around 3:30pm, which makes that a great time to work out.
Pay attention to your own rhythms. Different times of day will be better for studying, for writing, for exercising, and for spending time with people. If you can get a good sense for your rhythms, you can schedule your reading for when your reading recall is highest, writing when you’re at your creative best, and so on.
Your schedule is a tool you can start using immediately to get the most out of school. Use it to make sure you don’t overschedule. Know your rhythms, and schedule study time, recharge time, and due dates when they match up with your natural rhythms so you can work less, do more, and get great grades.
This is Stever Robbins. Join me this January for a major start-of-the-year goal-setting program. Visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com/newyears2013 for details.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!