Manage your time, manage your life

“Project due yesterday.”

If you’ve spied that subject line in your inbox, you know the heart thumping that follows realizing you missed a deadline. Chances are you had enough time. But you didn’t manage the days, hours, and minutes leading up to the due date.

College prep department professors Robert Sandhaas and Dr. Lynnda Shields and career services coordinator Jennifer Cerda teach time management skills to San Jacinto College students.

Although you are not born an effective time manager, you can develop this skill with practice. Sandhaas, Shields, and Cerda share how.

Q: Why is time management important?

Time management
Time management impacts school and career success.

Sandhaas: It has lifelong benefits for career and quality of life. Employers value this skill. In fact, surveys often list it as one of the traits employers are most looking for in new employees.

Cerda: You can meet your goals, complete more in a shorter time, lower stress, and operate at peak productivity in any environment. How we manage our day now directly impacts how we will be in the future.

Q: How do I manage my time?

Sandhaas:

  1. Review each class syllabus or work assignment and record on a semester/quarterly calendar any important test or project dates. This provides a clear picture for establishing goals, priorities, and personal deadlines.
  2. Create a weekly schedule by blocking out work/class times, prep time, and any other weekly commitments.
  3. Finally, create a daily to-do list and rank tasks based on importance and immediacy.

Shields: Identify fixed commitments like class schedules and develop an effective routine around those. Prioritize short- and long-term goals. Say “no” when something does not serve your best interest.

Cerda: Start your day with a clear focus, minimize interruptions, focus on high-value activities, and review your day EVERY day.

Q: Where do students struggle the most in time management?

Sandhaas: Underestimating time for college work outside class, including assigned readings, test review, papers, and projects. For each hour of class, you should allot at least one hour of outside preparation. Difficult subjects can require as much as two hours.

Shields: Spending most of their time in the “not important and not urgent” quadrant -- playing video games, binge-watching TV, scrolling through social media, etc. You don’t have time left for what is important.

Cerda: Not starting a required task based on not wanting to or disliking the task itself. Work on the dreaded task for five to 10 minutes a day. You might end up finishing it or at least chipping away at it.

Q: Do I have to manage my time better if I’m taking online classes?

Sandhaas: Yes, treat online classes like face-to-face classes with scheduled times to complete assignments, readings, and other activities. Overlooking deadlines and procrastinating can impact your grades. Catching up when you fall behind is also difficult.

Cerda: Yes, but you can do it:

  1. Set goals -- a timeline for yourself. Everyone likes to feel they've achieved something.
  2. Seek support from study groups, advisors, or friends/family who can keep you on track and accountable.
  3. Remember the essentials like sleeping and eating.
  4. Don’t give up.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles to time management?
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Sandhaas: Relying on memory to keep track of deadlines. The problem arises when you forget a paper or a test, and the results can be catastrophic to your grades.

Cerda: Procrastination, fear of failure, and lack of organization and prioritization.

Q: You mentioned time wasters, but shouldn’t I make time for myself?

Sandhaas: Including time for activities you enjoy is important. Research shows taking five-minute breaks (like a short walk) every 45 to 60 minutes makes us more productive.

Shields: Yes, you must put yourself first on the list. When you learn to manage your time by planning and prioritizing, you have time to take care of you.

Q: Any final thoughts?

Sandhaas: Use time management tools like calendars, to-do lists, and alarms available on mobile devices. Make time for yourself to recharge.

Shields: Starve your distractions and feed your focus! Time management is life management. Know what is urgent and what can wait. Plan realistically and allow time for the unexpected.

Cerda: Give yourself grace if you don’t get it down in one day. Tomorrow is a new day to be a better version of ourselves. Then celebrate your milestones. Acknowledge a job well done and be proud of yourself!