Time is ephemeral. Life is fleeting. You may not wake up tomorrow. But does that mean you should live life without any sense of direction and be careless with your time? By no means. As God continues to bless you with time, make every effort you can to manage it well.
Though this is an article about the art of managing time in college, these concepts apply to life outside of college as well. Before I dive any further into this, let me inform you up front that I have by no means mastered the art of time management. I have only scratched the surface of this art and am writing not to say that I am an expert on this, but instead to present my findings up to this point in life so that I may help others sharpen their skills. Time management is an undervalued skill… it is one that can help ensure that you squeeze every drop out of opportunity out of every day. Here are some of the things I have learned thus far:
Firstly, as encouraged by Dr. Grunsted from the University of Oklahoma, I highly recommend investing in some sort of academic planner/calendar. I neglected to do this originally, but later found it to be quite a helpful tool. During the first few weeks of a semester it can be an intimidating task to write all the information from your syllabi down, but it is well worth it in the end. Write down each of your classes in a different color and stick with that color coordination throughout the semester. Jot down your class times, professors' office hours, exam dates, homework dates, extracurricular activities, and anything else with a deadline. It also helps to place sticky notes on pages such as midterm week, Christmas and Spring break, and finals week. For those not in college, do the same thing with your work schedule, chores, parenting duties, etc. It may seem like a miniscule thing, but organizing your work and being able to have a visual representation of the coming days will help you cultivate efficiency.
Secondly, as I learned from Student Leadership University, make it a priority to "swallow the big frog first," or to tackle your biggest, most challenging obstacles before tackling the less significant ones. As you develop this habit you'll begin to notice that the smaller things in life somehow begin to take care of themselves when you tackle the big ones with a positive attitude. Don't let this confuse you… I'm not suggesting that you have to swallow the big frogs all in one bite; in fact, it's better to approach life's biggest tasks by chipping away at them. For example, studying in shorter segments in which you're fully focused is usually a better strategy for preparing for a challenging exam than setting aside a full day to study for that exam without studying any other days.
Thirdly, as tempting is it may be to schedule your first classes of the day later in the day, try to refrain from doing so. During my first semester I scheduled my Tuesday/Thursday classes from noon to one fifteen, which I thought was an excellent idea. Don't get me wrong, sleeping in a few times per week definitely has its benefits. However, in doing this, I discovered that I rarely accomplished much in the morning and by the time I finished my homework for that class it was around four o'clock. It felt like I had wasted most of my day because I neglected to get out of bed and start winning the day. To get the most out of the money you are paying to attend college you must treat it like a full-time job, working from 8A.M. to 5P.M. everyday if you want to have free evenings and weekends. You probably got up before 8A.M. everyday in high school, so don't allow college to become an excuse for sleeping in when you've already established and developed a routine in which you make the most of the morning hours. For those not in college, this is certainly applicable as well. Always make sure that you're well-rested, but also make sure you make the most of your mornings and start the day in the peaceful presence of Jesus before the business of life ensues.
Next, it is up to you to find the perfect balance between "being involved" in different organizations so that you can develop impactful relationships, and not overloading your schedule. Don't try to be involved in everything- this isn't high school and you won't be able to accomplish that in this more complex stage of life. Find the things that you're passionate about and pursue those while you seek to extirpate the distractions that cross your path. At the end of the day, there's no excuse not to do what you love to do. You'll make time for something if you're passionate about it. Also, on that note, it's okay to come into college with ideas about what you want to do, but don't have those ideas written in concrete. Use some of your time to branch out, to walk out of your comfort zone and try some new things. Just be bold and experiment for a few weeks, and if you don't like something then you don't have to continue with it. Yet if you do like it then you've just found a new area of your life into which you can tap into. You'll never grow and strengthen your roots if you don't break the bubble of comfort you've been floating in your entire life.
At the end of the day, it's your job to be the best steward of the time God has given you. Don't waste today. Don't look so forward to your "mountains" that you forget to enjoy the journey up and back down. You purchase your tomorrows with the decisions you make today, so make decisions that bring more than just temporary satisfaction. Invest in others, serve in your relationships, give back… make sure that you use your time so that others will remember your investment years after the hourglass has run out.