I was in a Student Success Session with a student and parent yesterday, trying to get clear on their problems and how to best support this student in her transition to college.
We talked about all sorts of things on this call: how to narrow down her college list, how to stand out in her college application, and the main thing holding her back - procrastination.
We got SO deep into this call, that our 45 minute session ended up lasting about an hour to get through it all.
After speaking to this young lady, I realized something very important:
Nothing is going to work without time management.
We could work on her stand out factor, she could hire an SAT tutor, we could narrow down her college list until it's a list of schools that PERFECTLY fit her personality and ambitions…
But without time management skills, there is no way this college prep and application process can be easy.
She will still be stressed about finding time to WORK on her stand-out factor. She will still procrastinate studying for the SAT and dilly-dally until it’s too late and she’s cramming at the last minute.
All the stress that comes from the college prep and application process stems from simply not managing your time well enough.
I realize that she’s not the only rising junior or senior to procrastinate their studies, and high schools simply don’t teach this skill.
It’s unfortunate because it will only get harder - managing time in college is way more difficult than in high school, and without breaking the habit early, these detrimental routines will continue to follow students.
You have to find something that works for YOU, and you have to start working on it now.
Time management and organization does not have a one-size-fits-all solution - it requires trial and error to see what works for you, and what doesn’t.
Some people prefer to use old-school notebooks and planners, others prefer the calendars on their phones and computers.
Regardless of how you keep track of your schedule, here are 3 important tricks that you can use to manage your time so you can complete everything that you need (and want) to get done:
1) Keep track of how much time you’re spending doing what.
The first step to managing your time to is see where your time is actually going. By keeping a record of how much time you spend doing different activities, you can see where you are spending too much time, and where you are not spending enough time.
This is especially important for students who put off doing important work by hanging out with friends, watching TV or scrolling through social media.
When you make a record of how much time you’re spending during the day doing things that aren’t priorities, you can get real with yourself.
If in a week, you’ve spent 6 hours watching Netflix but only 2 hours studying for the SAT, you will realize quickly what shifts you need to make in your schedule to give yourself more time for what’s important.
An app that works really well for this is Toggl, which lets you easily record how much time you’re spending doing different activities and gives a great visual representation for how much of your day is spent doing what.
2) Use a monthly visual calendar
I recommend all my students to get a full-sized calendar where they can write down every important date and deadline.
Having a real, physical calendar as opposed to a digital one will give you a better sense of how long you actually have until the deadline. You can flip through pages and have everything that needs to get done in one place, and see EXACTLY how many days you have until something is due.
Color coding works wonders. Put exams in red, and assignments in blue. Write all your work and volunteer hours, and the hours for any extracurriculars on the same calendar. This will give you a visual sense of urgency to get it all done.
3) Batch your time to get things done without distractions.
Time batching is a method used by my most successful students to get their work done efficiently.
We live in an age of constant distractions. Your phone and computer are constantly giving you notifications of things you feel like you need to see right now. As soon as an email comes in, you want to check it. As soon as you get a notification from instagram, you want to see what it is.
These things are usually unimportant, and distract you from the task at hand which usually is important.
Batching your time means that you schedule time for each activity, including checking your social media. During the batched time, you don’t do ANYTHING other than the activity that is scheduled, because there is also time scheduled to take part in your distractions.
It looks like this:
1pm-1:10pm: Call BFF to talk about plans for the beach tomorrow.
1:10pm-2pm: work on essay.
2pm- 2:10pm: check facebook and instagram, reply to texts.
2:10-3pm: work on essay some more.
3pm-3:10pm: respond to texts and scroll through instagram some more.
3:10-4pm: continue working on essay.
By batching your time and SCHEDULING time for the activities that would usually distract you, you can work on your essay (or any other important task: studying for the SAT, researching colleges, studying for you classes, etc.) for 50 FULL minutes, without taking short, frequent breaks to respond every time you get a text. These messages usually aren’t that important, and can wait until your next break for a response.
The best way to reduce the stress, overwhelm and anxiety of the college prep and application process is to start early and work efficiently to get everything done. Managing your time effectively will have a big effect on how smoothly this process happens.
If you feel like you need more individualized support to find a time-management system that works for you, and some outside accountability to keep your student at it (like an Academic Success Coach), click HERE to apply for a free Student Success Session.
I only do a handful of these for free each month, and they’re valued at $247, so don’t procrastinate or you will miss out (and if you’re not careful, the same thing could happen to your scholarship and college applications…).