Time is probably the biggest problem I’ve seen college students struggle with. Every day, everyone gets an allowance of 24 hours to use. There’s only so much that can be done!
It’s a common joke that, in college, you have three things: school, a social life, and sleep. But you can only choose two of them.
This simply isn’t true. I know it’s hard to believe. But it’s not true.
As a college student, you are busier than you’ve ever been before in your life. You have classes to attend, homework to do, friendships to maintain and build, and also usually work as well. A lot of people see college as the busiest they will ever be in their life.
But it’s not. When you graduate college, you get more responsibilities—more things demanding your time. I know it’s hard to imagine, but college isn’t the busiest you’ll ever be.
How can you possibly survive outside of college, then? You’re already almost killing yourself getting everything done now as it is—there isn’t a second to spare!
You have more free time in college than you realize. And the reason is because college students often have no idea how to manage their time. Time management and personal finances: the two most vital skills to possess to make the most of your life, neither of which is taught in most public education.
I was the same way. I wasted so much time in college. I didn’t think I was, but nevertheless it’s true.
I am very grateful to Jay Sykes, the first director I worked for as Chi Alpha staff. The first thing he taught me was how to manage my time. It wasn’t fun to learn—disciplining yourself never is. But it’s because of the skills Jay taught me that, when I went to seminary, I was able to be a full-time student and a full-time Chi Alpha missionary and have a social life as well.
Time management will greatly improve the quality of your life if you have the discipline to do it. But you know, God wants you to live well for Him. God wants you to thrive, and this will help!
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. –Eph 5:15-16.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. –Prov 12:11
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. –Prov 14:23
I love playing video games. I’m not great at them (easy difficulty: I want to have fun, not get frustrated), but they’re a blast to play. I also love movies and reading. And there’s so much fun stuff on the Internet. I have a million distractions!
Managing your time well doesn’t mean you don’t have fun. It means you get your work done first, and then you have fun.
There are two big steps you have to take to do this:
1. Do all of your work right away. Don’t go home until the work for the day is done.
When you go home, you want to be done for the day. You usually get home and chill out for a bit. You want to relax. And then suddenly it’s evening and you still have homework to do, but you have to go to work instead.
But what happens when you go to class and then head straight for the library, the Chi Alpha office (if you have one; not all of us do), or Chi Alpha house and do homework? You stay there and you do homework until it’s done. And then you go home and you can relax.
Now your free time is truly free. You don’t have unfinished business hanging over your head. You’re done! You can relax!
You may not get much free time every single day. If you have to work an eight-hour shift that day, you’re probably not going to have much time to yourself. But you can plan when to take your free time—maybe you take an hour or two before going to work. Just remember that anything not done that day will have to be done the next day.
The more free time you take now, the less you have available later.
Probably the hardest time to do this—but by far the most rewarding—is Friday. After a long week, all you want to do is go home and relax. I feel the same way! But here’s the thing: if you don’t do your homework on Friday, you have to do it Saturday or Sunday.
In seminary, one of the best decisions I made was to not go home on Friday until I was done with everything for the weekend. Yeah, I often didn’t go home until six, seven, sometimes even eight at night. But then my weekend was mine! I was free for two whole days with nothing to worry about! It was so very much worth it!
2. When you are doing your work, do your work.
We have the Internet with us at all times. You have it on your phone, on your laptop—at any moment, you have a billion ways to be entertained and distracted.
A lot of people, even more devoted people, will spend 30 or more minutes out of every hour of “work” goofing off.
But here’s the thing: when you do that, you are making your work take longer. You are robbing yourself of free time by mixing it with your work. And because it’s mixed, your goofing off time still is just as stressful as your working time (because, mentally, it is working time to you). You’re working less at any given time, but keeping about the same level of stress, and then having to do that for a longer period. You are shooting yourself in the foot.
When you work, work. Don’t stop every few minutes to check and respond to texts or update Facebook or check Instagram and Twitter (#homework #gettingitdone). Set aside time to do that, regular breaks, and then just work the rest of the time.
A good break schedule is 10 minutes out of every two hours. My favorite way to do this is to do it the last 10 minutes of every second hour—so I work for an hour and 50 minutes, and then I take a 10-minute break. Your concentration can only hold for so long. Breaks are important. But they need to be planned and controlled. If you spend 10 of every 30 minutes on things other than work, you’re only working two-thirds of your time—so every three hours of time spent working, you’ve only done two hours of work and then you have to work another hour.
So when you’re studying, put aside all your distractions. Don’t have Facebook/Twitter/Instagram or whatever open at the same time. Put your phone on silent and put it face-down (so you can’t see any updates) on the desk, out of the way. Use your breaks to check your phone and see what’s new in the world, and devote yourself to your work the rest of the time.
It takes discipline to do these two things. They aren’t fun at first. But you will very quickly see how much better your life is because of it. You’ll have more free time, and your free time will be better free time because you’re not worrying about other things.
It’s difficult, but it’s so very worth it! Glorify God in everything you do: class, homework, work, and in your free time!
All views expressed on this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A., U.S. Missions, and The General Council of the Assemblies of God.