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Time Management
How Do Top Students Practice Good Time Management?

When students procrastinate, they have to cram. Time and again, studies show that cramming doesn’t work. Cramming is just not conducive to remembering and understanding the material. At best, cramming will make the material you studied familiar, but not something you clearly remember.

When you practice good time management, you can curb procrastination and avoid cramming. Chipping away at a big assignment over time is far better than leaving it on your to-do list until the night before. Making small progress early is a hallmark of a student who manages time well. Top students actively work to avoid cramming. You can learn how to manage your time well, too, by developing three key study habits.

As we design the new study planning app, Chipper, our mission is to create a tool that teaches you good time management. We’re creating a study planner that automatically suggests manageable steps for completing your assignments and keeps you motivated by showing you the value of each task. Over time, you will learn how to apply these strategies to your weekly studying. Meanwhile, you can begin training yourself on time management by practicing the following three habits.

Three Study Habits for Time Management that Help You Avoid Cramming

1. Block Off Specific Time for Each Task

Why is it so important to choose a time for each task? A procrastinator will commonly say “I’ll do it later.” Top students, on the other hand, fight procrastination by challenging themselves not to say “later.” As a student, you have a busy life, and delaying a task is not always a bad thing, even if that task was originally due today. The key is to choose a specific time when you will commit to do that task. When you have to push a task until later, ask yourself: Exactly when will I do this task?

This habit helps you even when you aren’t procrastinating. Suppose you have a midterm on Friday. You may plan to study during the week, after you finish your homework. So long as you don’t choose a specific time to study, your planned studying will be vulnerable to distractions. If you commit to studying every night from 8:00 pm to 8:30 pm, you have given this time a purpose. If something comes up unexpectedly, you will not be as inclined to delay studying as you would if you did not choose a time. That’s why top students develop this skill.

2. Record How Long Studying Takes You

Begin keeping track of how much time you spend studying. Ask yourself: How many hours each week does your physics problem set take you? How long do you really need to spend writing your English paper? You probably can’t say for sure, and that’s why you should time yourself. If you don’t know how to estimate how long these tasks take, you won’t be able to set aside realistic amounts of time to do them.

As you record your time, you will get a better sense of how long tasks take. The first time you try to estimate how long homework will take, you will probably guess wrong. That’s okay! Keep practicing and you will start to make more accurate predictions. Once you master this skill, you will feel in control of your week. As you develop skill #1 above, you know when you plan to study, and as you develop skill #2, you will know how much time you need.

3. Set Aside Time to Plan Your Week

A good study plan takes time to develop. Don’t discount how valuable a little planning is. We recommend choosing some time on Sunday to list your tasks, choose times to do them, and practice estimating how long they will take.

Making mistakes is natural. You may find your first weekly study plan is too ambitious or requires lots of tweaking throughout the week. But as long as you continue to develop skill #1 and #2, you can adeptly reschedule tasks without procrastinating. Making a habit of setting aside planning time is the final skill you need for feeling confident and in charge of your studies in college.

With these study habits in mind, we designed Chipper, a study planner that helps you manage your time by offering smart suggestions. When you tell Chipper that you have an exam or a paper, Chipper suggests a list of small steps for preparing. When you add these steps to your to-do list, you will be asked when you plan to complete them. Chipper also asks you how long each task took, building your skill for estimating the time you need to block off for studying. Chipper gives you the tools you need to plan your week and stay on track.

Which of these three study habits do you find most challenging? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page and we’ll comment with study advice. Let us help you succeed this semester by making a plan.

Mike Lodato

Mike Lodato

Chipper Team Member & PhD Student