By Andrea Phelps ‘22
One of the best things about being a college student is that, rather than spending all day working on the same task, our schedules are a dynamic mix of classes, activities, and other commitments. While this certainly makes life more interesting, it also necessitates good time management skills. When I entered William & Mary as a freshman, I struggled to stay on top of all of my new responsibilities. Here are some tips and suggestions I wish I had known as a new student:
1. Start with a few time commitments and work your way up.
During your first year at W&M, you will likely experiment with different courses and activities, discovering what you like and don’t like. With all that W&M has to offer, it’s not difficult to end up with more on your plate than you can handle. In regards to both academics and extracurricular, it is helpful to start with a few commitments and then slowly build more into your schedule as you learn how many you are able to juggle. Although freshmen can take up to 18 credits per semester, we recommend that they take no more than 16 so that they do not become too overwhelmed while adjusting to college life. Likewise, while it may be tempting to attend the interest meetings for all fifteen of the clubs that caught your eye at the activities fair, it will likely be easier and less stressful to try out a couple at a time. Remember that there is plenty of time to get involved in different activities, organizations, etc. while you are a W&M student, and it doesn’t all have to happen within the first few weeks!
2. Find a planning system that works well for you.
This could be a physical paper planner, or an online calendar, but keeping a record of your time commitments is essential to effective time management. In high school, I was able to get by without a planner by simply making mental notes of my responsibilities, but at W&M this “strategy” only led to a lot of disorganization, procrastination, and feeling like I was constantly behind. Writing down tasks, deadlines, meetings, appointments, etc., really does make it so much easier to stay on top of your schedule. There are many different planners and calendars out there– I personally like one with space to write down daily tasks and block out an hourly schedule, but everyone has different preferences. If you struggle with procrastination and staying on task, you might also want to take advantage of other tools, like time management apps. I like one called “Forest,” which motivates you to stay on task by growing a virtual tree while you work for a set amount of time, and if you exit the app before the time is up, the tree dies.
3. Reserve time in your schedule to rest and recharge.
I truly cannot emphasize this last point enough. Attempting to manage a busy schedule is futile if you do not reserve enough time to relax and take care of yourself, because you will eventually find yourself “running on empty,” so to speak. Whether it’s watching an episode of your favorite TV show, reading a book, meditating, exercise, and so on, there are many different ways to decompress. It is also crucial to regularly get enough sleep. Okay, so we’ve all stayed up late to finish an assignment now and again, but being consistently sleep deprived is only going to make it impossible to keep up with numerous commitments and responsibilities.
While managing your schedule as a W&M student may seem overwhelming at first, I promise that it does get easier with time and practice, and I hope that these tips will help make the adjustment a bit easier.