Good news is that you don’t have to worry about seven. No… there are really only three habits you need to form to be a successful student.
Shockingly enough, they all relate to time management. I know that’s not the only thing that goes into being a good student. Lots of other things do too. Things like, I don’t know, studying for example.
But it doesn’t matter how well you study or what kind of great study tips you know if you can’t manage your time. Lots of folks I know and knew when I was in school are very intelligent people. They studied well but they weren’t good at time management.
Let’s just say that last minute study sessions and all-nighters happened far too often and that their grades suffered as a result.
So time management really is the key to being a successful student. Here are the three habits you need to form.
Keep a Calendar
Lots of schools hand out free planners or calendars.
They do that for a reason.
The question for you as a student is what do you put into that calendar?
It’s tempting to write down everything going on in your life. Don’t.
That calendar is for one thing and one thing only: due dates.
Whenever you get any assignment, write down the due date in that calendar.
If you’re feeling particularly Hermionesque (yes I just made that up), you can even put the due date down a few days or–gasp!–even a week before it’s actually due. You’ll get it done early and you’ll be under far less stress.
Also, by doing this you can see at a glance that “oh I have 3 papers due on the same day next month. I should bump one up and start it sooner so I can get all of them done.”
Every semester, when you get the syllabus for a class, write down all the due dates.
You might be asking “can’t I just use my phone calendar or something?” There is a bit of discussion on this, but personally I think you should use paper. It’s easier to see all those dates at a glance (and just those dates) if you use a paper calendar or planner.
Now I said that the only dates that go in that calendar are due dates and that’s true. But those due dates don’t have to be just the final due dates, which brings us to the second habit:
Break Down and Schedule Realistically
The easiest way to make sure you never get stressed over an assignment or worse, turn one in late, is to break it down into chunks and plan it backwards.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say today is October 8. You have a paper due on the 30th. In the midst of planning your epic Halloween costume, you gotta get this thing done.
So break it down into different parts. For a paper that’s usually something like: brainstorm topic, research, outline, first draft, do all the big picture revisions, do all the little picture editing, polish it for punctuation and stuff, and submit it.
Let’s work it backwards. Your due date is the 30th. Let’s say we arbitrarily bump it back 5 days, just to give yourself some wiggle room in case something happens.
So October 25, you’ll submit the paper.
October 24th, you’ll give it a final look-over.
October 23rd, you’ll do the polishing for punctuation and making sure it looks good and is all printed out and ready to to.
October 22nd, let it sit. You’ll notice “let it sit” days. If you have the time, this is always a good idea. It’s remarkable and rather depressing how much you start to miss if you don’t take a break for a day. Never revise stuff the same day you write it.
Also, this will give you a chance to not be a slave to studying. Just because you want to be a successful student doesn’t mean you should be hunched over a desk 80 hours a week. Ideally, take the weekend off! Chill out and have fun! I’ll talk more about this in a minute…
You keep working backwards, allowing a good amount of time for each step. When you finish, you should see a date on your calendar that says “brainstorm paper topic”. If you brainstorm a topic that day, you’re well on your way!
It’s important to be realistic in how long things take you. Don’t put “write paper” all in one day for a 30-page term paper. You can’t do that. Or at least not well.
Give things the time they need.
Do all this planning at the beginning of the semester for all the due dates you know for all your classes and you’ll be set.
So your calendar will have two sets of dates in it. One set (ideally in one color ink) of all the final due dates for your assignments. Another set of dates (in a different color) for all the incremental due dates you just set for yourself on the way to those final dates.
Something I did in school that helped me enormously was to schedule homework for only four days, Monday through Thursday. I always left Friday, Saturday and Sunday open from school assignments.
Granted, I rarely managed to do everything in those four days. But scheduling for four and having to work five is better than scheduling for five and having to work six or seven.
Also, the times I did manage to squeeze stuff into those four days, I enjoyed a three-day weekend! Unless I had a Friday class. Dumb Friday classes.
It’s important when you’re making this schedule to always leave wiggle room. Not just because things almost always take longer than we think they will, but because you need to leave room for fun time too.
When you make your schedule, be sure to put in some fun things too! It can be larger things (like a party or event) or something small (watch a movie in your room). But whatever floats your fun boat, carve out time for it!
If you don’t schedule fun, school and work will expand and you’ll never have time for fun, refreshing activities. Then you’ll probably take the time anyway, but then it’ll be stealing time from work or school and that’s how things go downhill.
Successful students schedule fun time.
You should too.
- Keep a calendar of due dates
- Break down and schedule realistically
- Plan fun and relaxation
Want to be a successful student? Grab a calendar and the nearest syllabus and get started!
What do you think?
What are some challenges you’ve faced in scheduling things with school? Do you have any “successful student” study tips? Share in the comments below!