How Successful Students Manage Their Time

How Successful Students Manage Their Time

How Successful Students Manage Their Time

Successful college students have one thing in common.

They’re all called Harry.

Actually that’s not true. That’s just silly, and a big waste of your time. In an article about time management, that is just wrong. Let’s start again.

Successful college students have one thing in common.

They manage their time very, very well. They realize that time is the most precious commodity of all. More precious than gold. More precious than diamonds. Even more precious than tickets to Dave Letterman’s last show. I’m not joking. It really is.


When you enroll in college and start working towards your degree, you’ll discover that your time is incredibly valuable. There isn’t much of it, and once it’s gone, you don’t get it back. The question is….how do you best manage it? This is what successful students have done to manage their time, so take a few minutes to read all about it. These will be minutes well spent.

Make A Plan

Studying at college without a plan is like driving at night with your headlights off, and your Raybans on. To avoid crashing and burning in your studies, you need to map out what’s ahead.

Buy a 12-month wall planner, or a calendar, or use an app on your smartphone. Whatever you use, start adding important dates. Exams. Assignment due dates. Essay due dates. Lectures. Tutorials. This stuff sounds obvious but the number of college students who don’t do this most basic of things is staggering.

When you’ve put down those important academic dates, add in other dates that will require your time, your attention, or your presence. The shifts for your part time job. Social events on campus. Family birthdays.

When you’ve added all dates, stand back and admire your work. This is a good start to your time management regime. You now know what lies ahead.

Do A Time Audit

Knowing what lies ahead is one thing. Finding the time to do those things is another. One way of freeing up time for the academic year is to an audit. A time audit. Not quite as scary as those audits carried out by the IRS. In fact, a time audit is a much more positive experience.

Over the course of a week or so, make a note of pretty much everything you do, and how long you spend doing it. Studying in the college library. Writing assignments. Attending lectures on campus. (Or watching lectures on your laptop if you’re doing an online degree.) Watching TV. Cooking. Hanging out with friends. Updating your Facebook status. Exercising. Updating your Facebook status again to tell people you’ve just been exercising.


Basically, everything you do should be audited. If you find you’re spending more time on activities that don’t involve your college studies, you should make a conscious effort to cut back on them. After all, is posting a photograph of every meal on Instagram your number one priority during your college studies?

Know Your Productive Times

Productivity doesn’t always keep office hours. Productivity doesn’t always do 9 til 5. Productivity can be an early bird. Or, it can be a night owl.

Knowing when you’re at your most productive is a huge help in managing your time. All of us have times when we have more energy, or when the brain just seems more focused. Don’t waste that time watching TV, or cooking Peking Duck. Use that burst of energy to write an essay, or complete an assignment, or to revise for your next test. These bursts might happen at all hours of the day, so if you’re feeling inspired at 2am then get to work.

Routine Is Never Boring

Humans are creatures of habit. We don’t like change. That’s why we flock to see Die Hard 1, Die Hard 2, Die Hard 3, Die Hard 4 ( etc. etc. etc.) even though every one of them has pretty much the same plot. We are happy to pay perfectly good money to watch something that’s unchanging, predictable, and as comfortable as an old slipper that smells a lot like Bruce Willis.

Settling into a study routine has a similar comforting effect. It acts as something of a guiding light. It saves us from procrastination and helps us avoid distractions. Knowing you have to be doing a certain something at a certain time helps you stay on the path to academic success.

Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

You might want to settle into a daily routine, but life has a habit of throwing roadblocks in your path. Campus life in particular can be full of distractions. Fun distractions. REALLY fun distractions. Parties. Big games on campus. Movies. Weekends in the country. Heaven forbid, even romance.

It’s important to cultivate friendships, and even more intimate relationships on campus. But at what cost to your study? Every activity involving your friends, or your love interest, will not fit into your academic routine. There will be occasions when you just have to say NO to an invitation. For example, on the eve of an exam, or when you’re rushing to finish three essays and four assignments.

At times like these, you need to be a little ruthless. It might be very tempting to put your academic work to one side to catch that Star Wars marathon, screening all week at the Roxy Cinema. But if that leaves you short of time on the other side, you run the risk of entering that exam under-prepared, or you might not complete that important essay. Dudes, Darth Vader can wait.

star wars

If your college friends are as devoted to their education as you are, they will surely understand if you decide to stay in your dorm room and do a little work. It’s OK to say no to them…in a nice way of course.

Fill In Your Down Time…But Not All The Time

Cherish your down time! Those few minutes in a laundromat, or waiting at a bus stop, can be put to good use. Why stare blankly into space, when you can stare at your study flashcards? Flashcards are basically study notes about some of your subjects, and they can be referred to whenever you have some time on your hands. Just keep them in your pocket, right alongside your breath mints, and take them with you wherever you go. Imagine leaving the laundromat with clean underwear, fresh minty breath, AND a deeper knowledge of the Periodic Table of Elements. Bonus!

Successful students often mention that a few minutes of revision here or there can help to memorize or recall key components of the curriculum. Looking at flashcards at the bus stop, or skimming a text book while flying home for the holidays, just keeps things fresh in your mind. The more you do it, the more you remember.

But…and there’s always a BUT…not all of your downtime should be used up. As magnificent as it is, the human brain can’t keep going without a break. If you have a few minutes to nap, or to take a walk in the fresh air, do so. A rested brain is more focused and better able to retain information. So give it a time out every now and again, and a few moments to recover on the bench. Treat your brain like an NBA superstar e.g. LeBrain James.

How Badly Do You Want This?

How you manage your time as a college student is very closely linked to your priorities. How badly do you want this degree? Is this education program an essential cog in the larger wheel of a successful life? Can you work in your dream job without a qualification? If the answers to these questions indicate that this degree IS hugely important in the overall scheme of things, then it should be relatively simple to allocate time to the activities that will help you graduate.


Not every successful student is an Einstein. Not every successful student is called Harry. But every successful student has managed their time well. They’ve found the time required to study for exams, and write great essays, and get top marks in their assignments. If you know people who have done well at college, pick their brains. Ask them how they managed their time while they were students. We’ve given you a few tips, but there are many more. So take the time to find out more about time, and how to manage it. Time well spent? Absolutely!