Stanley: How to organize your time

Sandeep Stanley

Coming to college from high school is one of the most exciting transitions you’re ever going to make. There are so many opportunities to be involved in the community, to pursue your own interests and, of course, there is a lot more freedom for you to enjoy.

With all of these new opportunities and avenues to explore, however, you might quickly find that there is a significant drain on your most valuable resource — time.

Never fear, though: part of being a successful student and community member at Iowa State is time management, and this piece contains some handy tips for you to keep in mind. 

One of the first things that cannot be stressed enough is the importance of a schedule. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I can totally remember the five trillion clubs I signed up for and their meetings — I don’t need to write anything down!”

However, making and writing down a schedule has a twofold benefit.

First, it helps you remember when and where all of your activities are. People forget all the time: the where is just as important as the when, especially if you’re new to campus, and having that schedule to refer to can help you conscientiously prepare for your next activity in advance.

Second, it helps you consciously organize all of your activities into a definite plan that you can follow. Often, it may not become apparent until 15 minutes before a meeting starts that you have marching band practice at the same time. Having a schedule can help you recognize and plan ahead for any conflicts you may have.

Again, the writing component is vital. People write things in different ways — phone calendars, sticky notes (I personally carry around a planner that I write my engagements in) — but writing things down is a huge help to organization.

After a busy day, you get back to your dorm with a paper on the agenda — but your friends are playing a game in your room and you want to join. Or maybe you have a class across campus at 9 and wake up at 8:45 feeling exhausted and demoralized. In trying times like these, always remember that discipline is key — there’s no use in meticulously planning out a schedule if you’re not going to follow it in the end.

Discipline is an absolutely vital skill in life, and developing it now while you’re going through this wild adventure will leave you light-years ahead of the pack.

It will be difficult — that is undeniable. However, as the famous quote goes, “The pain of discipline will never be as great as the pain of regret.” Do whatever you have to do to get that paper done, or to drag yourself to that morning physics class; just remember, it will only get easier over time.

So, you’ve dragged yourself to the gigantic mountain of work waiting for you — how on earth will you finish it all? The key is to work efficiently, and this comes in three steps.

First, keep your long-term objectives in mind and prioritize accordingly; your schedule will be an immense asset during this stage. Look ahead to identify what must be done as soon as possible, and what can be potentially moved back. However, don’t let your discipline fail you. Even if you move something back, it still has to be done eventually.

Second, eliminate your distractions. If your friends are all in your room, go somewhere else. If your crush is trying to Snap you, tell them that you’re terribly sorry, but you absolutely must finish this assignment and you’ll get back to them as soon as you’re done, and turn your phone off. Create the ideal space for yourself to do your best work.

Finally, stay disciplined; don’t fall into the trap of rewarding yourself with a break after finishing a task. This strategy works for people who have developed strong discipline, but — especially late at night, when you’re beginning to lose focus more easily — this can prove to be a massive time-sink.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed this little guide, and Go State!