Marilyn Gardner Milton on Tips for Using Your Time Strategically in College

Marilyn Gardner, Lawyer
3 min readAug 23, 2023

The college experience, while rewarding, can often be an overwhelming whirlwind of classes, social events, work commitments, and personal responsibilities. To excel and make the most out of these transformative years, mastering the art of time management is crucial.

Start by categorizing your tasks based on their urgency and importance. The Eisenhower Box, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, can be beneficial. This matrix divides tasks into four categories:

  • Urgent and Important: Do these immediately.
  • Not Urgent but Important: Schedule these.
  • Urgent but Not Important: Delegate or minimize these.
  • Neither Urgent nor Important: Reconsider or eliminate these.

By distinguishing tasks this way, you can allocate time more effectively and avoid last-minute panic.

Instead of viewing an assignment as a monumental task, break it into smaller components. This approach, often called the “Pomodoro Technique,” entails working intensively for a set period, say 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break. Repeat the cycle. This not only maintains your focus but also provides regular intervals to refresh.

Modern technology offers many tools and apps designed to assist with time management. Platforms like Google Calendar, Trello, and Todoist can be life savers. Use them to set reminders, create to-do lists, and track deadlines. However, remember to strike a balance. Social media and other digital distractions can quickly consume hours if not kept in check.

A clear vision of your goal by the end of the semester or year can guide your daily and weekly priorities. Once you set overarching goals, break them into smaller milestones with deadlines. This approach provides a roadmap for the future while keeping you accountable in the present.

Whether you’re a digital native or a fan of old-school notebooks, an organized system is essential to track assignments, readings, and exam dates. Review your system weekly and adjust as needed. An organized system minimizes the risk of overlooking vital tasks and eases the stress of cramming.

While college is a time to explore new opportunities, overextending can lead to burnout and hinder academic progress. Deciding on certain social events or extracurriculars is okay if it means preserving your well-being and focusing on your primary objectives.

It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes, the best thing you can do for your productivity is to take a break. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and relaxation techniques like meditation are all essential. When your body and mind peak, your efficiency and focus will naturally follow.

Consistency can be a powerful tool in managing your time. Setting specific times for study, meals, exercise, and relaxation can bring structure to your day. Not only does a routine reduce decision fatigue, but it also ensures that important tasks don’t fall through the cracks. For example, if you habitually study at 6 p.m. every evening, you’ll be mentally prepared to dive into your work day.

Most colleges and universities offer many resources to help students manage their time. Assistance from academic advisors and tutoring centers to time management workshops is likely available. Be bold about reaching out; these resources exist to help you succeed.

Your strategies for time management at the start of college might need tweaking as you progress. It’s essential to regularly reflect on what’s working and what isn’t. You may be more productive studying in the morning than in the evening, or not the type for group study sessions. You can make the necessary adjustments to optimize your time by periodically assessing your habits.

College is a unique, enriching phase of life, offering opportunities for growth inside and outside the classroom. You can savor these years by approaching them with strategic time management while laying a robust foundation for future endeavors. Remember, it’s not always about working harder but often about working smarter. With these strategies, you’re well-equipped to make the most of every moment in your college journey.

Originally published at