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Tips for Those Overwhelmed by “Free Time”

| Tips & Suggestions

In your first year of college you may be overwhelmed by just how much “free time” you have. I still remember the luxury of daily afternoon naps my freshmen year (every day at 2pm). Teachers and family members warn you all through your senior year of high school that college will be different, that it will be more challenging and demand more of your time and your energy. So why do you end up with more time on your hands than ever before? The reality is that you don’t have more time, you just have total control over how to use it. Your time may be scheduled for classes, counseling sessions, and the like, but if you choose to skip something, chances are no one is going to hunt you down and force you to face your commitment. You have independence like never before and with that comes responsibility. You have to not only recognize what is important in your college life but also manage your time so that you can meet all of your responsibilities. This requires you to:

1)      Prioritize- determine what is most important to you or what you should be spending the most amount of time on. Maybe math is your best subject and history is your worst. Your final grade in both classes may be equally important to you, but you may have to invest more time in studying and preparing for your history class than you do math just to achieve the same result. It’s okay to be uneven in the attention you pay to your classes; only you know how much time and effort it will take you to understand the material fully.

2)      Schedule- whether you use an electronic or print calendar (or maybe even both), make sure that you know the times of all of your activities each week. This includes not only classes, but also appointments with your learning specialist, life coach, and counselor. You may also have other scheduled meetings, like study sessions, an appointment with a professor, or practice/game time for intramural sports. Be sure to also jot down activities sponsored by Student Services that you’ll want to attend. Deadlines for projects and dates for assessments should also be noted. This way, you’ll have a clear and complete picture of what needs to be accomplished each week so you can allot your time accordingly. One week you may spend a lot of time concentrating on one course, and the next week your study time will be focused on a different one.

3)      Consider flex time- we are all more productive at certain times of the day. Figure out when you are most energized and motivated to do your work. This is when you will need to spend the least amount of time on the task and be in the best position to understand the material and produce good work because you will be able to concentrate and won’t be distracting yourself from the task at hand simply because you aren’t motivated. On the other side, try to figure out when you are least productive and motivated.  If you’re drained after classes and all you want to do is hang out on the couch, that’s what you should do at that time. Allow yourself that time to decompress, knowing that the break will give you time to recharge so you can focus in the evening. The key is to understand your own needs and your body schedule. If you like to get your work done immediately after classes, you should do it at that time, especially if you know you would rather spend your evenings socializing. For instance, I’m a night person. In college, it wasn’t uncommon for me to begin studying at 10:00pm and continue until 1:00 or 2:00 (which is why I didn’t feel guilty about those afternoon naps). You may be an early riser, so maybe you want to dedicate some morning hours to studying and doing homework. Plan accordingly, and according to your own unique body schedule.

For many freshmen, the sheer amount of “free time” can be overwhelming. Some may even experience anxiety or guilt because they are so used to having others determine their schedule, and they feel the vague sense that they should be doing something but they don’t know what. Take charge of your schedule and of managing your time. Allow yourself the freedom to have fun and socialize, and minimize the risk of guilt by knowing you have allotted time in your schedule for everything that you need and want to do. Eventually, managing your time will become easier and will permit you to be the most productive and successful college student you can be!

~ Gretchen Dreimiller


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