Effective Time Management Strategies

"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot."
--Michael Althshuler

The collection below reflects what professionals and successful college students recommend to maximize your success this semester...

Take it from the pros

Take about 10 minutes and watch this really useful and encouraging video with 10 Time Management Tips. You'll be glad you did. 

Take advantage of hands-on help 

In addition to the calendars and many tips on time management, study skills, distraction-blocking, note-taking, test-taking, and more that you’ll find on the SOAR website, students can attend free Academic Success Workshops. Please check back here the week of August 22nd for our workshop schedule.

If you would also like to schedule a one-on-one time management/academic success strategy session with a SOAR Academic Success Strategist, you can do so by emailing SOAR@dickinson.edu and providing at least three options of when you would be available for a one-hour meeting.

You can also get help with writing support from the Writing Center, math-related support from the Quantitative Reasoning Center, and request peer tutoring or advising support from Advising, Internship, and Career Center.

Use a reliable calendar or planner  

Whether physical or digital, using planning tools to plan your days and weeks is critical to a successful semester. There are a number of tools on the Time Management page (including apps found under "Plan your time") that can help you in managing your time effectively. You can also use Apple's iCal, a Google Calendar, or -- very conveniently -- the calendar that's built into Outlook through Office 365 (when you're in your email, just click the icon of the calendar to switch to it). All of these digital calendars enable you to enter and keep track of any work that needs to be completed, so that you can then create daily task lists of what you need to accomplish each time.

After entering your scheduled classes, designate times when you'll work on each class, as well as other commitments and times to exercise and de-stress. You can always revise your plans, but better to create a daily study schedule than to be unsure of "what to do when" or "when to work on what." It's a good idea to allocate time every Saturday or Sunday to enter what, specifically, you'll need to do that week (e.g. "write introduction to reflections paper," read pages 50-75 of x," review notes to prepare for Friday's ___ exam," etc.)

It's also important to use your class syllabi to enter all of your test dates, presentations, and assignment due datesFrom there you can create reminders to make sure that no test or due date "creeps up on you." 

Taking the time up front to plan how you'll spend your time each day and week will best enable you to stay on top of everything -- and have more time for your non-academic life!

Reduce Distractions

Trouble concentrating on what you're reading?
Download the free text-to-speech software program "Read and Write." It will not only read aloud any digital text while highlighting each word it reads; it also enables you to save digital texts to a read-aloud MP3 file that you can listen to while you're out getting some exercise. 

Struggling to focus long enough to write a paper?
If you use the free app Cold Turkey Writer, as explained in this video review, you can enter a set amount of time or number of words that you need to write and it won't let you access anything else on your computer until you've accomplished that. (There's also a 20% student discount for the paid version.)

Tendency to stray to YouTube or social media when you should be doing research?
Check out the section on "Distraction Blockers" on our Study Strategies page for tips like using Freedom to prevent you from going to any sites but the ones that you deem permissible during the time when you need to do work. 

Get Enough Sleep


If you believe that it’s a good idea to stay up all night before a test to cram as much into your brain as you can, think again! Here are the most important things to remember about sleep:

  • It’s critical that you get enough sleep after learning to activate the “save” button on what you’ve learned so that you can recall it later.
  • You also need adequate sleep before learning so your brain is primed to soak up and commit to memory what you take in.
  • Sleep is your body’s life support system, and it’ll function best if you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Put down any electronics at least an hour before bedtime, since blue light interrupts your brain’s ability to “turn off” for the night. (Read a  book instead.)
  • Plan for what time you’ll go to bed and ask others to help you to do just that.
  • Most of this information is reinforced in the first 5 minutes of this TED Talk: Sleep is your superpower.

Ensure you've downloaded free computer resources

If you haven't already downloaded Office365 to all your devices, now's the time! In addition to getting Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for free, there are many other cool apps that come with it, like Planner, which everyone on the SOAR Team uses to create checklists of everything that needs to get done. It will also be helpful to install Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing PDFs. Finally, this LIS Software Portal provides links to an array of free and discounted software available to all Dickinsonians, as well as a schedule of upcoming software tutorial sessions.


Actively participate in online forums. Not only is this an opportunity to interact with your peers (which is important these days!), participating in a class’s online forum will help you better understand the course material – just like actively participating in a classroom environment. It also goes a long way in letting the professor know you are actively engaged in the course. Take time to collaborate with your professor and classmates. It may feel as though you’re on your own, but you’re not! Post comments. Ask questions. Unclear about an assignment or a concept you’re learning? Reach out to the professor! Those virtual office hours are there for you! 

Develop a routine  

While developing your calendar or planner, be sure to plan in routine activities to maintain a consistent schedule day to day. Go to sleep and wake up at consistent times, schedule specific times for different activities (including studying, exercise, and "just for me" time), and get dressed in the morning as if you are going to class normally. One of the best ways to maximize your "alert hours" would be to treat your academic day like a (roughly) 9-5 job where you devote yourself to your academics and then reward yourself with the freedom to do your own thing in the evenings. 

Find Quiet Study Spaces Outside of Your Bedroom

If you study in your room, you won't have a separate space to go when you've finished studying. It's helpful to leave your room and go to a space where you won't be tempted by the distractions in your room (or outside your door). Your brain will associate your room as the place where you sleep, socialize, play games, so keep it that way and do your studying in a quiet room in the library or a classroom that no one else is using.

Take it one thing at a time  

Don’t get trapped in one task for too long. Finish today’s reading assignment, stand up, get a good stretch, then move on to the next thing waiting on your to-do list. Save checking Instagram and those comedy videos until an evening reward for when your "day of work" is done. 

Schedule Breaks 

It's important to plan breaks to exercise, eat, stretch, and even to engage in activities in which you aren’t looking at a screen. Schedule breaks as you would a meeting or class, and maybe set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take them. Maybe consider relocating to a different room for your next academic task. A change of scenery is good for the brain and the body. 

Minimize Distractions

Ever find yourself sucked into social media or a rabbit hole of videos when you've got work you should be doing? Help is here! Find some great apps on this "Distraction Blockers" page that will enable you to better focus on your work so you can get it done sooner...and enjoy those diversions as a reward. 

Organize your life with OneNote

With so much to now manage online, why not use a free app that helps you organize it all? OneNote lets you save all your notes (typed or handwritten) -- plus drawings, web articles, and even class videos – in digital notebooks that you can access from any device. It can not only type up what you say, it can read anything typed or uploaded there! Here is a OneNote Reveal, previewing many of its great features. (See if you can spot Fido’s favorite!) And here is a collection of OneNote video tutorials. To get started, just go to: Gateway --> Office365 --> All apps --> OneNote.

Maximize Your Academic Success

Here are 10 excellent suggestions for how to do so as offered by the Center for Active Minds. (Click outside the pop-up window and scroll down to see the article "Are Your Classes Online? Set Yourself Up For Success For Virtual Learning!")

Exercise Good Self-Care

Working from home will be energy-draining in unique ways. Just as you should schedule specific times to work, so should you schedule times to put work away and engage in other activities. Even if you’re just moving to a different spot in the room, be intentional about making a transition in and out of “work mode.” It will be important to use this time to give your eyes and brain a rest from looking at a screen. It might be tempting to only watch TV or movies in your downtime, but remember that you will need to vary your activities to stay alert and cognitively healthy. See the Social, Emotional, and Mental Wellness page for tips on caring for yourself and others

Return to the SOAR website.