Time Scheduling

Being successful at the university level will probably require a more careful and effective utilization of time than the student has ever achieved before. He/she is typically scheduled for fifteen or more hours of classroom work per week; in addition, he is expected to average about two hours of preparation for each hour in the classroom. This means that he has at least a forty-five hour work week and is consequently involved in a full-time occupation! Many students find that this full-time job must be supplemented by other part-time jobs and/or family and social responsibilities which add a great deal more time. A common student complaint, therefore, is that there is just not enough time to go around.

The job of being a university student, like most other jobs, can be carried out either efficiently or inefficiently. The way we use time (or waste it) is largely a matter of habit patterns. One of the best techniques for developing more efficient habits of time use is to prepare a time schedule. Research psychologist and efficiency experts can produce impressive statistics demonstrating the efficiency of a well-organized time schedule. The work habits of people who have achieved outstanding success invariably show a well-designed pattern or schedule. When a person has several duties confronting him simultaneously, he often will fail to do any of them. The purpose of scheduling is not to make a slave of the student, but to free him from the scholastic inefficiency and related anxiety that is, at least partially, a function of wasted time, inadequate planning, and hasty, last-minute study.

The most successful system for most students is to combine long-range and short-range planning. Thus, a student can make a general schedule for an entire semester and then prepare a more specific plan for two or three days a week at a time.

LONG-RANGE SCHEDULE: Some suggestions for developing a long-range strategy—e.g., a semester schedule:

1. Plan Enough Time for Study.

The University expects a student to average about two hours in studying (including library work, term papers, themes, etc.) for each hour spent in the classroom. This is an appropriate and realistic guideline. A genuinely high-ability student may get by adequately with less. However, many students would do well to plan for somewhat more than the two-for-one ratio.

2. Study at the Same Time Every Day.

As much as possible, a student should schedule certain hours that are used for studying almost every day in a habitual, systematic way. Having regular hours at least five days a week will make it easier to habitually follow the schedule and to maintain an active approach to study.

3. Make Use of the Free Hours During the School Day.

The hours between classes are perhaps a student's most valuable study time yet, ironically, the most frequently misused. A student may effectively use these hours reviewing the material and editing the notes of the preceding class and/or studying the material to be discussed in the following class.

4. Plan Study Periods to Follow Class Periods.

This should be done whenever possible. The next best procedure is to schedule the period for study immediately preceding the class. A student should specify the particular course he will study rather than just marking "study" on his schedule.

5. Space Study Periods.

Fifty to ninety minutes of study at a time for each course works best. Relaxation periods of ten or fifteen minutes should be scheduled between study periods. It is more efficient to study hard for a definite period of time, and then stop for a few minutes, than attempt to study indefinitely.

6. Plan for Weekly Reviews.

At least one hour each week for each class (distinct from study time) should be scheduled. The weekend is a good time for review.

7. Leave Some Unscheduled Time for Flexibility.

This is important! Lack of flexibility is the major reason why schedules fail. Students tend to over-schedule themselves.

8. Allot Time for Planned Recreation, Campus, Church Activities, Etc.

When a student plans his schedule, he should begin by listing the activities that come at fixed hours and cannot be changed. Classes and labs, eating in the dorm dining hall, sleep, and work for money are examples of time uses which the student typically cannot alter. Next, he can schedule his flexible time commitments. These hours can be interchanged with other hours if he finds that his schedule must be changed during the week. Recreational activities are planned last.

When forced to deviate from his planned schedule (and that will invariably occur), the student should trade time rather than steal it from his schedule. Thus, if he has an unexpected visitor at a time he has reserved for study, he can substitute an equal amount of study time for the period he had set aside for recreation.

Time Scheduling Suggestions

Time scheduling will not make you a perfectly efficient person. Very few people can rigorously keep a detailed schedule day after day over a long period of time. In fact, many students who draw up a study schedule and find themselves unable to stick to it become impatient and often give up the scheduling idea completely.

The following method of organizing time has been helpful to many students and does not take much time. It is more flexible than many methods and helps the student to establish long-term, intermediate, and short-term time goals.

1. Long Term Schedule

Construct a schedule of your fixed commitments only. These include only obligations you are required to meet every week, e.g., job hours, classes, church, organization meetings, etc.

2. Intermediate Schedule - One per week

Now make a short list of major events and amount of work to be accomplished in each subject this week. This may include non-study activities. For example:

These events will change from week to week and it is important to make a new list for each week. Sunday night may be the most convenient time to do this.

3. Short Term Schedule - One per day

On a small notecard each evening before retiring or early in the morning make out a specific daily schedule. Write down specifically what is to be accomplished. Such a schedule might include:

    8:00-8:30 Review History
    9:30-10:30 Preview Math and prepare for Quiz
    4:45 Pick up cleaning on way home
    7:00-10:15 Chpt. 5, 6 (History)
    10:30 Phone calls

Carry this card with you and cross out each item as you accomplish it. Writing down things in this manner not only forces you to plan your time but in effect causes you to make a promise to yourself to do what you have written down.

This information has been copied, with permission and some revisions, from the Virginia Tech server to ours, to allow faster access from our Web site. We encourage you to explore the original site via the links at top and bottom of this page.

Return to SE Michigan Math-Science Home Page