Time management skills are essential for college students to make the most of their experience and be successful. The new-found freedom that comes with moving away from home can manifest as less motivation and structure. Parents aren’t telling students what to do, so effective time management will allow students to maximize your productivity and prioritize what matters. These time management activities for college students make a difference through simple changes.

1. Try time blocking.

From high school to college, one of the biggest changes is the structure of a student’s day. They transition from being in classes for nearly eight hours a day to maybe two or three. This leaves a more open schedule, but more commitments to fill it with. Without proper time management skills, the hours can pass without any work getting done. 

Time blocking is a method that involves scheduling out your entire day including classes, meals, homework and free time. Time blocking is an effective time management activity for college students. Steer clear of saying, “I’m going to get my homework done and study within this four hour period.” Rather, block out specific hours within that period to get each element done. For example, “I’m going to finish my lab report for this hour, then switch to English the next hour, then go to the gym this hour.” When the hour is up, try to stay on schedule and keep the structure. This promotes working efficiently when you know you gave yourself a specific window to complete a task. 

2. Take breaks as a time management activity.

An important factor of time management is making time for breaks. Taking breaks while using your time efficiently might seem counterintuitive, but it actually makes you work faster in the long run. Taking breaks every so often will refresh you, just make sure to get right back to work after them and make sure they end when you say they will. People who use the Pomodoro Technique, developed in the 1990s, work in short intervals and take short, regular, timed breaks or “Pomodoros.” Try 25-minute “sprints” of work followed by a quick five-minute break. This technique is a great time management activity for students when applied to homework or studying.

3. Determine whether you’re “an owl or a rooster” 

Even if it works better for your schedule, there’s no sense trying to cram or finish a big project at a time you personally don’t work best. Maybe you are a morning person but you think the only time left in your day is after you get home from practice at 10 p.m. Shift things around, even if that means waking up an hour earlier and compensating by going to sleep right when you get home. Scheduling your day for how you work best, not how your friends do, is an effective time management activity. 

Utilizing naps is helpful for some people. Daniel Pink describes the idea of using breaks and naps to your advantage in When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. One tip he gives is to drink a “nappuccino,” which means downing a cup of coffee before you nap for 10-20 minutes. The science behind this is that caffeine takes about 25 minutes to engage in your bloodstream, so you’ll wake up alert and focused. Sounds crazy, works great. Pink also suggests making naps part of your routine rather than opting for them occasionally. He shares there’s evidence that habitual nappers get more out of their naps than infrequent nappers.

4. Setting deadlines when there aren’t any is an effective time management activity.

We’ve all been there. You had three months to finish a semester-long project. Now, it’s two days before and you haven’t started and are wondering how you got here. With commitments where deadlines are vague, a great time management activity is creating your own structure. If your scholarship essay is due next month, aim to write two paragraphs a week. Stick to that tangible goal and the larger picture will come together. That kind of internal discipline is a good life skill that will carry beyond academics, too. 

As a college student, with freedom comes the responsibility to show up and do your best. Time is such a commodity, and maximizing the time you have will make room for more things that matter. These four time management activities for students will help you put your best foot forward, avoid stress and excel in life.