The transition into college can be tough–whether you are a recent high school graduate or a career changer. College students must learn to juggle many projects, assignments, and deadlines every week. But establishing strong time management skills will help you succeed as a student.

Good time management is key to reaching goals

The most important part of good time management is making it part of your daily routine. Make a pledge to stick to it for one month. That’s enough time to cement it into your daily routine and develop new habits.

1. Make the calendar your new best friend

To manage your time turn to software like Microsoft Outlook, a Google calendar, or the calendar in your smartphone. If you’d rather use a low-tech option, try an old-fashioned day planner. Record all your deadlines and tasks. Set reminders a week ahead of important deadlines, and then repeat those reminders again one or two days before.

Spending time getting organized and planning your project is NOT a waste of time. Get in the habit of creating to-do lists, in your day planner, or online. Group your tasks into three categories:

Must get done today

Should get done today

Would be nice to get done today

Start with the musts and work your way through the categories. Anything that doesn’t get done today stays on the list and probably moves up a category for tomorrow.

2. Prioritize

Just got out of class with a list of upcoming assignments? Take five minutes to enter those deadlines into your day planner, calendar, or phone. This will allow you to “let them go” from your mind so you can concentrate on today’s priorities.

And don’t let small, easily accomplished tasks build up; do it now. Not only will you avoid falling behind, you’ll feel good about checking them off your to-do list.

A big part of time management is creating the right environment for efficiency. Schedule dedicated time into your day to complete your tasks.

• Set aside time for emails and phone calls, and then silence your cell phone and sign off from social media sites or instant messenger programs.

• Shut your door or find a quiet corner of the library where you won’t be disturbed.

• Turn on your favorite music, or make sure your area is quiet – whichever works for you.

• Prepare a healthy snack to give you energy and then get those tasks underway.

3. Know what’s important

Balancing life, work, and home can be difficult for even the most seasoned time management pro. Knowing what your priorities are and the consequences (both good and bad) associated with all your obligations will help you stay on track.

Part of managing your time effectively is knowing when to say no. It sounds simple, but turning down new projects, social events, or other things that could take up time can help you stay focused and avoid that overwhelmed feeling that keeps you from getting anything done at all.

4. Reward yourself

When you’ve done a good job, have a clear priority plan in place, and checked off many to-dos, take a break. Go outside for a walk, pet your cat, or call your friend for a chat. Do something that you enjoy. But then, get back to work!

Sarah McMaster