Published: Jan. 21, 2020
Student studying in a CU dormitory lounge

Do you ever sit down to tackle a project or study for a test and have no idea where to start? Have you ever taken an Instagram break from reading your textbook and before you knew it, 30 minutes had gone by?

Getting distracted happens to the best of us, and learning to manage our time can play a big role in our academic success. Here are some tips to help you stress less about managing your time and get the most out of your study sessions.

At the beginning of the semester…

Get organized

Use a calendar or planner and add important dates from your syllabuses. This includes exam dates, project or paper deadlines, presentations, etc. Regularly look ahead at your next few weeks to see what is coming up and which things should take priority.

Block out reading/study times

Schedule consistent blocks of time to study or review class material. And make this a routine in your week. It may feel like there’s still plenty of time before your first exam, but studying regularly helps to balance studies with social time. It will also ensure you are very familiar with the material.

Make a plan for your study sessions and group projects

Take note of big papers, projects or tests coming up and break them into smaller tasks to work on throughout the semester. This helps to make progress on assignments that aren’t due for a while and avoid procrastinating until the last minute.

During project and study sessions…

Find what works for you

Do you prefer to study alone or with friends? Do you need complete silence or some background noise to help you concentrate? Try out some different working environments to find what works best for you.

Fight distraction

If you find yourself easily distracted, try this technique:

  • Choose an amount of time to focus, for example 25 minutes, and set a timer.
  • During those 25 minutes, concentrate on your studies. Put your phone away and eliminate other distractions during this time.
  • After 25 minutes has gone by, set your timer for 5 minutes and take a break. Look at your phone, take a short walk or get a snack.
  • After your break, set your timer again for 25 minutes and repeat.
  • Choose any combination of focus time and break time that works for you. If you find your attention wandering in 25 minutes, start with 15-minute focus sessions.

Ask for help

If you feel stuck on a problem or a concept discussed in class, it does not help to sit with it and struggle by yourself. Text a classmate, visit your professor’s office hours or help lab, or find a study group. The sooner you ask for help, the less likely you are to fall behind.