The Biggest Challenge My Subscribers Struggle With

college triangle

I sent a survey out to my email subscribers a couple weeks ago, asking what their biggest challenges are.

Here’s one person’s response:

“Trying to make it through college without going insane. I’m taking 18 credits and work around 15 hours a week. I really wish I could manage everything, get good grades without doing extreme studying, and find time to do things that I want to do for fun or little side projects.”

Here’s another one:

“Life would just be so much easier if sleep wasn’t a necessity and one could actually have a 24 hour day. I juggle a job, dual credit classes, and 5 different clubs.”

Here’s one more:

“Managing two majors, work, and trying to squeeze in a little bit of fun.”

The #1 response, by and large, was related to time management.

And guess what? Even after having spent the last few years trying to improve my own time management skills, I still consider time management to be my biggest challenge, too.

That’s why this post is going to be shorter than normal—because I don’t have time to write a longer one.

As you may or may not know, I started working full-time in August. The first month or so started out pretty slow, but then things picked up. These last few weeks have been extremely overwhelming, and I had to take this entire last week off from writing in order to catch up on my work.

So, today, I’m going to do things a little bit differently.

Instead of offering you advice on how to better manage your time, I thought I’d ask you—what’s your best time management tip?

I’ll put together the top five or so tips and share them in my next post.

UPDATE (11/8/2015): You can check out the top 5 tips I selected here: Top 5 Time Management Tips For Those Who Don’t Have Enough Time In The Day

About Stefano

Stefano Ganddini

Hey there! I'm the creator of Collegetopia and the guy who writes all these articles. I'm here to help you live BIG, do EPIC shit, & be HAPPY. Click here to read more.

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  • My 3 best time management tips:
    1. You can’t manage time. You can only manage your tasks (what you do within time). Trying to control the time makes it more stressful.
    2. Use a timer as soon as you sit at the computer. Set it for 50 minutes of focused work and then set it for a 10 minute break. That works awesome for me.
    3. Plan your week on Sunday night and schedule your most important thing first in the morning (also the ones requiring a lot of attention).

    That’s what works for me.

    • Thanks for sharing, Etienne. Scheduling the most important thing first thing in the morning is a good one. I just started a new morning routine last week so that I can work on my blog first thing in the morning before I go to work – that way I get it out of the way and don’t have to worry about being too tired to do it when I get home from work (which is usually the case).

  • Hey Stefano! Here are some of my tips:

    1) Focus : allowing yourself as much as possible to work on a single task without interruptions. Whether it’s working on tasks at an internship / job or studying calculus, little interruptions will take away from your focus and take you away from the state of flow where you’re most productive. That state of flow you can only get by focusing for at least 5 minutes has to be protected!

    2) Awareness : I mean this in two ways. Awareness of yourself , in which you learn what tasks to do depending how you feel. For example, you probably won’t be able to fully concentrate on homework after being full from a large meal, but you’ll probably be able to clear and respond to emails. Or sometimes, it would actually be more productive for you to nap for 45 minutes, and go to the library for two very productive hours, rather than forcing yourself through homework while you’re half asleep.

    Then there’s schedule awareness, which is basically smart logistics. Like going straight from class to a study spot to quickly do some reading during your one hour gap, as opposed to just hanging out during your gap and letting the work pile up for later.

    Overall the goal of awareness is to maximize efficiency, though that doesn’t always mean powering through a work load.

    3) Goals and Deadlines : Having a goal or deadline and reminding yourself of them really helps put things into perspective. If you don’t remember why you wanted to wake up earlier, you’re gonna snooze the alarm for longer. But if you remember that you wanted to finish your essay so that you were free to go on a cabin trip during the weekend, that’s a lot bigger pull to get your out of bed.

    Those are my top tips.
    Cheers!

    -Darry

    • Great tips, Darryl. Especially resonated with the bit about awareness – learning what tasks to do depending how you feel. This is something I’ve only recently started to realize the importance of and am still figuring out what works best for me.

  • I can so relate to this. In fact, not just students, almost everyone at some point faces with time management.

    What I like to do is, not take advice like be more focused , be productive (which I feel is great), but upto a certain point it becomes generalized and forgetful.

    Instead – I’lltry to provide some actionable tools which will help you in saving time and be more effective while you study or do anything for that matter..Let’s dig into all –

    1) StayFocused : This is a Google Chrome plugin. Once you install this plugin, click the little blue-and-black clock icon beside your address bar. Ask yourself, how many countless hours do you spend on facebook, Amazon ,reddit, etc..While you work, this plugin ‘blocks’ your biggest time wasters so you focus on only the important things in your life! P.S – For Firefox, there is LeechBlock

    2) Batching produces more results : There is a concept in Industrial Engineering, where batching basically means, instead of doing a task at regular or sporadic intervals, do it all at once for a longer period of time. It helps in – reducing time , works faster, simplifies things.

    3) Create a Mindmap : Mindmapping is basically visually sketching all permutations and combinations of any problem/situation in a branched format to give you options to – visualize, plan, schedule, assign, etc..Mind42 is a great app to try.

    4) Work productively with Evernote : I cannot over – emphasize of how powerful of a tool evernote is. Use it to categorize, create notes, tag pictures – almost anything you want to do, and the best part – All at ONE place!

    5) Focus Booster : This app is based on the pomodoro technique for those who feel overwhelmed by tasks.

    6) To- do lists : A great to-do list app you can try is MyLifeOrganized

    Hope this helps.

    Thanks for this post Stefano, I’ll try sharing with my readers!

    • Thanks for the tips, Zubin. I liked the batching tip. This is really helpful for me, especially for things like responding to email. Rather than responding one by one as soon as I receive an email, I set aside times to go through it all at once.

  • me

    I’ve always functioned well on a “work hard, play hard” mentality. I schedule my tasks, and stick to my schedule by rewarding myself upon accomplishment.

    Though I usually implement this on a weekly scale (get through a week’s work, so I can have a full day of relaxation and entertainment), it’s easier to start smaller than that. For example, one could try working, undistracted, for 1 hour and then rewarding herself with 10-minutes of social media relief. Or working for three hours and then reading a novel for entertainment! :)

    But it sounds like your problem is that there just isn’t enough time in the day for everything you want to do. Maybe you should instead opt to tie your days to different tasks. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sunday’s, you work on the blog. Wednesdays and Fridays, you finish up work-related tasks. Saturdays are for fun! 😉

    • I’ve always been a fan of the work hard, play hard model. I think small rewards for achieving small tasks can be really powerful – that’s something I need to do more of.

      I also really like the idea of assigning tasks to specific days. This relates to the idea of batching that someone mentioned above. I’ve thought about doing it before but have never really implemented it.

  • skacaa

    1/write down the three most important things of the day in the morning(concrete things,ie,the pages of a book you’ll read,the miles you’ll run,the time you’ll spend on a project) ;
    2/get start with the most hard and important ones;at least try five minites first;
    3/record the time you spend on each thing;
    4/record the total time,the degree of completion at the end of the day;
    5/stick to it for a few days,maybe you’ll find how you spend your time,what things you’ll always delay,what are the most important things to you(we have to give up the less important ones sometimes)…
    we can’t actually manage the time,we can only manage ourselves,our mental model and the pattern of behavior.

    • Writing down the 3 most important things is definitely a good one. I was doing this for a while and felt really productive, but at some point I stopped doing it. Forces you to really focus on what’s important vs. all the other crap on your to-do list.

      The other tip that stood out to me: “find how you spend your time, what things you’ll always delay.” Things always take longer than expected, but learning to recognize what always tends to take longer than expected is a great tip. You either have to figure out how to work faster or plan accordingly.

  • My top tip time management tip would be to ruthlessly eliminate unnecessary commitments. I took on way too many extracurriculars my first couple semesters of college, and it’s only now in my first semester of my Junior year that I finally feel like I have enough time to work on my side projects and freelance work in addition to my class commitments. I still get overwhelmed at times, but it’s a lot better than it used to be.

    I think you also hinted at my other tip in your post: take time off when you’re overwhelmed. Usually, this involves prioritizing. You obviously can’t just take time off from your job, and most of us reading can’t just take time off from classes, but we can take time off from side projects or clubs if we need to. I did the same thing back in September, taking the month off from writing new blog posts in order to give myself some breathing room. It’s okay to take a break, especially if no one’s paying you. :)

    • Excellent tips. Prioritization has been one of my biggest learning over the last few years. Learning how to adjust my priorities day by day, week by week, and month by month. I remember reading somewhere that there’s no such thing as achieving perfect “balance.” For example, if you look at some doing a handstand, at any given moment, they’re never perfectly balanced – in reality, they’re constantly shifting their body weight and adjusting to imbalances. It’s simply a matter of being able to respond to these imbalances quickly enough so that you don’t fall over.

  • Gwen

    My Time Management is… To-do lists for EVERYTHING. (Todoist is absolutely brilliant for this by the way) Write down tasks in minute detail, include nights out, lunch dates, and make breaks a task too. If it’s getting to 7 or 8pm at night and I have loads of things left to do then I PRIORITIZE. What absolutely has to be done tonight and what can wait until tomorrow. I allow myself to postpone the non-essential to the next day or another day where I can see I have less tasks in already. And the essential I do. It becomes a bit of a game and I don’t allow myself to go to bed without having completed or reallocated all my tasks for the day. I also know the more I get done now the less I’ll have to do later; and I might have time to add in more fun tasks. This way I am accountable for my decisions and I am aware of the implications of not doing something now. In a few weeks I become bored off putting off stuff so I get the tasks I don’t want to do done faster.

    • Thanks, Gwen. I like the idea of setting a time, say 8 pm, to re-prioritize the remaining items on your to-do list. This way you make sure you get the important things done and allow yourself to put off the less important things for another time.

  • Amber

    Hello! We all struggle with balancing life, but here are some tips that I use to make my life a little bit easier.

    1.) As Gwen said above, write EVERYTHING down (even if you don’t think you need too). It will clear up space in your mind and you won’t have to worry about forgetting anything because it will be right in front of you. I use “myhomework” app for all my assignments. I love how it allows you to organize all the assignments by class, due date, and even goes as far as the due time. It also shows you what homework is due tomorrow. It can be used offline too when you don’t have reception. And when I write my tasks, I break them apart and try to space the steps that need to be done to finish that task over a couple of days, depending on what it is.

    2.) Set Alarms
    I set alarms for everything. It keeps me from forgetting and from being late.

    3.) Sleep is important. Health is important. Treat yo self. You’ve heard this a million times, but it’s true. “No! I have to finish this homework!” You say and stay up to 12:00 a.m. while chugging Monster energy drinks. Sleep really decreases levels of stress and allows you to handle everyday crisis better. When you’re less tired, you can be more productive and get through your tasks better.

    4.) I plan out my day, but the problem was that inputing tasks into a calendar was sometimes complicated for me. Too many options and I became unfocused. There’s this app called TimeTune. It’s really visual and easy to use.

    5.) Focus and don’t procastinate. When you have a huge pile of things to do, you start to avoid it. You get this uncomfortable feeling and do something else besides the task you want to do. Zen Habits (great online article subscription) said to sit there and recognize the feeling. Then work through it, no matter how uncomfortable you feel. Just do it for 5 minutes. Say that in your head. 5 minutes, and then you’ll get into that task, and next thing you know, it’s done. There’s this two apps I use to stop my phone from becoming a distraction. An app called Forest, where a little tree grows, and if you touch your phone, the tree dies and App Detox, where a reminder pops up if you use an app for a long time.

    6.) For studying, there is also this app called “Study” that keeps track of what you study and for how long you study for. You can also set goals for how long you want to study for. Remember, start small!

    Thank you for reading! I hope all goes well for you and I wish you the best! Thank you for all the awesome advice you provide.

    • Great tips, Amber. I think my favorite one was perhaps the most simple one–set alarms. This helps me out a ton. I like setting alarms to give myself time constraints since I tend to get caught up doing one thing, spending way too much time on it and then never getting to the other items on my to-do list. Also, I think what makes all those apps you mentioned so helpful is that they provide visual cues. That tree app sounds awesome haha