Serving students and faculty since 1971

By: Laura Griglak

Image by annca from Pixabay

Being an adult is hard.

As an adult in college, you are expected to manage a growing army of responsibilities. These include, but are certainly not limited to: living on your own (often for the first time), paying bills (what’s that about?), and, let’s not forget, mountains of homework (fun fun).

And what about our social lives? We are expected to be responsible adults, while somehow finding the time to visit our families, support our friends, and refresh ourselves with “me-time.” Where are we supposed to find the hours in the day? Some of us deprive ourselves of sleep, others neglect undesirable duties, but both options leave us exhausted and/or woefully behind on our responsibilities.

The answer is found in understanding what responsibilities you have, and learning how to prioritize them.

STEP ONE: Don’t take on more than you can handle.

In today’s society, we are constantly bombarded with options. Which clubs would we like to join? Which workshops would we like to attend? Which friends would we like to hang out with? Unfortunately, we can’t do it all. There comes a time in every college student’s life where they will have to say the all-important word “no.”

“I’m sorry, but as much as I love our club, I simply don’t have the time to plan an event for this week.”

“While I would love to have the money, I simply cannot take on any extra hours at work.”

“That party sounds amazing, but I have a paper due tomorrow and I really need to finish it.”

The key is looking at your current responsibilities and realistically evaluating whether you have the extra time to dedicate to something new. If you find this difficult to determine, steps two and three will help you assess your schedule.

STEP TWO: Make a list and/or timetable.

Write down all of the time-consuming responsibilities on your plate, and, if desired, try to fit them into a timetable. This will allow you to see where and when your time is currently distributed. It will also allow you to see where you might have that elusive spare time. It is a good idea to keep some time free so that you can take on new/unexpected tasks without straining your time budget. 

Here is an example of what your list might look like:

  • Homework
  • Work out
  • Hang out with friends
  • Work
  • Chores

Your list can be as long, short, detailed, or sparse as you like. It is most effective if done on a day-to-day basis, but can also be effective if spread out over a week or more.

STEP THREE: Prioritize!

Congratulations! You have a list of things to do! How completely overwhelming!

In order to make the best use of your list, it is vital to prioritize each item. This will look different for everyone, but here is an example of how you might prioritize the list above:

  1. Homework (need good grades!)
  2. Work (need money!)
  3. Work out (need to feel good)
  4. Hang out with friends (need to stay connected)
  5. Chores (need to keep my living space tidy)

The things on your list do not necessarily need to be done in order. Perhaps you do a few dishes after breakfast, hit up the gym for an hour, go to work for five hours, work on homework for two hours, and watch a movie with a friend when it’s all said and done.

But let’s say you don’t have time to get to everything on the list. That’s where the prioritization comes in. If you only have time to do homework or chores, the chores can wait a day or two. That being said, the chores can’t wait forever. The key is making sure that you set time aside for each item.

If you find you consistently don’t have time for your chores, it is possible you have taken on too much. Reevaluate your responsibilities and see where sacrifices can be made.

If something is important to you, make time for it!

FINAL STEP: If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Ironically, it takes time to master the art of creating an itemized, prioritized to-do list. Keep at it. It will do wonders to help you see exactly what you have to do and what you might be able to add to your plate.

Good luck, and, as always, feel free to come see us the Writing Center if you want help organizing your thoughts!