Get It Together


College isn't like high school! Here are five important lessons for learning to manage your time.

A little organization will save you a lot of headaches.

My first day of college wasn't anything like I'd expected. It seemed like I had more than my share of freshman disorientation. About all I did was spend the day wandering aimlessly around campus searching for my classes. I also managed to lock myself out of my dorm room and I showed up too late for lunch in the cafeteria. I was disorganized: I didn't know where my keys were, I didn't know where my classes were, and most importantly, I didn't know the dining hall schedules. I was, I discovered, unschooled in the art of time management. Though I'd been involved in many high school activities, I had my parents, teachers, coaches and friends to help me stay on track. An occasional homework assignment or practice session might have been forgotten, but I was usually on top of things back then. Day one at college taught me that "lazy" organization would not cut it anymore. I had to establish a self-management system, and I had to do it quickly. My mad scramble to get my act together taught me these five important lessons:

Lesson 1: Appointment books will save your day.

I was amused when I received a personal organizer as a graduation gift. I gave it a passing glance, told myself I couldn't possibly fill those big blank spaces under the "Things to Do" column, and packed it away. Fortunately, the planner found its way into my freshman dorm room. After my first class sessions, I dug it out of the box in the back of my closet and dusted it off. I began dutifully entering paper due dates, exam dates, lab times and appointments. I have used one ever since. (My roommate didn't use an organizer and she thought she was no worse off for it. However, I reminded her that if she had a planner, she would not have forgotten Art History quizzes, which could have kept her from failing such quizzes. She said not to remind her of those incidents.)

Lesson 2: Routines will save your sanity.

I know, this sounds like it will give your life all the excitement of a "Watch-the-paint-dry" marathon. But it's necessary to schedule things that are important to you, like a daily quiet time and exercise. If you don't plan time for these activities, they will drop out of your daily routine and become resolutions for next year. I know, because even after I organized my organizer, I assumed I would just "find time" for working out and studying my Bible. It didn't happen. Making time is much easier than finding it, so if you schedule time for your personal activities beforehand, you'll be able to stick with them.

Lesson 3: Have a place for everything.

This might not seem to be a big deal when you're living at home; it wasn't for me. I knew where to get everything, where to put everything, and the first place to look when something was missing. But dorm rooms are small, and dorm closets are ridiculously small, and only half the space is yours. You won't have much space to keep stuff in, so you'll need to make the most of what space you do have. You can start by eliminating the non-necessities, like butterfly collections and sheep-shearing equipment. It's said that you can't take it with you when you go, and that applies to college as well as eternity. Your life will be saner if it's simpler, so get rid of the superfluous. Now, for what you must have: textbooks may take up most of your shelf space (and desk space, and floor space), but you should still have room for two or three pencils. Line them up and keep them sharp, and if you've still got room to spare, store the rest of your private property neatly and systematically. Don't use The Collected Works of William Shakespeare as an extension for the short leg of your TV stand; put it with your other books so you'll know where to find it when it's time for your midterm exam. Always put things back where you got them. This will save valuable time.

Lesson 4: Don't play the waiting game.

Just don't do it. I thrive on procrastination; I am the procrastination princess. But I must admit I'm reluctant to hold that royal post. I have seen the mayhem that ensues when things are put off until the last possible moment. What's more, I have a growing respect for deadlines. Dad might be a little flexible when the lawn must be mowed, but some people are serious about ultimatums. So pay your bills on time, get your homework done on time and change your oil when the little sticker tells you to. Waiting until the last minute may give you a minor adrenaline rush, but it's not something you should get addicted to. Get it done now and later on you can brag to your library-bound, all-nighter-pulling friends that you're going to rent a movie.

Lesson 5: Healthy is as healthy does.

It's not easy to keep your act together when you're sleep- or nutrition-deprived. Establish good eating habits and you'll be able to stay on top of your game. Exercise regularly and you'll have enough stamina to stand in the registration line all day. Get enough sleep, and you'll make it to class (even those early morning classes!) looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed—whatever that means. I think everybody struggles with managing time constructively. But if you can organize and control your physical surroundings, you'll ease the clutter of your mental, emotional and spiritual worlds. You can save yourself from unnecessary stress if you keep your priorities straight, and you can only keep them straight if you can find them. Make a plan, and stick to it. Your life will be easier, and everyone will think you made the transition from high school to college brilliantly.

Written by Liberty Lay

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