by Billy Clouse
We’ve all had that moment where we finally lie down in bed late at night, wrapped up in blankets and determined to squeeze out every second of sleep we can, only to realize that there is a reading response due tomorrow morning.
At this point, we probably start regretting all the decisions made that day. Maybe it wasn’t necessary to hang out with friends for three hours. Maybe it wasn’t required to take a nap. Maybe it would have been better to manage time more efficiently.
Last year, I took a full load of classes and worked between 30-40 hours each week. Yes, it was stressful, but there was a silver lining: I learned how to effectively manage my time. Below are my top five tips to make the most out of each day.
Wake up early
I’ve made the mistake of waking up late more than I care to admit. You worked hard last night, I would think, treat yourself. So I would set my alarm a little later, and when it went off, I would prop myself up while wrapped like a burrito.
Then I would fall back asleep.
By time I would wake up again, I would either be already late for a class or have to get ready in five minutes. Either way, the time before school was wasted.
It’s a sucky way to wake up every morning, but I’ve found that a choir of alarms going off around the room forces me into consciousness. After this, I have an hour or two to eat, get ready and do some homework.
Caffeine can be a friend
Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day and you have to pull an all-nighter instead of sleeping. That’s just part of college.
An all-nighter is wasted, however, if you are too tired to work and function normally. At this point, caffeine becomes your best friend.
Whether you need it to power through a long night or to give yourself a boost in the morning, caffeine pills do the job. And before you say ‘What? You pop pills to stay awake?’ let me just say that each pill is equivalent to a single cup of coffee.
Yes, it’s dangerous to take them by the handful, but a strategically timed boost of energy can be quite helpful.
During the first week of school, I went 66 hours with only four hours of sleep because of caffeine pills. Of course, that isn’t healthy or recommended, but sometimes it’s helpful to deprive yourself of sleep and then lapse into a short coma on the weekend.
Similar to most things, if you take the pills constantly then you’ll build up a tolerance and have to take more to get the same effect, but as long as they’re not an everyday staple, then you should be fine.
Work before play
After a day of classes, you most likely don’t want to do homework. However, this is probably not your best option.
Even if you’re an extravert, hanging out with others or spending time outdoors will drain your energy. And on those weeks when every single professor has a major assignment due, you will need every ounce of that energy.
It’s tough to resist that urge to do something fun after a long day, but you’ll be glad you did it when you can go to bed at a normal time that evening. Sleep is important, and it’s best to avoid caffeine overloads like the one I discussed earlier.
Don't reward yourself for every accomplishment
I finished a single task from my list of 10 things! I’m so far ahead of schedule that I’ll relax for 30 minutes and then get back into it. I said this frequently at the beginning of last year after completing my first — and final — assignment of the day.
To be honest, rewards can be a trap. It’s nice to nap or eat a bowl of ice cream after cranking out an essay about a book you in all likelihood didn’t read, but it can become a cycle of never-ending sleeping and eating. Both are great, but they’re not productive.
Instead, walk around for five minutes when you finish an assignment. This gives you a chance to clear your head, get some fresh air and see if the weather changed. There’s nothing worse than studying for hours and missing the transformation of a parking lot into a winter wonderland.
This isn’t to say that all breaks are bad; they can be necessary for your sanity and getting joy out of that general education class you hate. Just make sure you don’t screw yourself by binge-watching an entire season of Scandal as a reward for finishing a political science write-up.
Schedule time to hang out
No, you don’t need to be socially awkward to do this, and in all honesty, it helps. The further you get in your degree program, the less time you’ll have for a spontaneous trip up the mountain with your friends.
I was lucky because I liked most of the people I worked with last year, so I didn’t have to put in too much extra time to hang out. With other friends, however, it helped to think ahead about when I would have the most free time.
This can also be a good opportunity to see who you should hang out with. If you always have to be the one to get the ball rolling, then maybe it isn’t worth hanging out with that person.
Although these tips won’t magically give you more time in the day, they can help you prioritize and manage your time more efficiently. At the very least, you should be able to get to bed at a decent hour.