The organizational skills related to class note taking (see our last post) are just one facet of good study habits. A related study skill is time management: learning how to develop a schedule that allocates a set amount of time to studying and homework. Since this is a skill that many students struggle with, we’ve directed this post to teachers and educators. Suggest the following tips to your students to help them improve their time management savvy through smart scheduling practices.
Most students are juggling homework assignments and studying requirements for multiple classes each day. It can be difficult for even the most conscientious student to map out these various demands and figure out how much time to allocate to each class and project. This is where using a spreadsheet program—like WPS Office Spreadsheets—can come in handy. Since WPS Office and its Spreadsheets app are available free of charge, you can recommend this time management aid to any student, including those who are budget-conscious. One of the great things about the program is that it’s 100 percent compatible with Microsoft Excel, so most students will have at least some familiarity with how to use Spreadsheets.
Using Excel and Spreadsheets greatly simplifies the job of planning out a study and homework schedule, since these programs contain templates that are predesigned for entering schedule-related information. For example, students can choose a template (or create a customized one) that allows them to enter the names of their classes in the first column of cells, the time that the class starts and ends in the next two columns of cells, and the number of hours spent per class in the next column. Students can continue on down the row entering planned hours for homework and studying in each class and create formulas that tally the hours per day to ensure that they don’t spend too much time on any one assignment, leaving too little time for others.
Scheduling Tips for Students
To help ensure that students can make the most out of their scheduling software, they should keep in mind the following best practices when planning their time for their studies outside of the classroom:
- Plan ahead. The further in advance that students can map out their week of studying, the better position they will be in to carve out the needed time and clear the deck on other activities. Recommend to your students that they spend 15 minutes a day—after their last class ends—planning out their study hours for the evening and week ahead. Scheduling really comes down to estimating the time that they think each task will take to complete, and then ensuring that the total time scheduled for studying and homework doesn’t exceed their available free-time hours. Explain that their schedule may require slight modifications daily as new assignments get added to their plate.
- Work against deadlines. While students always need to plan a certain amount of time each week for general studying in each subject, they must balance that time against projects with deadlines. Encourage students to schedule time to work on their deadline-driven projects first. They should always allow themselves enough time to meet their deadlines without needing to pull an all-nighter right before the project is due.
- Build in a cushion. Students should keep in mind that the schedule they create in Spreadsheets represents their ideal vision of time management for a particular week. In reality, life often throws curve balls that will require flexibility to manage when schedules change—for example, if the student is ill or needs to deal with a family matter. With this in mind, suggest that students build some extra time into their schedules for “catch up” with homework assignments and studying. That way, if they miss their allotted study hours for a particular class, they will still have some time on their schedule to make up the difference.
- Use reward systems. Some students who dislike the structure of creating a schedule will respond well to a reward or enticement system for showing self-discipline in this area. If you have students in your class who resist developing a systematic framework for planning their time and are falling behind on assignments as a result, suggest that they offer themselves a reward for learning to manage their study/homework time better. Their prize can be anything that’s meaningful to them: ordering a pizza for dinner with friends, going on a fun weekend outing, or treating themselves to a small purchase of an item they’ve been wanting.
When students learn to improve their scheduling habits, they’ll be better able to work toward their goals and achieve academic success. Our final posts in this series will share some additional resources to help students get the most out of their upcoming school year and beyond.
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