Time Management

Decorative element showing items on a deskMake your goals S.M.A.R.T!

  • Specific: What you will actually do? EX: “Read ch. 10 for Physics from 8-9” instead of “study physics tonight”
  • Measurable: How you will know you are done?EX: ” I’ll review the notes for half of the chapters” instead of “I’ll look at my notes”
  • Action-Oriented: Have a specific plan of what to do. EX: “On Tuesday afternoon I am going to Grainger to review my chapter notes and make flashcards of important concepts” instead of “I’ll look at my notes on Tuesday.”
  • Realistic Goals: Fit the time and energy you have free for the goal. EX: “I’ll learn a chapter a day for a week” instead of “I’ll learn all the first semester material for History in one night.”
  • Time-Bound: Specify the amount of time you will spend working. EX: “I will start at 6:00 and I will work for at least 45 minutes” instead of “I’ll work until I get tired of it”

Making your goals “S.M.A.R.T.” should help you to have a focus when working on your tasks and help combat distractions and procrastination.

Some Tips on Time Management

  • Set aside a few minutes or an hour after classes each day to review the material covering your classes daily.
  • Have dedicated study place(s) where you can go to study.  Grainger Engineering Library is great!
  • Identify your periods of peak efficiency and periods when you are likely to have the best study conditions. Schedule your most difficult tasks during those hours.
  • Be realistic about planning study time.
  • Allow some unscheduled time in case emergencies arise.
  • Plan some time in your schedule for recreation.
  • Consider your study schedule a firm but a flexible guide.
  • Guard against doing unproductive things from sheer habit.
  • Break overwhelming tasks into manageable pieces and then do these small pieces one at a time.
  • Jot down deadlines as soon as you get them and post reminders and notes to yourself.
  • Post reminders and notes to yourself – check them off when completed.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself if you slop up and find yourself working at the last minute. Use it to plan ahead better for next time.

Time Management Challenges

Unrealistic Expectations:

This can range from overestimating your availability to your productivity. People have this problem when they plan to do too much in too little time.

Personal Problems:

Sometimes non-academic related issues can interfere with your studies or interrupt your schedule. If this occurs, visiting an academic advisor or counseling center can help.


Procrastination can come in three forms: Distractibility (preferring to attend to a less important task), Forgetfulness (not prioritizing the more urgent/important tasks first), and Lumping (deciding to do everything at the last minute).

Lack of Goals:

Experiencing a lack of goals can stem from the uncertainty of what career you can to pursue or what major you want to choose. This can negatively impact your schedule by preventing you from developing good study skills. If this occurs, spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of college. Experiment with summer jobs, college activities, volunteer work, elective courses or other campus resources. This will help you explore what interests you and help you decide on certain career goals.

Rigid Scheduling:

You plan everything to the minutes. This leaves no breathing room, so if something unexpected happens, everything falls apart.

Lack of Priorities:

You tend to focus on tasks that are not urgent, while some of the more important tasks are left undone.

This information was brought to you by Counseling Center Paraprofessionals. Counseling Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 610 E John St. Champaign, IL 612820 (217) 333-3704