Time Management

A student wrote to me: “I often get sidetracked by other activities and fall behind in my study. I have tried many things but it did not work. I am afraid that I may fail in school. Currently, I do not know what to do. I need help.”

Answer: One of the common problems among college students is they do not know how to manage their time. What you need is to analyze how do you spend your time and set the priority to maximize the efficiency of your time. I do not know what activities that sidetracked you or what you have tried but did not work so I cannot give you specific advice.

However, you must learn to say “NO” to “sidetracked activities”. Afterall, it is your time to study, and you go to school to study. Of course, you need the discipline to manage your time. This is one of the soft skills that you must develop to ensure that everything you do is done within a time that you have planned for.

You need to set your priority and carrying out activities around those priorities and reduce time spent on other “sidetracked activities”. For example, top priorities are tasks that are urgent and important (i.e, reading class materials, study on your own, and do homework etc.) Other priorities are tasks that are important but may not urgent (i.e, group study, discuss with friends on class materials and exercise to keep you healthy etc.) then decide on tasks that are NOT important that waste a lot of your time (i.e., Go out with friends, too many phone calls, text messages, emails, time spend on facebooks etc.)

My advice: When study, turn off your phone or use voice-mail and return missed calls later. When talking over the phone, try to avoid excessive talk but keep it as brief as possible. If possible, DO NOT give your phone number to anyone but only to a very few good friends and family members.

When in school, only check emails a few times a day. Schedule a limited time for sending and responding to emails and close your email when it is not being used. Turn off any Text messaging applications and close Facebook, Instagram, and other social media web pages. This is important since social sites are updated and notify you constantly.

If you can manage your time, you can spend more time to study and may do well in school.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University