There seem to be two different types of students I encounter: those with time management skills and those without. The students with these skills turn their work in on time, seem to have studied for exams, come to class looking like they showered sometime in the recent past. These are the students you don’t worry about much. If they get sick, they seem to still get assignments in without much bother. Even when terrible life events throw these students a curve ball, they adjust their plans and get back on track with a minimum of agonizing.
Then, there’s the other type. These students seems to be in a perpetual panic. They ask for extensions on virtually every assignment. Lots of catastrophies befall these students. These are the ones whose computers crash while typing their essays. These are the ones who get sick right before a presentation, or whose sickness spirals out of control, causing them to get hopelessly snowballed by their workloads. They never seem to be able to get on top of things.
What’s different between these two student phenotypes?
Some, of course, are just incredibly unlucky or live under some kind of personal rain cloud. But, I believe in many cases it boils down to time management.
What is time management? It’s not just maintaining a calendar or being good at developing to-do lists. Plenty of calendar-toting, list-generating students are unable to really manage their time. It’s more of an approach to life. A sense of time passage and their position on that continuum.
Time managers have a realistic sense of time and their own placement along some kind of timeline. They feel the passage of time. If they are studying for a test, for example, and get interrupted by a phone call, they seem keep their task in mind like a flashing “on hold” button. Call ended, they get right back on task.
Perpetual panickers, on the other hand, don’t really have a sense of their relationship with time. Time gets away from them.
I met lots of these folks during my stint in the Dean of Studies office. They could walk out of my office with a clear plan and a timeline for getting an assignment done and then, a week later, still not have completed the work. They see a week as a HUGE expanse of time, until the week is up. Interruptions completely derail a work session.
Can the Perpetual Panickers learn time management? Sure they can. They need to be aware, though, that just using a datebook or planner isn’t the answer. It’s the attitude and approach towards not only their work, but also their daily lives.
When I was in college I worked as a DJ at the school radio station. My sense of time developed substantially during that period of time. This was in the olden days when we actually cued up bands on a record. While one song played, I cued up the next song on the alternate turntable. As one song ended, I gently switched on the waiting turntable, turned down the volume on the one playing, while at the same time turning up the volume of the next song. I developed the ability to sense the passage of time, three minutes at a time. I’ve practiced that ability ever since. I can wake up a few minutes before my alarm most mornings. I can somehow manage to get multiple side-dishes ready in time for the main meal. A basic life-skill that we aren’t really taught. Maybe some of us never learn it.
After I became a DJ, my grades got better and I felt more in control of my academic life. Was this coincidence? Was this just a natural part of maturation? Or did my “time training” generalize to other aspects of my life?
How can we help our students learn time management? Here are a few websites you might offer:
Given how important it is throughout life to manage time, I wonder why we don’t teach it in college?