Below you will find a series of online resources designed to provide you with support and guidance with a range of academic skills for successful learning. Each resource is targeted to support the unique needs within the Washington and Lee student community.
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What is Time Management?
Time management is largely about how you plan and control your time. It is also the practice of using the time you have available in a useful and effective way. In college, you should manage your time in the short term (each hour or day) and the long term (monthly and semesterly).
Time Management and Well-being
Students with control over their time have greater work and life satisfaction and less somatic tension. Students who use time management report higher GPAs, higher self-ratings of performance, and higher satisfaction. Even perceived control over time reduced stress in students (Journal of Educational Psychology)
Time Management Strategies
- Go through your syllabi and map out your major assignments for the semester.
- Use a paper planner or a digital calendar (such as Google or Outlook) to create a weekly schedule.
- 8-8-8 daily strategy: 8 hours of "sleep," 8 hours of "academic tasks," and 8 hours of "activity:" extracurriculars, relaxing, socializing, etc.
- Designate blocks of time to get tasks done each day. These could be categorized as "class," "study block," and "extracurricular."
- Set specific goals for what you would like to achieve during your study blocks. Review your progress at the end of each block.
- Try the Pomodoro Technique: Use a timer to break your work into intervals of 25 minutes of work and then a 5-minute break. Or, 45 minutes of work and a 15-minute break. This is a personal preference.
- Get Things Done (GTD) Method Prioritize tasks by what you are capable of getting done. This will help to build momentum.
Tips and Tricks
- Take regular breaks throughout the day to prevent burnout. A 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of studying is a good guide.
- Make time for sleep, healthy eating, and exercise.
- Avoid interruptions: even small interruptions can snowball and distract you from your work.
- Consider what time of day you are most productive and do your most challenging work then.
- Multitasking is a myth, just focus on one task at a time.
- Set a timer when studying or working on tasks.
- Keep a journal of how you are spending your time and adjust your routine accordingly.
Why Schedule Your Time?
Scheduling your time provides a clear outline of your responsibilities and tasks in a given period. Creating a schedule is like having a plan: it allows you to see how you are spending your time to ensure you can fit everything in.
As the name suggests, time blocking allows you to divide your day into specific blocks of time. The idea is that each block represents a specific task or activity. It is often a good idea to time block ahead so that you have a visual representation of the entire week.
Tips for Time Blocking
Here's how you can get started:
- Start by inserting your "fixed commitments" — those recurring tasks like going to class and any sports or extracurriculars.
- Then insert any "variable commitments" — those one-off activities like a friend's birthday party or a social event.
- Once you've scheduled these, insert your "study blocks" — times you will devote to doing your readings, assignments, etc.
- Insert your study blocks in one-hour increments. Try to schedule these for when you are usually most productive.
- For each study block, create a specific goal (SMART goal) for what you intend to achieve. You can then review your progress at the end of the study block.
- Your weekly schedule should have blank periods as this provides greater flexibility. Color-code your blocks as they relate (e.g., the same class).
- Schedule breaks and downtime: your well-being is important!
- Spend some time revising your schedule for the week ahead.
What is Prioritization?
Prioritization refers to the idea of listing out tasks in order of importance. When prioritizing, we often rank our tasks according to factors such as deadlines, criticality, and how long we think they might take
Tips for Prioritizing
- Write a to-do list in order of your most important tasks.
- Consider writing your to-do list the night before so that you wake up with a plan.
- When listing your items, consider the consequences of not getting something done.
- Consider labeling your tasks with a number or letter system in order of importance. For example, "A" (do now), "B" (do later today), "C" (do another time).
- Be realistic: it's better to check off completed tasks than to find that you don't have the time for them.
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a decision-making tool to help you decide on the importance of completing tasks. Tasks that are urgent and important should be completed first. You can see that other less important tasks can be delegated or even delayed until you have the time. See the following diagram for an example of this method.
"What is important is seldom urgent ... and what is urgent is seldom important." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Have questions prepared. If you get confused or stuck on something in class or during a lecture, write it down!
- If you are completely lost — that's okay too. Be honest with your professor, and they will be willing to help you nonetheless.
- Go in sooner rather than later! It is better to ask for help than to fall behind during the semester.
- Office hours are a great time to get feedback from a professor on a recent assignment or discuss your grades.
- Even if you do not need specific help, establishing relationships with your professors, even as a first-year, will be extremely helpful in the long run!
Need more support? Visit the Resources for Students page.
What is Test Anxiety?
A debilitating sense of worry, fear, and dread brought on by tests. This distinguishes itself as a learned behavior. It is often learned in elementary or middle school and it persists and develops in high school and college. This is likely a result of the high expectations for tests at an early age, which worsens as we get older.
Dealing with Test Anxiety
Oftentimes we get caught up in trying to succeed that we try to ignore this problem. Some helpful solutions to make this issue less daunting are:
- Creating a familiar study environment: Try to study in the same place, at the same time. Creating familiarity with your study habits can make them easier to maintain.
- Maintain healthy activity outside of studying: Feeling rotten when you are close to taking an exam can be due to physical causes as well as mental/emotional. Remember to drink water, eat a decent meal, and get a good night's sleep many nights before the test.
- Do not ignore a learning disability: Coupling test anxiety with dyslexia and/or ADHD, etc., can make a difficult time even worse. Notify your professor and ensure the necessary accommodations are in place.
How You Might Be Affected
Anyone can be affected by test anxiety. Students have been taking tests for a good majority of their education; therefore, we have a good idea of what to expect. Test anxiety often results in intense negative emotion while:
- Studying for the test
- Taking the test itself
- Discussing test results
Where to Go for Help
The Harte Center
Services such as academic coaching, the writing center, and other dedicated professionals can support you. You can also request a peer tutor to help develop your understanding of course material while building confidence in your studying and learning.
Highly qualified professionals that provide non-judgmental help with test anxiety and other mental health difficulties.
Your Resident Advisors or Peer Counselors
Both are trained to handle difficulties like test anxiety. Do not be afraid to approach them and talk through your concerns. They are here to help you and have been trained to help with these issues.
"There is always somebody to talk to at W&L"
Those dinner table conversations...
As parents of a student at Washington and Lee, we recognize that you want to be the best advocate, ally, and supporter of your son or daughter. Opportunities for contact with your student might include weekend phone calls, visits to campus, or time spent together at the dinner table during the University breaks and over the summer.
During these times, it can be difficult for students to fully open up about their time in college, especially when it comes to their complex experiences with studying and learning. This resource is designed to help by offering questions you can use to facilitate more intentional discussions about your student's learning journey - from being in the classroom to studying independently.
Your student is registered to multiple classes and each of these requires a unique approach to learning. Here are some questions you can ask to better understand whether your student is maximizing their learning in the classroom:
Q: What classes are you finding most interesting this semester?
Q: How you are taking notes in your classes? Do you look at them after class?
Q: Do you feel that you participating in class discussions? What do you feel is helping or hindering you?
Q: What could you do to be more prepared for class?
Much of the learning in college happens outside the classroom - this is sometimes referred to as independent or self-guided learning. As this takes up much time over the week, you can ask the following questions to get a better sense of whether your student is maximizing their time outside of class:
Q: How do you study?
Q: What study spaces do you find to be effective?
Q: How are you reading your textbooks?
Q: Are you in a study group/do know how to find a study group?
Time Management & Organization
As parents, you want your student to be able to succeed in their academics while getting involved in the many opportunities on campus. Learning how they manage their time effectively while balancing different priorities is important in this respect. Here are some questions you can ask to better understand whether your student is managing their time well:
Q: How are you managing your time this semester? What do you use to help manage your time?
Q: How do you prioritize your commitments?
Q: When do you feel you are most productive when studying?
Q: What do you want to get out of this semester? How will you make that happen?
We all know that college can be overwhelming for a variety of reasons and as parents, you want your student to succeed while knowing that they are taking care of themselves. Students' overall well-being can have a direct impact on their academic performance and so it can be helpful to ask the right questions to ensure that your student continues to thrive:
Q: How much sleep are you getting each night?
Q: What do you do in your free time to unwind/breathe?
Q: Do you take breaks when studying? Do you have downtime?
Q: Are you hanging out with friends? Are you building relationships?
Utilizing Campus Resources
There is a wealth of campus resources to support the growth and development of your student at Washington and Lee. Here are some questions to help establish whether your student is making the most of these opportunities:
Q: What help do you need? Do you know where to get it?
Q: Do you go to your professor's office hours? Do you ask questions there?
Q: When is the last time you met with your Academic Advisor?
Q: Have you gone to the writing center/peer tutoring/academic coaching?
Your student can find academic resources on the Harte Center's Resources for Students page.