Importance Of Time Management For Students

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Time management is a very important skill that many first-year university students struggle with, and not utilizing your time appropriately can be very detrimental to both your health and your academic performance. At some point in life, most people have experienced the stress and pressure of impending deadlines or the loss of sleep from cramming in work during an all-nighter (Marie, n.d.). It is very clear that there is a distinct difference between high school and post-secondary education when it comes to managing all aspects of life. Many university students complain about how difficult it is to find the balance between academics, work and family obligations, extra circular activities, partying, and more (Karambelas, 2013). Strong time management skills play a crucial role in the success of first-year university students, and they are an essential aspect of achieving academic success and maintaining health (Kelly, 2004).

Firstly, when students encounter a busy and stressful time full of tests and assignments, instead of planning accordingly, they sacrifice their sleep (Carey, 2009). Although they may get more of their work accomplished, lack of sleep drains their mental abilities and puts their physical health at real risk (Cherney & Watson, 2019). For instance, being drowsy during the day can increase a student’s risk for injuries and accidents from various causes, including car accidents, and too little sleep weakens the immune system’s defense against viruses like the common cold and flu (Cherney et al., 2019). This is important because students living in residence, in a confined space with hundreds of other students, are at an even greater risk of getting sick (Gates, 2015). Further, some studies have also linked sleep deprivation to chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and bipolar disorder (Maxon, 2003). For example, sleep deprivation can make a person moody, emotional, and quick-tempered and chronic sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety or depression, which may escalate (Cherney et al., 2019). Fatigue can also affect the quality of a person’s academic performance. Research shows that students who get enough sleep earn higher grades due to improved concentration, memory, and focus (National Sleep Foundation, 2019).

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Secondly, first-year students who struggle with time management often skip meals and have difficulty consuming adequate food and proper nutrition, which further impacts their health and academic performance. Staying up late, having back to back classes or commuting from off-campus residences to class all contribute to students skipping meals if they do not plan ahead. According to Ruth Blackburn (n.d.), a residence hall nutritional specialist, students who are unable to manage their time well often end up adopting unhealthy eating habits, such as a preference for high-fat, high-sugar foods. Missing a meal will typically lead a student to reach for snacks that are easily accessible such as a donut and coffee from Tim Horton’s, rather than a well-balanced meal containing all of the food groups. Poor nutrition can lead to many health concerns including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke, and diabetes (South Australia Health, 2012). Getting adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals from food, however, can help keep students from getting sick and missing important lectures and tutorials (Clarke, 2019). This helps keep students from getting behind. Further, even if a student gets sick with the flu, getting enough vitamin C can help them feel better faster. Well, balanced nutrition also plays an important part in achieving academic success. The Food Research and Action Center relates that students who eat a complete breakfast work more quickly with fewer math and number errors, as well as have enhanced performance on vocabulary and visual skills tests (Lozano & Ballesteros, 2006).

Lastly, poor time management skills can lead to increased dropout rates. Studies show that thirty percent of university students drop out after their first year, while half of the students never graduate (Bowler, 2009). According to The Globe and Mail (2018), the main reason that first-year university students dropped out of school, was because they needed to work to pay for the high cost of tuition. Students felt that they did not have enough time to work and keep up with their demanding academics. Further, students are told that an important part of the university is to take advantage of all that university life has to offer. Maintaining a job, attending and completing course work for five or six classes, and getting involved by joining a club, a sport’s team, a sorority or a fraternity is a tremendous time commitment and first-year students often feel like they should be able to do it all. Unfortunately, trying to accomplish all of these things can lead to sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, and feelings of inadequacy, putting students at greater risk for physical and mental health issues and reduced academic performance. According to research conducted by the Canadian National College Health Assessment (2016), 44.4% of students reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function, 59.6% reported feeling like things were hopeless because they were so overwhelmed, and 13% reported having seriously considered suicide in the last 12 weeks. When students push themselves too hard and spread themselves too thin, they are vulnerable to both physical and mental health problems which can increase their chances of dropping out.

While proper time management plays a crucial role in maintaining good health and academic performance, there are a lot of students who struggle with this life skill and it can easily be improved. A simple way to improve time management is to keep track of important due dates, times, and places in a calendar or agenda (Heinrich, 2018). This helps students make sure they do not miss crucial assignment deadlines or confuse the time and place of their exams. The student can use whatever approach works best for them, whether it is using a desk or wall calendar, a free agenda provided by the university, or a free agenda app that they can download on their phone. With their new planner, students will be able to set out specific timeframes to complete their tasks, because the time constraints will help them focus and be more organized and productive (Jessie, 2019). Planning when to study, when to exercise, prepare food and eat, do household chores, and spend time with family and friends will ensure leisure time is also included in their schedule (Rampton, 2018).

Next, the first year university students are often asked to join councils and clubs or even work an extra shift at their part-time job, but it is important for them to know that they do not always have to say yes (Jessie, 2019). It is imperative for students to know their own limits. If they already have a full plate, students need to know that it is okay to decline to join a group or going to a party with friends. On the other hand, although the purpose of university education is to learn as much as possible, it does not mean studying all of the time (Gates, 2015). Students do need downtime to relax and reflect. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of what is important and taking a breath, talking to a friend or going for a quick run can help clear a student’s mind so they can come back with a more focused mindset (Jessie, 2019). When it comes to sleep, it is important for students to set a bedtime goal and to get 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night so they are refreshed, healthy and ready to learn (Gates, 2015).

Finally, when organizing their time, students should complete the most important tasks first (Rampton, 2018). Things like writing an essay or doing math homework can be accomplished earlier on so they do not feel overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, whereas replying to emails or recopying notes can be done at the end of the day. It may also be helpful for some students to find a dedicated space to study that is free of distractions from friends and family. Places such as a residence study room, a coffee shop on campus or the university library provide a relaxing space where students can focus and accomplish their work.

For first-year university students, strong time management skills are an essential aspect of achieving academic success and maintaining physical and mental health. While poor time management skills contribute to sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, various health conditions, feelings of inadequacy, and increased rates of dropping out of school, there are many strategies that can improve this essential life skill for students. Approaches such as using an agenda, prioritizing tasks, and learning to set boundaries are valuable life skills that students will continue to use now and in the future, in both their personal lives and their professional careers. 

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