Almost everyone complains that they have too much homework and the excuses for “why” it didn’t get done range from the dog ate it to a faulty printer to a downed internet connection. More often than not, “too much homework” really means “too many commitments took priority,” which can be reasonable – say, if you’re working part-time and are receiving a scholarship for an extra-curricular activity – or it can be unreasonable – bingewatching a TV show.
In the case of unreasonable “commitments,” you’re procrastinating doing your homework, but of course, there are people who genuinely are overwhelmed by their homework. With that in mind, how do you manage your time to get it all done? The following are five tips for any student (current or prospective) who’s struggling with getting their workload completed on time.
1. Don’t be a perfectionist
There’s an old principle of Pareto’s that’s been adapted to business (specifically management) called the 80-20 rule. The idea is that 80% of your results, come from 20% of your efforts. Think about that. When you tackle an assignment for school, are you trying to make everything perfect? Remember that you’re a student, no one is expecting you to be perfect, you’re in school to get better; you’re supposed to be a work in progress.
As a result, what may feel like “too much” homework, might really be you tackling assignments “too well.” For instance, there’s a reason “speed reading” is a skill that’s encouraged. A textbook is not a work of literature where every sentence means something, it’s okay to skim or, in some cases, skip whole paragraphs – the last paragraph just recaps what you read anyway.
Moreover, many schools or classes curve their grades. So an 80% could be a 100% in your class.
2. Do your homework as soon as it’s assigned to you
Due to the nature of college schedules, students often have classes MWF and different classes on Tuesday and Thursday. As a result, they do their MWF homework on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in preparation for the following day. Rather than do that. Do your Monday homework, Monday; Tuesday homework, Tuesday; Wednesday homework, Wednesday and so on.
The reason for this is manifold. First of all, the class and the assignment are fresh in your mind – this is especially critical for anything math related to those who are less math-minded. So do the assignment after the class. Chances are, it’ll be much easier to complete.
The second reason is because if you have a question about Monday’s homework and you’re working on it on Monday night, then guess what? You can contact your professor (or a friend) Tuesday for help or clarification. Whereas if you’re completing Monday’s homework on a Tuesday night, you’re out of luck. This can assuage a lot of the stress that comes from too much homework.
This flows into the third reason which is that, rather than having a chunk of homework to do the day before its due, you’re doing a little at a time frequently. This is a basic time management tactic where, if you finish tasks as they’re assigned instead of letting them pile up, you avoid that mental blockade of feeling like there’s “too much” for you to do in the finite amount of time given.
3. Eliminate distractions
All too often, students sit down to do homework and then receive a text, and then another, and then hop on Facebook, and then comment on something, and then take a break. Before they’re aware of it, hours have passed.
The best way to overcome this is to create a workspace. Traditionally, many students go to the library, but there’s no reason you cannot create your own workspace elsewhere. Maybe head to a coffee shop, fold up the backseats of your car, or develop a space in your room for you to specifically to focus on your homework.
If you give your homework 100% of your attention, it’ll pass by more quickly. Regardless of whether you’re writing a paper or working on a math equation, it’s harder to complete any portion of it with interruptions. If you stop writing mid-sentence to answer a text, then you may wonder where you were taking that trail of thought; if you stop a math problem midway through, then you’ll end up going back over the equation, redoing your work, to figure it out.
Eliminating distractions can save you a great deal of time, so find your space.
4. Track your time
Really track it. There are plenty of free sites and apps that will monitor your time. If you can’t (or don’t) eliminate all your distractions, then start clocking where your time is going. Chances are, you’ll be able to cut something that’s draining your hours, out of your schedule.
This is the nature of the internet, social media sites, and games on your phone, usually you use them in micromoments; moments that too small or too insignificant to really be eating up your time, but they do. All too often, students find themselves wondering “where did the time go?” and have difficulty actually placing how much time was spent where or doing what. Time yourself and, more importantly, reserve time to do your homework or reading.
The other benefit of this is that once you start tracking your time, you’ll be able to quantify the problem and manage your time more appropriately. For instance, if a particular class averages 45 minutes of homework, then you know how much time is required to budget into your schedule. Meanwhile, if another class is regularly exceeding three hours, then you may want to consider a tutor or discussing the issue with your professor directly.
5. Accept homework
Homework is a responsibility; it’s a chore. And in the same way that many people don’t take out the trash until it needs to be taken out; many people don’t start homework until it needs to be finished. This is a problem of attitude towards homework more than anything else.
It’s what makes many students feel like there’s “too much” homework, when in actuality, they feel that way because they put off doing it until they absolutely need to do it. As a result, try to change your mode of thinking. Instead of thinking about the volume of reading and writing, accept that it needs to get done. This way, you’re less concerned with the consequences of not doing homework, and more willing to actually get it done.
Hopefully, these five tips will help you in your academic career. Time management is not an easy skill to learn, but once you’ve established it in your life, it will help immensely.