Contributed by Alyssa Ma | Cornell University Class of 2024
Balancing your time as a high school or college student can be challenging. As a third-year Cornell University student majoring in Applied Economics and Management at the Dyson School, I have a lot of demanding classes, but I also need to spend time on extracurricular activities, a part-time internship, and with friends. With so many student responsibilities, it is important for me to manage my time wisely to accomplish all my pertinent tasks and still enjoy campus life.
I’ve discovered that time management and organizational skills can always be learned and improved. I have experimented with and learned different time management habits for my classes and want to share some strategies that have worked for me.
1. Start with a to-do list and agenda
I enjoy starting my day by checking my calendar and making a to-do list. While it may sound basic, to-do lists not only keep track of my assignments, but they also help me set realistic daily goals. I can also section larger responsibilities into more manageable tasks and benchmarks. Plus, crossing off an action item is one of the most rewarding feelings!
Agendas and calendars also help me stay organized by maintaining a daily schedule and keeping track of important meetings. I personally use Google Calendar to block out my day with tasks, send meeting invites and plan for the future.
2. Create a prioritization matrix
Sometimes the workload may seem overwhelming, and you may not know where to begin. When I struggle with this, I like to create an Eisenhower prioritization matrix. This matrix helps me organize and prioritize tasks based on urgency (x-axis) and importance (y-axis). The matrix creates four quadrants to organize tasks into: urgent and important, urgent but unimportant, non-urgent but important and non-urgent and unimportant. After organizing my tasks, I can prioritize those that are urgent and important while categorizing urgent but unimportant tasks as “easy wins.” The prioritization matrix helps me make better time management decisions, which improves my productivity and reduces my stress levels.
3. Use the Pomodoro study method
Another way I increase my productivity is by using the Pomodoro Technique, which involves focusing my attention in short bursts and taking regular breaks to rest and recharge. I either set a 25-minute timer or a study goal and work until the timer or goal is complete. During this focused time, I work without any external distractions or breaks. Afterward, I take a five-minute break before starting the process again; sometimes, I enjoy a quick activity such as getting a snack or solving the New York Times Mini Crossword. The Pomodoro method allows me to maintain a high level of concentration and avoid burnout, ultimately making me more productive and motivated.
4. Take breaks
Study breaks help prevent fatigue and are an important part of self-care. Taking a break gives me a chance to step back from a project, reflect on it, and come back to it with a renewed perspective. Study breaks ultimately increase my efficiency and effectiveness so that I can get more done in less time.
The key to effective time management and organization is finding what works best for you by experimenting with new ideas. By setting clear goals, prioritizing tasks and trying new study methods, anyone can improve their productivity and reduce their stress one assignment at a time!
About the Author
Alyssa is an admissions ambassador for the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics at Cornell University. Alyssa was the vice president for public relations for her high school DECA chapter and was also a social media ambassador for #DECAICDC 2019 in Orlando. During her senior year in high school, she was the Maryland DECA Region 1 Vice President and helped to plan the association-level competition.