Learn how to build
a study plan
Know Your Time
The number 1 problem in college is TIME.
Students struggle because they continually overestimate the study time and underestimate the time they need to get things done.
They honestly think that they have enough time, but they are usually wrong. They start too late, get behind, and end up cutting corners. Catching up is almost impossible. Stress goes up. Grades go down. Sound familiar?
If you tell me you’re struggling in college, the first question I am going to ask you is this:
Do you have time for college?
I don’t mean generally, I mean precisely. Do you?
Do you know exactly how much time you have, how you use it and most importantly, how much you will commit to studying? On Monday? Tuesday? Every day? To the minute? Most students don’t.
How do you use your time?
The first step of building a study timetable is to really have a solid understanding of your total time. How much of it is already committed to other things, and how much you have left for studying. Start by building a study timetable.
You will start by doing a schedule showing everything that you do each day of the week.
You can use any weekly planner or blank calendar to do this, but we will use Shovel to demonstrate how to do a detailed analysis of your time.
I realize that this is college. Your hours may vary a lot depending on what you have going on. After the first week you’ll settle into a normal routine that will be pretty predictable week after week. Don’t worry, a good plan let’s you be flexible.
1. When are you awake?
That may sound odd, but you can only get things done when you are awake. If you are going to make a good plan, you probably need to know when that is.
I was an early bird. You may not be. Based on your class schedule and personal habits, just make your best guesstimate of when you typically get up and go to bed on each day of the week.
The goal here is to know how many hours you have each day to use so you can make a plan. That may change and that’s OK. For now, just go with your instinct.
Your available hours might look like this. It’s empty now, but there is a lot that needs to go in there.
2. What do you already HAVE to do?
If you are sleeping a normal 8 hours a day you have 112 hours of awake time every week. The problem is that most of it is already taken up by other things you have to do.
These are things like getting reading in the morning, classes, meals, workouts, and school clubs and activities.
Even think about the time you use just walking to and from things on campus. It can eat up a lot of your day without even realizing it.
Know where you use it each and every day.
3. What do you WANT to do?
College isn’t just about studying. It’s also about having fun.
Think of all of the things you want to do. We call call it ‘Me Time’. This is the time you set aside for having fun or doing other personal things.
You don’t necessarily know what you’re going to do, but you’re certain you won’t be studying.
Examples are weekend nights and probably mornings too.
You can have as much or as little Me Time as you want. The point is to exclude it from your available study time so you can make an accurate plan. Just be honest with yourself about what times you will really use or not use for studying.
The nice thing is that Me Time is flexible. The goal is to never have to use it for studying, but if you need it, you always know you can use it in a pinch. It’s your reserve if you get behind—or for those weeks where you have three midterms and a paper due.
For now, put in your best estimate. You can always adjust it later when you know how much time you really need.
When you are done, your schedule may already look pretty full.
Shovel Study Planner
So, now you have a pretty good idea about what takes up your time during the week. To make an accurate plan, you want to find every minute that you can.
4. What is your ‘Extra Time’?
We are serious about time. Minutes matter in college and chances are you waste a lot of them.
When you lay out your day, you are going to find that there are a lot of empty time blocks between classes, meals, and activities. We call it ‘Extra Time.’
From a practical standpoint a lot of those blocks of time may not be useful as they are just too small to realistically use. In most cases you can’t do anything about it.
However, if you are looking for extra minutes, a good source of them may be found in those gaps.
Look at each one and ask yourself – based on the length and location of that time block, can you use it to get something done. For example, you may have only a 30 minute block, but if it’s between two classes in the same building you could have time to do something.
Another alternative is to see if you can shift things around to create larger blocks. Moving lunch or your workout by just 30 minutes might create a bigger block on either side that would give you more usable study time.
The point is to find and consider your options with every block you have. Remember, you don’t have to use them, but it’s good to have them available if you need them.
Shovel app makes it easy to find and fine-tune every minute in your schedule. You can just drag things around and see exactly how it affects your study time. You can even set what you think is your own personal useful minimum study time block.
I’m going to repeat it often: minutes matter in college. Find and make the most of them.
5. What is your ‘Study Time’?
So now you have created a solid schedule. You know what you do each day and when you do it. Hopefully you’ll never miss anything again.
But you’ve also done something even better. Most calendars show you what you already know – when you have things to do.
For planning purposes, you also want to know where you don’t have things to do. That is your available study time.
Shovel shows you all of your study time blocks and calculates the amount of time you have in each of them. It will use these times to calculate if you have enough time to get your work done, but more on that later.
6. Commit to your Study Times
What is mose important is this. When you decide on study times, then COMMIT to them. Completely, totally, unequivocally commit. If they aren’t really study times, then change them to something else.
The only way you can make a truly accurate study plan is to know when you are going to study and stick to your plan.
7. Adapt to change
Your schedule can and will change frequently during the semester, sometimes daily. That’s OK. If your routine changes, figure out your new study times and commit again.
Just always be honest with yourself. Are you going to use the time the way you think you are or not? If not, just change it and try to keep your plan as accurate as you can.
You should know exactly how much time you have. You’re already way ahead of the rest of your classmates.
So let me ask you again:
Do you have time for college?
Sorry, but you still don’t have a clue.
It’s not enough to know how much study time you HAVE.
You also need to know how much time you NEED.
You’re going to do that next.