When To Study

Time Blocking When Building A Study Plan

Study early. Study Often.

It may seem like I’m saying that you should study every single free minute you have, but that’s not the case. I’m just suggesting that you consider every study opportunity in your day and make a good choice about if you should use it.

The most important thing is to always have time ahead of you. The best way to do that is not let study blocks get behind you unused.

Having a big cushion of free time eliminates stress and gives you flexibility to deal with unexpected problems, to prepare for exams, or just to go have fun when you want to.

Don’t let time control you. You should always control it.

Big Time Blocks

Once you set up your time planner or in the Shovel app, some big blocks are going to stand out.

Weekday evenings. This is easy. The best way to avoid distractions is to study when everyone else is studying. This is your time.

Get to the library immediately after dinner, and do it as early as possible—6:00 or 6:30 p.m.. Treat the big blocks just like class time. Never, ever fail to use them.

Using your big time blocks is a great way to really get things done and pile up free time that you can use later for other things.

These big time blocks are your serious, dedicated time for getting things done. Try to have at least three to four solid, focused hours of study from Sunday through Thursday.

Start as early as you can so you don’t have to push things into midnight and beyond. There is usually no reason that you can’t finish before 9:30. You know why? Because hopefully you’re also using the smaller blocks of time. That’s where the stress free A’s are made.

Small Time Blocks

While the big blocks of time are important, the small ones matter more. One of the biggest and worst habits that students have is wasting small blocks of time. 

Your success and your stress in college is determined by how efficiently you use small blocks of time during the day.

One of the most important reasons to do the Time Setup in the Shovel app is help you identify every small block of time you can.

When you finish your time setup, take a look at all of the small blocks of time between everything that you have to do.

We call these Extra Time. Most students will see a lot of them: between classes, during lunch, before dinner, after the gym. An hour here, twenty minutes there. Add them up and see what they are. It’s usually a surprising amount of time. 

This is the time that students waste the most. Sure, some small blocks might be too small. You can’t always study if you have to walk across campus, or if you only have a small amount of time between two classes.

My point is to carefully look at each and every one of those small time blocks and ask yourself if there is any way you can make it useful.

Far too many students think that small blocks of time are for hanging out and doing nothing.

You don’t have to have enough time to finish a task. Just do as much as you can. Reading just a few pages can make a big difference.

Every minute you can get something done during the day is a minute you can use at night for studying for exams or just relaxing. Anything but cramming the things you should have done earlier.

It’s always nice to have that option.

Plan every study block

Don’t just wing it with your small blocks. Find them and plan how and where you’re going to use them, just like you do with your big blocks. Try to plan specific tasks to all of your available study times.

Remember, all of those small blocks of time can add up to hours during your day. 


The biggest advantage of getting things done early is being able to enjoy your weekends without the stress or guilt.

Just know that Saturday and Sunday has huge potential for getting things done.

I was an early riser. I always got two or three hours of work done while my friends were sleeping in. That always gave me a big head start on my week ahead.

Consider tackling your easier work on the weekend or start self testing for your exams. You can get a lot done and barely interfere with your day at all.

You can do a night’s worth of studying on Saturday and not have to worry about it on Monday. Make it a part of your routine.


The same principle applies for holidays. If you plan ahead and get ahead, you won’t have to study during Thanksgiving break or Spring Break. Use that time to relax, but if you are sitting around doing nothing, take advantage of that time to get ahead.

So enough about finding study time, let’s talk about some general principles to get more out of the time you have.

Boost your productivity!

Timeboxing Study Planner - Shovel