Time Management

Students cheer on the Redhawks during a sporting event at Miami University.

Since you’ve started your time at Miami, you’ve probably heard messages about how college will require you to keep a strict watch on how you use your time. To many of us, the idea of scheduling out each and every aspect of our day causes some anxiety. Not only is it anxiety-provoking, but in many cases, it is not necessary. Time management is about understanding what needs to be done and coming up with a flexible but firm plan to accomplish your goals.

You have 168 hours each week, 24 hours in each day. In college, you have to balance a full load of classes, often involving at least 15 hours of in-class time, and an average of 25-35 hours of out of class time each week. That in itself is a full-time job, but most students are involved in activities like clubs and sports, in addition to keeping an active social life and maybe even a part time job. That’s a lot to keep track of each week.

The driving force behind time management is prioritizing. To establish a method for doing something, you must first know what you want to accomplish and what aspects of life are most important to you. After you determine what you want to achieve, you can make a plan and schedule for achieving it. This guidebook will help you determine your priorities and make a plan for meeting your goals.

Time Management Guidebook

This guidebook is also available in PDF Format. 

Time Management Guidebook (PDF; opens in another window)

Priorities & Planning

What matters to you? For most students at Miami, getting a degree, hopefully within a reasonable time-frame, is one of their primary goals at the university. But almost everyone has other goals: long-term, short-term, and even goals related to their coursework. Some examples:

Long-term Goals

  • Graduate with a degree from Miami University.
  • Be a member of a team that wins a championship.
  • Get into a prestigious graduate school.

General Short-term Goals

  • Finish foreign language requirement.
  • Train an extra hour each day.
  • Research requirements for graduate school.

 Specific Project Short-term Goals

  • Collect needed books and references
  • Create an outline
  • Write introduction
  • Write section one

Your own goals and priorities will lay the foundation for time management. Having a firm understanding of what is important to you and what you want to accomplish will aid in making decisions about how you spend your time.

Your Master Schedule

After thinking about your goals for the semester, you will want to think about how you can use your time most effectively to meet them. It helps to have a visual representation of your commitments for a semester, and there are a lot of ways you can achieve this, including: 

  • Miami Memos, available at the bookstore
  • Weekly or Monthly planners or calendars
  • Google Calendar or similar programs
  • The Rinella Learning Center planner

At the beginning of each semester, regardless of the type of schedule you prefer to use, it is good practice to put all major assignments from each of your syllabi into your schedule. If you prefer to use both weekly and monthly paper planners, it is in your best interest to put all of this into both types of planner. This way, you can easily take a look at your weekly and monthly assignments throughout the semester, and be aware of what is coming next.

Each week, you should review the following two to three weeks on your planner. You should also update your planner as soon as you hear about new assignments or responsibilities. This way, no assignments will surprise you, and you will be able to keep yourself aware of all of the work that you need to complete.

Digital vs. Paper: Pros & Cons

Online calendars, like Google Calendar, are a popular way to keep track of assignments. Paper planners require a lot of writing, and often require you to look at them frequently. Google Calendar can remind you of events, so if you are forgetful, this can be quite useful. Some students also find using both paper and digital planners to be helpful. Before you choose which will work for you, however, consider these pros and cons:

Digital vs. Paper Calendar
Pro or Con Paper Calendar / Planner Google Calendar / Digital Planner
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Concrete; physical reminder of assignments
  • No worries about wrong data
  • Flexible; only have to enter data once
  • Email and text reminders
  • Accessible through phone
  • Data is in one format and can’t be viewed differently
  • If lost, information is gone
  • No reminders of assignments
  • Requires some knowledge to use effectively
  • Data can be input incorrectly
  • Abstract; easier to ignore or lose track of assignments

Studying & Classes

The first rule for successful studying is to establish specific and regular times to study within your schedule. A useful and effective method for organizing study time is to use the time immediately before and immediately following each class to study. This method allows you to effectively use time between classes and to create large blocks of time to study a specific subject. This type of focused study increases comprehension and retention.

Often, it is suggested to spend 2 hours out of class for each hour in class for studying. Considering that all courses are not the same, however, you may need more or less time for each course each week. Some courses are more time consuming and challenging than others, so it may help to think about which classes require more time for study. If you are taking a moderately easy course, for example, you may only need one hour of study time for every in-class hour. Likewise, more challenging classes may require 3 or 4 hours of out-of-class study time for each in class hour. For an example, see a sample schedule below:

After gaining an understanding of your studying and classroom time needs, you will be prepared to create a block schedule for yourself. Block schedules allow you to see how your day will play out. We encourage you to think about how you can best use the time you have available during the day—including before, after, and between classes—to complete most of your academic work. On the following pages, we present an example of how you can use your time most effectively during the day.

Block Scheduling

As you can see above, block scheduling allows you to visualize how your day can be the most productive. If you look at the above example, for instance, you can see that a majority of this student’s planned study times are during the day—for some classes, they are completely meeting their required study times just by studying in between and before classes. Consider how you can best use your time effectively during the day, so that you can meet your other goals during your time off in the evenings. 


Have you ever told yourself that you “work better under pressure?” Do you find yourself waiting until the last minute to complete your assignments? If so, you’re not alone. Procrastination is a common response to the stress of college, and it is easy to convince ourselves that it is just because we’re lazy or just work better that way. Procrastination isn’t necessarily a symptom of laziness, however. And few can argue that having less time to perfect an assignment is a good thing. It’s usually a symptom of being bored with the material you are studying or not understanding the assignment. These factors often make putting the assignment on the backburner seem much more attractive. If you find yourself struggling with procrastination, try the following:

  • Talk to your professor, especially if you don’t understand what you need to do for an assignment.
  • Work with one of the tutors available in the Rinella Learning Center, or for writing assignments, in the Writing Center, to get a better grasp on the material.
  • Sign up for an appointment with a Learning Specialist in the Rinella Learning Center—they can help you identify ways to become more engaged!


It’s hard to talk about procrastination without talking about motivation. While having low motivation can lead to procrastination, low motivation itself often has a number of causes. If you’re having trouble focusing on your schoolwork, it may help to first think about where your struggles are coming from.

Are you simply bored with college? Are other priorities in your life more important right now than your studies? Do you feel socially isolated or anxious about life in general? All of these can impact motivation, but all of these can also be addressed.

Finding a way to get yourself motivated is not something you have to do alone. If you’re simply bored with college, it’s good to consider the following methods and resources:

  • Consider speaking to a career advisor or Learning Specialist about your major and career paths
  • Break up complicated assignments into smaller parts
  • Leave your technology behind—laptops and cell phones can be distractions and lead to lower motivation to work on your assignments
  • Give yourself a clear stop and start time to studying, with time for breaks in particularly long stretches
  • Find a quiet place on campus to study, where you’re less likely to be distracted

If you find yourself completely lacking direction, emotionally overwhelmed, or juggling too many priorities, keep in mind that there are resources on campus to help you.

  • The Rinella Learning Center offers appointments for students struggling with motivation, and we can help you find resources on campus—give us a call at 513-529-1871
  • If you’re feeling emotionally drained, overwhelmed, or anxious, professional counselors are available to assist you at Student Counseling Services: 513-529-2975


There are numerous resources available to you to assist in developing better time management skills. If you are interested in learning more about time management please explore the following resources:

On-Campus Resources

  • The Rinella Learning Center: (513) 529-8741
  • Student Counseling Services: (513) 529-2975
  • Career Services: (513) 529-3831

Web ResourcesMind Tools Time Management Test

Sample Schedule with Study Times
Course Difficulty Level In-Class Hours Hours per In-Class Hour Total Study Hours per Week
BIO 115 High 4 3 12
ENG 111 Moderate 3 2 6
GTY 154 Moderate 3 2 6
MUS 135 Moderate 3 2 6
EDL 100 Easy 2 1 2
Total 15 32


Block Scheduling
Time Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
8 am ENG Study GTY 154 ENG Study GTY 154 ENG Study
9 am ENG 111 GTY 154 ENG 111 GTY 154 ENG 111
10 am ENG Study BIO 115-L ENG Study GTY Study ENG Study
11 am BIO Study BIO 115-L BIO Study BIO Study
12 pm BIO 115 EDL Study BIO 115 BIO 115 BIO 115
1 pm EDL 100
2 pm MUS Study EDL 100 MUS Study EDL 100 EDL 100
3 pm MUS 135 EDL Study MUS 135 EDL Study MUS 135
4 pm BIO Study BIO Study GTY Study BIO Study MUS Study
5 pm GTY Study