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One of the questions I get a lot when people find out that I’m an engineer is this: “Do engineers have social lives/sleep?” My answer is always the same: absolutely, but you have to be good at time management.

Easier said than done, though, right? The most important thing I learned freshman year was not chemistry, differential equations, or even how to get around campus, but rather how to manage my time well. The longer I’ve been in college, the more I’ve gotten involved, taken on leadership positions, and found myself taking more and more difficult classes. Managing my time well allows me to finish everything I need to do, and still be able to have fun with friends and get plenty of sleep.

Everyone has their own strategies for managing their time (check out thoughts from other VSAs), but I thought I’d take the time to share some of my own tips and tricks.

1. A good calendar. Having a complete calendar is key to making sure that you don’t get double booked or forget important appointments. I input everything on my computer’s iCal, and I look at it multiple times a day. I also have it synced to a google calendar, so that when I’m not around my computer, it’s still accessible online. Generally, I like the week by week view, because it shows the detail I need, but I also make sure to look at the month view every so often. The month view allows me to plan ahead for big assignments and exams that are coming up.

2. Weekends. Weekends can be a really good chance to get work done, but they can also be important times to just relax and not think about school. I always like to go into my weekend with a pretty good idea about what the following week is going to involve, and that helps me decide how much work I should try to get done over the weekend.

3. The normal, everyday to-do list. I keep a list on my computer of everything I have to do. I organize it into different subheadings for each class, each student org, my research lab, and misc. tasks. When I complete something, I’ll delete it and if something is super urgent and I think I might forget about it, I’ll bold it. I find it’s a lot easier to get work done, when you have a good idea of everything you have to do.

4. The super busy, minute by minute to-do list. This is something that I only use when I know that I’m going to be really busy and I’m worried about finding time to do everything. It’s especially helpful when I’m juggling a lot of deadlines and/or time sensitive tasks. Basically, I take my day and assign a time where I’m going to do all of my work. It might look something like this:
– 9-10:30         Class
– 10:30-11        Professor’s office hours
– 11-2                Write paper
– 2-2:30           Fill out application for Progressive Degree Program
– 2:30-6:30     Class
– 6:30-8           Physics homework
– 8-9                 Student Org meeting
– 9-11                Group project meeting
– 11-12:30        Construction homework
Of course, the schedule is always subject to change as new things come up, but generally this helps me get through those really crazy days, so that I don’t run out of time to finish what I need to do.

I’ve found that with a little trial and error, it isn’t all that difficult to manage your time well. Just find a system that works for you, and stick to it. When your system isn’t working, try something else. What about you? Do you have any tips for time management?