In Productivity school

How I manage my time in college

college, time managemt, time, management, organization,

 I feel like I've finally figured out how to keep up with college, and I'm confident I've got this time management thing down to a science. There are three main tools I use to keep up with my internship, my job, classes, extracurriculars, and my personal life, each of which I'll go over today.
Let me first say that time management in college can look different for everybody, so if you try out my tactics for a while and realize they don't work for you then it's totally fine. Move on and find some other way to be a time management guru.

The entire point of time management is to make sure you know exactly what you need to be doing and when. This is a main reason I'm not into the Erin Condren planners and the "Glam Planning" community. I personally don't have an hour each week to decorate my planner, I need something quick that will capture everything on my plate in one place.

Color Code

I want to talk about my color code system before we get into my tools, as it's the same across all my planning platforms. I wrote this post a while back about how to color code your bullet journal, which you can read here. But in general I use both colored pens and highlighters to keep up with my internship, work, class work and personal stuff.

At the beginning of the semester I assign a color to each class, then write in due dates in the corresponding color on my calendar. This way I can save space by not having to write "Comm Theory Quiz 2" I can just do "Quiz 2" in orange and know it's for Comm Theory. I don't use the colored pens as much in my planner, but rather highlighters. I typically use the pens on my printed calendar, which I'll talk more about later. I also use highlighters for my other priorities: green for my extracurriculars like clubs, blue for personal stuff (like lunch with my sister or working out), pink for my blog, yellow for work, purple for my internship, and orange for general school stuff (like Thanksgiving break, homework, or advising.)

I've found it useful to keep a consistent coloring system across all your tools, If possible even get notebooks or folders for your classes in their corresponding color. This will help you memorize your color coding system and keep things running smoothly throughout the semester. I've come to realize that the more simple your color code system the more useable it will be as the semester rolls on. At the beginning of last semester I had ten different colors for all my different priorities, and by the end of the semester I ended up using the six I use today. Don't be afraid to have really broad categories, it's pointless to set up a system if it's not going to help you be productive.

Another point I want to mention before we get into my tools is that your tools need to be simple enough that you'll actually use them. Also, consider that the entire point of time management is to get work done, so If planning your day is getting in the way of things you need to do then it's time to reevaluate your system. Let's get into my tools.

1. My Bullet Journal

I've written pretty extensively on my Bullet Journal in the past. If you have no idea what a bullet journal is I suggest reading my post from a little while ago. Basically bullet journaling is a notebook where you keep all your daily to dos, notes, and lists all in one place. Unlike traditional planners, bullet journals are 100 percent catered to your needs, which is perfect for what I need in college. You fill in the month as you go and use pages as you need them for to-dos, notes, lists, and what ever else you need to keep on hand. Once you learn a few basics of bullet journaling, (like how set it up, and what it looks like to use it day to day) it's such an easy system to catch everything you need to keep up with in your life.

Apart from daily to-do lists I have a few pages like 'Book I want to read', 'Blog posts Ideas', and sketches of designs I want to do. This is where a bullet journal shines above any planner I've used in the past because I don't need a zillion different notebooks or planners for blogging or for my internship or what ever else. I don't have time to keep up with three or four notebooks, with this system I have one notebook for everything my life throws at me.

As far as they hardware I use I've always been a fan of Moleskines. My current on is a large red with graph paper, which I'm finding very useful. I always get a colored Moleskine for my planner, then a black on for my journaling journal. I also mark on the outside of the bottom pages the months I used the planner. Typically a journal will last me a semester and a half. For pens I like the Pilot G2 in .07 mm. black and the colored Steadlar pens. I also use sharpie highlighters.

2. Binder

I also use a half-inch binder for college where I keep up with my class syllabi, class schedules and graded papers. I have a few sturdy tab dividers, one for each class. Behind each tab I have the class calendar (because it's what I refer to most often), then my syllabus for the class, then any graded papers go behind that. I also keep a few printed copies of my resume and work samples in the back just in case. The dividers have pockets which is really useful for when I want to just throw something in there and clean up my binder later.

At one point I tried using a bigger binder but realized by only using a 1/2 inch one I'm forced to keep it organized and minimal. I tried keeping class notes in my binder too but it ended up being too cluttered so I just switched over to a brad folder.

I also make sure my binder has a clear outside sleeve where I keep my calendar on the front and a package of scantrons and my degree plan on the back. Keeping your calendar on the outside of your binder makes it easy to pull it out and see what's coming up for the week instead of digging through your planner or binder. Here I've shot a picture of what my calendar looks like at the end of the month, you can see how I've used highlighters

3. Calendar

Long term planning is one of the problems when it comes to bullet journaling, and I've found the most basic calendar to be the solution. I use these free printable calendars from Landeelu. Here's a link to her 2015 calendars and here's a link to her 2016 package. I like these because they're pretty but still functional.

At the beginning of the semester I go through with my colored pens and write in all my due dates and test dates in the correct class color–as shown above. I also go through and mark all my pay days, trips, meetings, and anything else I have coming up for the foreseeable future. Then each week as I get my work schedule, I write it my shifts and highlight them for work–yellow– or my internship–purple. I also put my work schedule in my planner on the current month page but it's just a backup.

By the end of the month my calendar looks a little more full as I add in shorter term assignments and my work schedules and it starts looking like the picture above.

4. Schedule

Finally, I always use Google calendar to organize my schedule. At the beginning of the semester, I go through and put in my class schedule having it repeat and stop on the proper days, as shown below.
I also add my professor's office hours onto a calendar of their own with the building and room number. I normally hide this calendar, but when I do need it it's simple for me to show the calendar and see how their hours fit into my schedule. I also make this a shade of orange to fit into my color coding. 
I like the iPhone calendar instead of the gmail app to keep my schedule on the go with me. The app  icon itself shows the date so I can see it at a quick glance–unlike the gmail app. The main feature I like about the iPhone calendar app is the horizontal view of your schedule. Whenever I have a quick appointment to add it's easy to do it right on my phone and put it on the correct calendar. 

When it comes to scheduling things I typically only schedule actual events like classes or work. I attempted to schedule when I would do smaller tasks–like grocery shop or whatever– and schedule every second of my day and found it just stressed me out more. Plus I'm not really good at estimating how long a task will take. For example I'll schedule myself to do homework for an hour and the assignment ends up taking me like twenty minutes. 

I hope you've picked up a few ideas about how to manage your time in college a little better. If you have any questions about how I keep up with things in college please feel free to Tweet me or email me at I love talking about this stuff.

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  1. These are all great ideas! I love reading these posts to see how others manage their time in college, because it something I definitely struggle with. I feel like college students have so many things going on at once (school, work, extra-curriculars, social events) that it can be really hard to keep up with it all. I use my agenda to keep track of most things, but it would be hard to keep track of everything in just my planner. Bullet journaling is something I am definitely going to consider in future semesters!

    Colleen | Buckeye Bliss

  2. I will have to look into usng the Bullet Planner. I love making To-Do lists. I will probably use the bullet planner in conjunction with my daily planner. I will save myself a lot of post-its by keeping all of my lists in one place! -Kim

  3. Thanks for this article very helpful. thanks.
    Time management