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Counseling Center


Time Management

Adapted from information provided by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center

Time Management is the process of using tools that can help you reach your goals. It will help you be more purposeful in how you spend your time. The following will provide you with some basic information and ideas about how to do so.


1) Develop an overview of everything that you want to accomplish. Start by determining the time frame you'd like to work with (a semester, a month, a week, a day?) Write your goals for the week making sure you consider all aspects of your life (personal, academic, social, etc.)

2) Organize your goals according to their priority. Stephen Covey (1989) suggests thinking of priorities in terms of two dimensions, urgency and importance. First, determine how urgent each of the goals is. Next, separate the urgent items into important and non-important items. Also, separate the pile of non-urgent items into important and non-important items.

By placing your goals in each of these quadrants, you can get a better sense of how to prioritize, and thus how to distribute your time and energy. Obviously, Quadrant I goals go high on the list. Less obvious, however, poor time managers give too little time and energy to Quadrant II activities (e.g., the research paper which is due "later!") and/or too much time and energy to Quadrant III & Quadrant IV activities.

An additional hint for Step 2: While you may find it easy to distinguish between urgent and non-urgent goals, distinguishing according to importance may be harder. If so, try adding a "middle step," using an approach suggested by Alan Lakein (1989). Here you would assign the categories "A," "B," or "C" to each goal. Assign "A" to those items which are most important to you, "B" to those of moderate importance, and "C" to those of low importance. Throughout, the point is to devote your time and energy according to your priorities, and to avoid getting bogged down by low priority tasks.


1) Make a long range timetable: Identify academic goals and deadlines (e.g., dates of exams, dates papers are due, etc) and make target dates for your non-academic goals. Next, determine the steps you need to follow to reach these goals. Segment the larger activities into a series of smaller units. Then, make a reasonable timetable for accomplishing your goals on time.

2) Remember your day to day personal maintenance: Certain activities--if neglected-- will throw your life out of balance and undermine your high priority efforts (i.e., activities such as sleeping, eating, socializing, exercising, doing the laundry, etc.). Include them in your planning.

3) Plan each day and week as you go through the timetable: Consider each week as a subcategory to be planned, and similarly each day within a given week. Each day and each week, review your time table. New, unexpected items will come up; adjust your plans accordingly. (Hint: To avoid frustration, expect some unexpected things to happen--e.g., things like problems with your computer. Plan in extra time and/or be ready to adjust your plan, still keeping your high priority goals in mind.)


This may seem to contradict the preceding information, but avoid over-organizing. Beyond a certain point, adding techniques may simply create additional time problems rather than solving previous ones.


Use your biological rhythms to your advantage. Identify the times of day when your energy levels are at the highest and do your most important work at those times. For example, if you work best in the morning, do not plan all your studying for the evening.

Optimize your work environment. Keep things that you need in your work area. Make sure the physical environment is conducive to concentration not just comfort. You may need to experiment to determine the right work environment.

Safeguard blocks of work time. Protect your time by saying "no" to various interruptions, activities, requests, or persons.


1. How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. Alan Lakein. New York: Dutton, 1989.

2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Stephen R. Covey. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Adapted from information provided by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center


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North Dakota State University
Counseling Center
Phone: +1 (701) 231-7671
Campus address: Ceres Hall 212
Physical/delivery address: 212 Ceres Hall, Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 2841 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Published by NDSU Counseling Center


Last Updated: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 3:07:27 PM
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