Teaching Time Management

A lack of time management skills can be a significant impediment to learning. As many UC Merced freshmen acknowledge, their high school habit of leaving assignments and studying to the last minute does not serve them well in college. Typically, it has left them without the habit of studying regularly and the knowledge of how to study effectively.

Evidence suggests that freshmen find it very difficult to overcome this lifelong practice of procrastination. A significant but often unrecognized complication is that freshmen are simultaneously fulfilling the basic need to establish new social relationships, having just moved to a new place without family and often without friends. Social applications, such as Facebook, further complicate the situation because, in addition to building new relationships, students will often spend significant time maintaining friendships from home. In short, freshmen self-management challenges and pressures are complex, even when they recognize that their academic success may be in jeopardy.

Below are a number of ways that faculty can help students attend to and develop self-mangement skills. To contribute a strategy that works for you, email Adriana Signorini.

Teaching Tips

  • Identify the out-of-class time commitment required for your course in the syllabus and discuss it with your students (1 unit of credit equals two hours of work outside of class for every hour in class).

  • Publish due dates clearly in your syllabus and adhere to them.

  • Encourage students to plan their semester on a calendar, to use other time-management techniques, to attend available workshops, and/or see past workshops online. Consider having a TA check up on students use of time management techniques.

  • Regularly emphasize preparation time for assignments. For longer assignments, direct students to an assignment calculator to support their planning.

  • Early in the semester, have students keep a "time diary" for assignments to help them appreciate the time needed to complete their work successfully. Students for whom assignments take much too long might be directed to tutoring or other forms of support.

  • Students tend to struggle with time commitment challenges individually, despite the fact that the vast majority of their peers face the same issue. Encourage students to develop friendships with peers who share their academic goals and to actively support each other in establishing and prioritizing academic time commitments and in valuing learning.  Imagine if students were respecting and encouraging each others' commitments to learning as an explicit community value!

  • Emphasize the importance of class attendance for success, supplemented with evidence of the relationship between attendance and high performance as available. Highlight that skipping class to work on another another assignment is not a productive time management strategy.

  • Debrief the first exam with the class, ask "A" students to describe to the class how they prepared for the exam (Weimer, 2002). Focus on the time they allot to the course.

  • With large projects or readings, students may suffer from procrastination or have limited experience managing such complex tasks. Help them to succeed and to learn project management skills by breaking large projects into a series of smaller assignments with due dates along the way to the final product. 

Student Support Resources