Dear Ally,

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Fitting Both the Rocks and the Sand in Your Jar

Dear Ally,

Welcome to your sophomore year! I hope you had an awesome summer!

You have new responsibilities, are getting more involved in organizations, and taking  more challenging courses. With greater demands on your time, balancing becomes more important.

The key to managing your time effectively is planning. First carve out time in your schedule to do your coursework and other important things like eating and sleeping, then arrange everything else around that. If you’re trying to fit a bunch of rocks and sand in a jar, they won’t fit if you put the sand in first, but if you put the rocks in and then pour in the sand, it will fit in the spaces around the rocks.

For each week, plan out:

  1. What you need to accomplish.
  2. How long it’s going to take.
  3. When you’re going to do it.

For #1, write out a to do list based on the syllabi for your courses. Deciding when you’re going to study and do homework is up to you, but I recommend developing regular daily and weekly study routines that are easy to follow and that will become habit.

Figuring out how much time outside of class each course requires can be tricky. Most professors will tell you that you’ll spend 2-3 hours per week on work outside of class for each credit hour of class. Most professors probably either have no clue how much actual time the coursework is actually taking students to complete or underestimate the time it will take. This will be especially true of new professors or new courses.

At a workshop this summer, I was told about a wonderful Course Workload Estimator tool designed to help professors estimate the amount of time their assignments will take so they can determine how much work to assign. I used it to calculate the average amount of time my organic chemistry course should take students each week and it spit out 9 hours a week, which is what I’ve been telling my students for years, even though I don’t think they believe me at first. This year I gave them the link, so they can calculate it themselves. You can do the same thing for each of your courses. It even allows you to manually adjust reading and writing rates, if you’re slower or faster than the average student. If you want to find out the workload for just one week in particular, just put in the assignments for that week and under “Course Info” put “1.”

Once you know how much time your coursework will take, you’ll know how much time you have left for fun and other activities. Remember that time is finite and, once your jar is full, you’ll have to take something out to put something else in, so don’t over commit yourself.

Have a great first week of classes!

Aunt Sarah

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