My upper-year friend's first words to me in my first week of university were, "Good grades, social life, and sleep, you can choose one, but you don't get all three." At the time, I was having the time of my life during Orientation Week (O-Week) and didn't think much of it. I believed that I could manage my time well, just like I did in high school. However, I was in for a rude awakening. Shortly after orientation week, I felt utterly lost and overwhelmed with my course load. Nothing could have prepared me for what was coming.
I vividly remember the day after O-Week ended, a group of us sat in the lounge, reading a 40-page assignment until 7 in the morning because it was due the next day. Unlike high school teachers, professors did not remind me of due dates, so I constantly missed assignments and quizzes. Moreover, I often found myself studying until 4 to 5 A.M. because I could not complete my assignment work for the day. All this unfolded within the first month of university, and my social life was nearly non-existent. While I occasionally saw friends, we would usually only study together.
My initial experience with midterms in university was a humbling one. I quickly realized that the study habits that served me well in high school were not effective in preparing me for university exams. Adding to my frustration, the pandemic prevented me from experiencing exams in high school. After receiving a disappointing mark on my first university exam, I experienced a moment of clarity… my upper-year friend was right all along. I needed to change my approach. Not only was I not getting enough sleep, but my grades were also suffering, and my social life was taking a hit. I came to the realization that my study habits were aimless and inefficient, and I needed to make a change.
After realizing that my lifestyle needed some improvement, I decided to establish a strict schedule. In order to optimize my studying, I began waking up earlier and going to bed earlier. I found that staying up past 1 A.M. was not practical for me. This change also led me to discover that I am actually a morning person. In addition to improving my sleep schedule, I made a conscious effort to eat healthier and take walks when I needed a break. Although change was difficult, I persevered through moments of laziness and distractions, such as scrolling through my phone. I forced myself to get out of bed and make progress toward my weekly or daily academic goals. By doing so, I was able to prepare for exams weeks in advance. Nevertheless, I was able to have more free time to hang out with my friends since I was able to distribute my time accordingly.
During my final semester, I felt confident that I would perform well on my exams because I had started studying a month prior. As a result, I felt more prepared and relaxed while taking the test compared to the previous midterm. All the effort I put in definitely paid off when I received my grades. I learned that time management in university requires self-discipline and maintaining a strict schedule, which is why I continued to follow the same routine in my second year. However, I also understand that it's important to take breaks and have fun with friends on occasion. Ultimately, time management is not just about studying hard but also about learning how to balance work and play effectively.