Put time back on your side with the 10-Minute Time Management System. Photo by Earls37a and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As college students, our lives are incredibly busy and hectic. Our schedules are crammed to the brim with class, reading, homework, club activities, and work. How is it possible to stay on top of everything and not lose your mind?! From Remember the Milk to Evernote, I’m sure that everyone has their own time management/organization system that they’ve been using and find helpful. Unlike everything else out there on the Internet though, I stumbled upon a time management system that’s particularly well suited to college students and is not only effective, but also fast and easy. It takes no more than 10 minutes a day: five minutes in the morning and five at night. It’s also easy in the sense that all it requires is a pen/pencil and scrap paper – no laptop or Smartphone required whatsoever.

I learned about this system from Cal Newport’s How to Win at College (A great read that I highly recommend). Here’s the rundown of how it works:

  • Everyday, you take some scrap paper that you can keep in your pocket and create a T-chart.
  • You can label the top with the day of the week and that day’s date
  • The right column is your to-do list where you mark all the things you want to accomplish that day. It’s okay to list more things than you think you’ll actually accomplish – be ambitious!
  • The left column is your agenda – mark down all the things you plan to do for that day and block out the time you’re going to devote to each item. Do this for all items: Blocking out a specific amount of time for things like studying keeps you focused and accountable to 1) actually going to study and 2) not spending too much time studying if there are more urgent assignments.
  • In the morning, take five minutes to create a new T-chart and fill in the left and right columns with that day’s agenda and to-do list
  • As you complete items throughout the course of the day, mark them off your to-do list
  • Before you go to bed, take an inventory of your day. If you want, this is where you can plug stuff into your Google Calendar/iCal/Remember the Milk/etc. (but this is completely optional). Did you adequately block out enough time for all your tasks? If not, adjust accordingly tomorrow. Were you too ambitious about completing tasks? If so, just move whatever you didn’t finish to the next day’s list.
  • Start a new day with a new T-chart, being sure to transfer whatever items your didn’t complete from yesterday.

It’s that simple! Again, it only takes 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening. I’ve found this to be the least time-consuming yet still effective task management method for students. It’s helped me to become more productive by squeezing every last minute of productivity out of my day. If I have a spare 15 minutes for example, I can just look at my list and scan through any readings I can do to get ahead. At the same time, planning your day out in advance helps you by always making sure you’re using your time productively instead of just going on Facebook.

Has this time management system improved your productivity? What systems do you use and what are your thoughts on them? Let us know in the comments!