I remember sitting down in my first college class in a huge lecture hall with other anxious freshman looking around wondering what to do. My professor walked in, not wearing a tweed jacket and loafers to my surprise, and wrote three things on the board: good grades, active social life, and enough sleep. He said pick two. That day, I took on the challenge of not wasting a single minute of my four years at Indiana and have succeeded thanks in creating some time-management guidelines for myself along the way.
1) The 10 minute test: Besides all of the huge time-consuming activities in a college student's life, there are a million little jobs that can take up a whole afternoon. If I have to do something that will take ten minutes or less, I'll do it right then and there instead of putting it off. Sending e-mails, uploading an assignment, making a phone call, taking the trash out, or looking up information can all be done as soon as you think of it. If you put it off, you won't do it and the task will become a burden.
2) Consistency: Have a general plan for each day of the week and stick with it. I do my laundry and grocery shop on Sundays, stick to homework on Mondays, and allow time for going out Tuesday through Saturday. Also, each day is broken up into segments. After class, I do work for my internship and IDS job until dinner time while my brain is still on the ball and people are still available to call if need be. After eating, I start homework that requires creating something (i.e. writing a paper, commenting in a forum, making an outline), and I finish my night with at least 2 hours of reading. Knowing what to do and when takes the pressure off deadlines.
3) No TV: Unless, however, it's with friends. As an English major, I've had to cut this luxury out of my life. If I'm watching TV by myself, I'm losing valuable reading time and with an average of 1,000 pages a week to plow through, I can't afford to lose any. However, I'm still trying to have fun. If my roommates gather for an hour for some tube-watching, I refuse to be the isolated bookworm who can't take a break.
4) The Projecting Check-list: First, if you try to tackle college without a planner, wave the white flag now. Buy one and use it, and use it wisely. Plan ahead and protect the time required for assignments. Count one-week back from a paper that's due and have "make a thesis" an item on your check-list for that day. Then move ahead two days and "make an outline," followed two days later with "write a draft." Having the popular check-list item "write 10-page paper" the day before it's due is not realistic and will only result in a terrible grade and a terrible headache from the Red Bull and pizza you ate at 3 a.m. during page seven.
5) Make the weekend a weekend: This is college! Yes, you might have to sacrifice a Saturday night every once in a while to prepare for a heavy week, but would you rather tell your kids your Literature of the 17th century midterm grade, or your stories from the legendary Bloomington bar scene. If you plan effectively during the week, taking the weekend nights off should be of no consequence to a strong GPA.
I really believe if you plan ahead, you can have good grades while experiencing the one-of-a-kind social scene Bloomington has to offer and get enough sleep to enjoy it. These are the most special four years of your life - make them count!