A couple of semesters ago, I thought it was the brightest idea in the world to sit down and make a super micromanaged daily schedule. When I would eat, when I would do homework and for how long, even how long I would spend getting dressed or brushing my teeth… every moment of every day was accounted for.

Naturally, this ended horribly.

Humans are funny creatures when it comes to time. We want routine, but we also crave freedom. There’s no system that will work for everybody, but people have certain responsibilities that they must find a way to meet . Add in bad habits like procrastination and you have a recipe for something that can make your school life a waking nightmare.

When I made my micromanaged schedule, I made it with the assumption that I would have 100% control over my time, how much time tasks would take, etc etc. There were two crucial things that I failed to take into account:

  • The influence other people have on my time
  • My own tendencies towards procrastination and executive dysfunction. AKA, my nature as an imperfect human

In a lot of ways, we do have a lot of latitude with how we spend our time in all but the worst or busiest circumstances. But we also make mistakes, we have responsibilities we didn’t previously foresee, and generally life is a thing that continues to happen. Few of us can reasonably expect for a micromanaged schedule to work for us. (That isn’t to say that there’s nobody it could work for, of course!)

On the other hand, during my first couple of years of college, I kept no real schedule or routine at all. This was naturally a worse disaster. I would sleep through classes at 4pm because my sleep schedule was that erratic. Homework fell to the wayside because it always seemed either too intimidating or too unimportant, and my grades suffered the blow. Even basic self care tasks like attending to hygiene and eating would be performed erratically, to the detriment of my health. Perhaps some people are perfectly happy living like this, and all the more power to them. But for me, it was miserable.

Naturally, my case was a bit extreme, but hopefully you understand what I’m trying to illustrate here. Humans naturally need both structure and freedom in order to operate at their optimum. Some of this routine is baked into our culture – sleep at night for about 8 hours, waking up between 6 and 8 am. Brush your teeth right before you go to bed and right after you wake up. Shower every morning, or at least some other time once a day every day. These stereotypical routines won’t work for everyone, but they exist as a basic culturally-mandated framework, and many people have either these routines or a slight variation on them.

How does this fit into school, though? Well, you do need to find the time to do homework and study, and you need to be able to take care of your health in order to perform at your personal best. You need to be able to roll with things as they happen, but you also need to be able to say “okay, it’s time for homework now”. Whichever end of the spectrum you’re starting from, this is not an overnight process.

This is such an individualistic thing that relies so, so heavily on personal circumstances that even giving troubleshooting advice for it is a challenge. The needs of a 16 year old honor student with a part time job on the track to graduate early are going to be vastly different from the needs of a 42 year old college student with chronic pain and 2 toddlers.

Nevertheless, there are a few things that can be asked and considered for moving forward:

  • When do I usually study or do homework as things are right now? Do I already have habits in place that I can formalize and refine?
  • Is there a time in the day where I feel more energized and alert than others? How do I leverage this?
  • What can I do when something interrupts or supersedes my schoolwork time to make sure I stay on track? Can I realistically hold myself accountable for that, and how can I work around it if I can’t?
  • How detailed do I really, truly need this schedule to be? Am I overwhelming myself or holding myself to standards that I know are unrealistic for me as a flawed human being?

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