My Time Management Journey at U of T

After four years of undergraduate studies, I still feel like I can’t completely keep track of my life. Now that we’re fully in-person, I need to balance my commute from Etobicoke, a growing burden of weekly readings and deadlines, and an increasing number of extracurricular commitments.

During my time at university, I’ve learned that time management is not something I can “just” do. Rather, it is a skill that must be refined with practice: there have been times when I’ve messed up my schedule or overestimated my capacity to complete a task. When this happens, I’ve learned that getting frustrated isn’t helpful, and that practicing time management is a process of trial and error that requires kindness and patience with oneself.

To help me balance my competing commitments and responsibilities, I use the following strategies to help manage my time: 

1. Scheduling 

Whether using a physical or virtual calendar, creating a schedule has helped me immensely in keeping track of my weekly commitments. Coupled with the 4-month erasable calendar available at the U of T Bookstore on which I track my semester deadlines, I input all my commitments into Google Calendar. Using these tools, I create a macro view of my entire semester and a micro view of each week, allowing me to keep track of everything I am doing and anticipate major developments. 

Photo of the U of T Monthly Calendar

2. Weekly To-Do Lists

In addition to scheduling, I also create weekly to-do lists. Divided into three sections, I write “what I need to do this week,” “what I did this week,” and “what I need to do next week” onto a document and fill them in with my weekly academic, work, and extracurricular tasks. This helps me keep track of the work I’m doing while also being able to shift tasks around if I’m particularly busy. Creating weekly to-do lists in this way allows me to ensure that nothing important falls through the cracks.

3. Using Commute Times

As a long-distance commuter, I find that it is more difficult for me to manage my time compared to students living in residence. However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t effectively use my commute times to get things done. By downloading my readings beforehand, for instance, I can finish maintenance tasks on the subway or bus, ensuring that my time spent commuting doesn’t go to waste.

But honestly, sometimes I just use this time to decompress after a long day. I think it can be just as important to care for oneself during travel time as it is to remain “productive,” even if it’s just by taking a moment to breathe.

Photo of a subway train in a station

4. Prioritization

As the semester progresses, we all experience an increasing number of deadlines, making it exceptionally difficult to keep up with weekly tasks like readings. During these times, I’ve gotten much better at prioritizing studying for tests or working on essays; the reality is that we often don’t have time for everything. For some tasks, it can be both realistic and healthy to say “no,” especially if it means that you’re able to devote more time to work that you will actually be assessed on. 

Overall, I have learned that time management is never easy, and I’ve found solace in the fact that all students struggle to effectively manage their time at some point. Through trial and error, and giving myself some grace once in a while, I’ve become better at managing my time — even though I know I’m not perfect. I think it is possible for all of us to get better at it, and I hope the strategies I’ve noted above help you in doing so as well. 

Shane Joy (he/him) is a peer mentor with Academic Success and is in his fourth year of his Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in History, International Relations, and Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations. You can make an appointment with him or other members of the Academic Success peer team through CLNx, and read more about peer mentor appointments here.

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