Studying abroad means spending a lot of money on what could feel like a vacation. You’re visiting a new country, meeting new people, probably spending the first few weekends making merry over food and beer, checking out the local art and music scene, travelling to local points of interest.
In the first few weeks of getting to college, it’s easy to forget your program is not a vacation. Your time at college could be fun if you manage your time well. But if you get carried away with a festive spirit, you may soon find yourself behind in classes and assignments. Without a head start, you could fall off the tracks and find it hard to catch up later. This will affect your effectiveness. It will cause you to stress, and set you up for a sub-par college experience and possibly even failure.
This may seem like panic mongering, but the importance of time management on your study abroad program cannot be emphasized enough.
Yes, we all think we know time management. Yet not many of us take it seriously. It’s a fact that planning your degree or semester abroad is going to take work. Without a detailed plan and a step-by-step approach, and dividing your time into manageable chunks of activity, it’s easy to fail.
Here’s a look at the pitfalls of poor time management that you must avoid.
So you have that assignment to submit in a day, but you drink one beer too many at the weekend party with your dorm mates. You oversleep the next morning, have less time to prepare for the assignment, and miss the deadline. You end up with a late submission penalty and not because you wanted to write a better essay. Poor time management is usually the cause of missed deadlines.
At the start of your program, you’ll have some time to get familiar with things around you. When your degree program is in its introductory stages, you may have some time to find your rhythm.
But very often that’s not the case. International students often find themselves right in the thick of things from day one. There are classes to take, assignments to complete, fieldwork, extracurricular activities, language classes, group projects and more. You’ll also have to make time to unwind and take refreshing breaks from your coursework.
Your workflow can become inefficient when you don’t manage your time well. It doesn’t only apply when you’re not working enough. It is also possible to spend too much time studying with disproportionate results.
Managing your time becomes easier when you know how it works. You start by recognizing that time is limited, that 24 hours can only go so far to fit in all the things you have to do. Then you have to divide your time into tasks based on priority. The goal is not to spend your day in a flurry of activity, but to complete more tasks in less time. Your goal is not to be busy, but to be effective and productive while still having time to unwind.
Poor quality work
When your workflow is inefficient, you end up sending in poorer quality work. You may spend more time on a certain assignment that you are interested in, and end up not having enough time for coursework that counts more towards your degree.
With proper time management, you should be able to tell how much time you need to spend on each assignment to get the job done. Those who are high achievers are able to manage their time well.
But not everyone is born with exceptional time-management skills. You can definitely develop the ability to prioritize tasks and divide time on the basis of carefully-considered factors. How much do you know about the coursework? How much reading do you need to do? How much time do you think it will take you?
Using SMART goals to assign time blocks to your tasks will help you be better at time management. A certain amount of self-awareness also helps.
One delayed assignment or two will usually be excused by your tutors, provided you don’t send in poor quality work. But the more often you miss deadlines, the more your reputation suffers. It’s an easy habit to fall into, and it can affect your chances of being recommended for jobs on the college notice board and beyond.
Missing deadlines, as a habit, is not just bad for your grades, it’s inconsiderate and comes off as lazy. We’ve all been through that moment at 4 am, while we’re rushing to finish that paper when a sense of recklessness kicks in. What would really happen if I didn’t turn this paper in on time?
For one, it will infringe on your tutor’s valuable time. You’ll be pegged as inconsiderate and irresponsible. No one wants that label, and the way to avoid it is to work on your time management.
When you find yourself slipping into habits of late deadlines and rushed assignments, you keep falling short of your ideals. You have to deal with the stress of making up for the slashed grades, of wasted time catching up on you and the stress of disappointing yourself. Your time at college abroad should be fun, not a nightmare of missed deadlines and poor habits.
Good time management will help you be a better professional and keep your reputation intact. It will increase your opportunities and the chances of achieving your goals. Poor time management will get in the way of your success.
The choice is yours. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to improve your time management skills. Simply start by giving yourself a specific bedtime and wake up time, avoid distractions and procrastination, and do your best today. Take the help you to-do lists – the pleasure of ticking things off your list will be like a drug. Reward yourself from time to time, and use technology to set reminders.
And lastly, keep in mind that you don’t have to be a perfectionist. Instead of spending four days perfecting one assignment for your favourite subject, devote some time to a less favourite subject out of a sense of fairness. Think of the bigger picture, but don’t neglect the parts. That’s the key to good time management when you’re studying at college abroad.