On this page, you’ll learn how to navigate the issue of your nighttime sleep as well as your resting and recharging during the day. You’ll also learn about the importance and effectiveness of doing focused work.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF TIME MANAGEMENT FOR A COLLEGE STUDENT: If you really choose to make all A’s and B’s, the very first thing to think about is not study habits, nor anything else about the courses you’re taking. It’s sleep and rest. Students must manage their sleep and rest as a foundation for effective time management.
Do you realize that if you don’t get enough sleep, your grades are likely to suffer? Is that one reason so many students get C’s? Scientific studies have shown that too little sleep dulls your mind. Science also shows that, surprisingly, too much studying late at night can have negative effects on your well-being and also on your grades.
It may be surprising that the first major issue of success for college students is to establish appropriate patterns of sleep and rest. This statement may seem arguable, yet it’s true, and most students are not aware of it. Science has demonstrated the truth of this. You’ll learn more about this below.
For the majority of students, studying late at night is the worst time to study. This is because, for one thing, late-night studying causes you to lose sleep. Psychologists have shown that college students need at least seven hours of sleep a night to make the best grades. Also, it’s because you retain the least information when you study late at night.
Are you being honest if you tell yourself you’re a night owl who studies best late at night? Have you ever tried studying earlier in the day? Have you measured the results of studying when your mind is fresh, compared to your late-night study binges?
The highest achieving students do their studying at times when they are fresh and alert. They devote their evenings and nights to gearing down and recharging. See Griffin Hensley’s account of how he manages his time to make all A’s.
Even though they may not realize it, students who deprive themselves of sleep and rest are in a constant state of struggle, both mental and physical. This lack makes it more difficult for them to learn and make good grades. Are you one of the many students who aren’t aware of this common-sense fact?
After nighttime sleep, the next issue is rest and recreation during the day. Students who are aware of their need for rest and recreation are wise enough to plan it into their schedules. They do well in class, as well as in life in general. Do yourself a favor: try comparing your performance when you get enough rest with what you’re like when you don’t.
Every accomplished athlete knows the need for daytime recharging in addition to good sleep. Athletes concentrate on recharging physically before performance. Similarly for a student, not giving yourself periods of recharging downgrades your ability to study and focus.
A person who walks into a classroom sleep-deprived is like a person who comes to class drunk. He drags himself into the room, and soon may be resting his head on his desk. He gains little or nothing from attending class that day. Others stare at him because he’s interrupting their ability to pay attention.
You should stay aware that research shows that college students who make all A’s and B’s consistently get seven or more hours of sleep each night. It makes sense, therefore, that “pulling all nighters” for study produces some of the poorest grades. A sleep-deprived student can’t focus as well as one who is rested.
Did you know that your brain continues to work for you when you’re asleep? Don’t discount the sleeping brain; it’s never inactive. The sleeping brain cleans itself of the trash that builds up during the day. It stays busy, even though you’re not aware of its processes. It’s eliminating toxins, both physical and psychological. It’s constantly processing memories, emotions and ideas. The student who gets enough sleep wakes up with a cleaner brain. The well-rested student also benefits from new, refreshed understandings. The brain keeps working on ideas and understandings and problems all night long.
If you frequently wake up stressed from restlessness or negative dreams, it would be good to seek counseling, which could help you take care of this issue. Do what is needed to maximize your brain’s well-being. Be kind to yourself and your friend, the brain.
EXERCISE: In your Self-Knowledge Notebook, answer these questions:
1. How many hours of sleep on average do you get on school nights? If the answer is less than seven, think about what’s keeping you from getting more sleep.
2. Are you in the habit of getting involved with your phone just before bedtime? Studies show that this practice can postpone deep sleep, or even eliminate a person’s ability to sleep deeply.
In addition, in a recent semester in one class, 8 out of 10 students named their phones as their chief distraction that kept them from doing focused work. Imagine that: some students actually allow their phones to ruin their chances to make all A’s and B’s.
3. Write three to five ways you can increase and/or improve your sleep time. Pay attention to this; it’s important to your health, and can be very useful to your efforts to make the most out of your college years.
After sleep and rest, the second major issue for college student success is very different, yet equally important. It’s about focused work. This special way of working is not difficult, yet it can make the difference between using your time effectively and wasting a lot of your effort. Knowing this, as we’ll show you, can strongly support your interest in making all A’s and B’s.
WHAT IS FOCUSED WORK? College students often fall into a pattern of doing their study and homework whenever they can fit it in around their class and work times. Many students do most of their study and homework late at night. Bad idea!
Research shows that productive people follow a pattern of a few hours of focused work a day, usually in the morning. They follow this with twice or three times as much time in unfocused rest and recreation, every day. Does that sound hard to grasp? Could you actually get more done if you worked less? Read on!
How some students prevent making all A’s and B’s
Mark B. told me, “College math is daunting to me, but I believe in tackling things head on. After my math class, I spend three solid hours going over the lesson. Then I go to the tutoring center and spend another hour working on the assignment. Then I work on it by myself for another two hours before I go to bed. Counting class time, that’s seven and a half hours every day I have math class, and there’s a lot about it I still don’t get. In math I’m lucky if I pull a C. Also, some nights I don’t get much sleep – maybe four, five hours. If I sleep less, I can study more.”
Mark has fixed ideas about hard work solving everything. These ideas are preventing him from making A’s and B’s.
Suzanne J. told me she struggles in math, but makes A’s and B’s in it. “In high school I cut class as much as I could, because I was bored and didn’t see the point. I didn’t have a dad, and my mom was too busy to help me much. I did have a great counselor who told me to pay more attention to what was good for me, but I didn’t follow her advice. I preferred hanging out with friends and watching Netflix. I seriously let my counselor down. The principal put me in continuation school, and I barely graduated. I felt so stupid. Then I decided I wanted to help people — people like me.”
Suzanne continued, “I talked to my old counselor and apologized. I started to think that maybe I could become a counselor myself. I’ve so far managed to keep a B+ GPA. I also make sure I have time for my friends. I also make time for working out, and doing my part-time job. One way I keep my grades up is by making sure I’m rested. I spend a total of three hours a day in study, mostly in the morning, four days a week.”
Suzanne’s secret is not in how many hours she studies, but how focused her study time is. Please notice, too, that Suzanne makes sure she gets enough rest. Students who are aware of their need for rest and recreation, and who plan R&R into their schedule, do well in their classes as well as in their lives outside of school.
You can learn a lot for yourself from the success story of Griffin H., pre-dental community college student. Find out how he learned that working harder is not the key. Discover how he learned to make all A’s in five subjects with three hours of study a day; click here.
What is the science of planning your work patterns? Psychology has confirmed that one can effectively do focused work for thirty to ninety minutes before switching subjects. Five minute breaks every thirty minutes assist your work.
However, if you choose to work ninety minutes or more on a single subject, there is a special way to do it. Add a minimum of ten minutes of break time during or after your ninety minutes, for a total of 100 minutes.
This break is necessary to maintain the freshness of your mind. Neurologists have discovered these patterns by doing thousands of hours of clinical observation. Why not take advantage of what they’ve revealed?
To be focused, you must not check your phone or email at all during your work periods. Do that after your 3-4 hours of work, not during it, not even your short break times, no matter how tempting it is. No distractions! If using a computer, learn how to turn off “pop-up” notifications, or ignore them.
Remember, you must be at least a little bit disciplined to do focused work. Don’t keep getting up for coffee or snacks! Stay focused! For your breaks, get up and walk around. Don’t answer emails or check social media messages. Don’t employ your brain very much in your breaks! Relax your brain. Save your brain power for your work!
Which part of your day should you dedicate to focused work? As a student, locating your three hours of optimal work time can require flexibility. Attending class does not count as focused work time, because it’s mostly a passive activity. A student may need to schedule their focused work in thirty-minute blocks between classes, but for best results, make it as early in the day as you can.
Schedule your most important schoolwork for this time, and when that time is done, don’t try to keep doing critical work; rather, shift to secondary tasks that require less concentration and less of your creative input. This is part of self-discipline. You need to limit your focused work time so you don’t get sloppy with it by trying to overwork.
It is best never to schedule this work late at night because (1) the late-night mind is usually not as capable of focus, even for “night owls,” (2) focused work should occur before one’s daily rest and recreation time. Your rest and play then become earned rewards, and not the subjects of guilt or anxiety.
Remember, don’t alternate your periods of work time with periods of socializing, entertainment or social media. Those things are too distracting to indulge in during your scheduled work time. You can enjoy them AFTER you’ve done with your SHORT workday!
Major historical figures have employed the pattern of the three-to-four hour workday. To name a few, they include Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Darwin, Beethoven, Eisenhower, Ray Bradbury, and many prominent musicians, mathematicians and physicists. They would do their few hours in the morning, and then call it a good day’s work! They would spend the rest of the day socializing, answering mail, enjoying family, hiking in nature or gardening, painting and drawing, playing music and so forth. Over thirty years, Charles Darwin wrote 19 influential books in a few hours a day. Then he went for walks in his garden. This was his unfocused time.
What is unfocused time? For career success, every day pencil in some unfocused, unplanned time. Unfocused time is time for which you haven’t made any to-do lists. It allows the brain to rest while you’re still being active in non-work ways. It can include catching up on work-related tasks such as answering emails and doing research.
Remember, your R&R time is as important as your work time. It’s best when it’s unfocused, that is, not rigidly planned out in advance. Your unfocused time is best used when it is mostly devoted to non-work-related activities: running and exercise, taking quiet reflective walks, spending in-person time with family and friends, gardening, cooking or cleaning. It can mean reading an entertaining book. It can even include taking naps. Generals Patton and Eisenhower took daily naps at the height of World War II – and they won the war.
Leaving your free time mostly unscheduled allows for beneficial things that may come up. You may have a spontaneous urge to call a friend, or go to the zoo. Leave your days open to do such things! They make life much better.
By now you may feel it sounds really pleasant to take most of your days off. It is! Yet remember: The pattern of working only a few hours a day is only fully successful if a person performs work for thirty to ninety minutes at a time: work that is fully focused and without distraction, except for short breaks. These work periods must not be divided up into multitasking. In each work period, you should stick to a single subject, not move back and forth among various topics.
Don’t use much of your R&R time for things like Netflix or Facebook! If you want to make good grades, don’t give online entertainment and social connecting more than an hour or an hour and a half a day altogether. It’s best to indulge such things after your work is done, not during work breaks. Some things are called “guilty pleasures” for a reason!
If your friends and family believe they always need to be able to reach you, explain to them that you can’t be in constant touch any more, except for genuine emergencies. Remind them that you spend three to four hours a day on homework, in addition to your classes. During that time, you don’t respond to calls or messages. Explain to them that you’ll reply after your schoolwork is done, not interrupting your class time or your homework time.
These may seem like big changes to make, and may cause you to face social pressure. But remember that the reward can be making all A’s and B’s more easily than you had imagined.
More to consider about focused work: Focused work is many times more productive than unfocused work. To work in this way, you must know why you’re doing it. A strong motivation and desire must drive your work for it to be truly focused.
This motivation and drive are best when they come from yourself rather than just from authority figures or other external sources. As a student, you don’t have to be completely certain of your career path or even your major, yet you must know what interests you and be willing to focus on it.
Question for your Self-Knowledge Workbook: Do you know what pursuits in life can motivate you to do focused work?
In your Self-Knowledge Workbook, make some notes on one to three important life pursuits that you’d gladly work on. Ask yourself: Do I have a passion for my future career, and therefore a passion to earn my degree and making great grades? If you’re not sure about what your pursuits ought to be, go to Finding Your Passions here.
Notes on multitasking: Many people believe that they are obliged to do a large variety of tasks instead of focusing on a limited number of them and doing them well. Scientific research has shown that this results in overall mediocrity. Multitasking and over-commitment may seem to reflect a good work ethic, but they are enemies of competence. Students can’t make all A’s and B’s if they indulge these habits.
For your focused work periods, select a small array of tasks that would be best for you to focus on. Do each of them thoroughly before switching to another group of tasks. Hint: if you keep wanting to switch subjects because you’re bored, analyze why you’re bored. Is the subject really not right for you? Or is it so challenging that you’d like to change the subject?
Take time for yourself every day when you’re detached from work. Don’t leave school papers open on your desk, or they might draw you in. File them away in easily accessible files, and have a clear desk when you’re not working. Clutter in your workspace leads to unnecessary stress, because it’s a strong visual reminder that you believe you have too much to do.
Many people who have cluttered spaces are in a constant state of overwhelm. Feeling overwhelmed is a fixed-mindset pattern of self-imposed, unnecessary stress and tension. How can you correct it? Reducing your clutter is an effective first step to take.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the author of the book Rest, has done important research on focused and unfocused work. During a sabbatical from his job, he casually tried to do a little of his customary work. To his surprise, while doing this work which he had seldom enjoyed before, he found himself relaxed and having fun. He was much more productive than he usually was in the office. This led him to study the Science of Deliberate Rest. Soon he discovered that finding a balance between work and relaxation is the ultimate recipe for a valuable, successful, happy life.
In this interview, Alex Pang and Adriana Huffington explain how being too busy and not taking time for rest has become so widespread that it’s a public health issue. Huffington explains how being overly busy caused her to have a serious breakdown, even while doing something she loved. The stress of busyness is causing widespread illness, even including cancer. Busyness has become too prevalent. It’s a major drain on society’s well-being. It can do grave harm to you individually. In turn, it can harm your children. Take time now to correct this pattern in yourself. Learn to enjoy the benefits of focused work and conscious rest. Be a revolutionary by treating yourself well with REST!
INTERVIEW WITH ALEX PANG: Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the author of the book Rest, has done important research on focused and unfocused work. During a sabbatical (extended time away from work), he casually tried to do a little of his customary work, and to his surprise suddenly found himself to be much more productive than he usually was. This led him to study the science of deliberate rest. Soon he discovered that finding a balance between work and relaxation is the ultimate recipe for a valuable life.
In this interview, Alex Pang and Adriana Huffington explain how being too busy and not taking time for rest has become so widespread that it’s a public health issue. Huffington explains how being overly busy caused her to have a serious breakdown, even while doing something she loved. The stress of busyness is causing widespread illness, even including cancer. Busyness has become too prevalent. It’s a major drain on society’s well-being. It can do grave harm to you individually. In turn, it can harm your children.
Take time now to correct this pattern in yourself. Learn to enjoy the benefits of focused work and conscious rest. Be a revolutionary by treating yourself well with REST!