For a student, particularly a college student, the idea of free time is a foreign concept. It seems like all we do is eat, somewhat sleep and study. It feels like there is no time for anything else.
Here’s the trick to getting your free time, figure out your schedule before school starts and before you become “too busy” to do it. Not only create your schedule but put it into work before life gets crazy. Let me explain.
If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, firstly, thank you for your support. Secondly, do you remember when I talked about finding that balance between school, well-being and free time? If not, you can read about it here.
Anyway, it got me thinking about finding that “perfect” balance. I can’t promise to find you the perfect balance, but I can help you find a better balance. I wrote an article called “How to Make Time for Jesus” and it’s a little more of a wake-up call than a step-by-step, but feel free to read that as well.
For the purposes of this article, we’re describing free time as times throughout your day that aren’t “required” but something you’d like to add. They’re commitments that you have not yet committed to. Examples of activities that count as free time are working out, reading, watching Netflix/YouTube, taking a nap, drawing, etc. Now that we are following the same definition, welcome to Part I.
PART I: HOW TO HAVE FREE TIME IN COLLEGE
Step 1: Map out your current schedule
Create a visual schedule with timestamps of your weekly routine. The priorities you include are the inflexible ones such as class, work, clubs (that you are already a part of), church, etc. The main thing is these are times throughout the day and week that cannot be re-arranged. You are powerless over when it happens and how often it happens. Here’s an example. Personally, I like to include Saturday and Sunday as well.
Step 2: Create a list of things you want to do on your free time
Separately, create a list of the things you want to do. This is where you can get creative. Think about things you would like to do throughout the days. Some examples are working out, joining that cool club you keep hearing about from your roommate, finally watching the newest season of 13 Reasons Why, participating in a Bible study, etc. The key thing to remember is these are things you want to do if you have time. Essentially these things can happen anytime within the day or weeks. If it’s a club that you want to join, arguably, you’d include it in Step 1, but I’ll let you decide.
Step 3: Prioritize
So that list you created in Part 2, now it’s time to get realistic. You know yourself better than I know you. Figure out what you truly prioritize. Rank each activity and figure out how often you’d like to make it happen. Are you going to run 3 miles on a weekly basis or a bi-weekly basis? Are you going to play your violin for two hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday? Would you rather spend 10 minutes reading your Bible in the morning or would you rather spend 10 minutes at night? When will you do homework and studying? How important is it to be part of a Bible study? Are evening workouts more important than movie nights?
Be very intentional and realistic with yourself. For me, I’m naturally a morning bird so if I schedule a 5 AM workout for every day of the work week, I’m likely to stick to it. I don’t have the attention span to read the Bible for 2 hours on Sunday, but I do have the attention span to read the Bible for 30 minutes at a time. Naps are not a big priority whatsoever compared to taking time to write. I’ll do that instead.
Challenge yourself, but understand that it’ll be easier to stay consistent if it’s realistic to how you operate. Understand that this will only work if you live with that intention for the rest of your planning, be realistic with yourself.
Step 4: Update your schedule
So that schedule you created with all the things you can’t control, now let’s schedule those other priorities in. I’m not only referring to picking the specific day that you’ll watch YouTube, but pick a specific time. Specificity is up to you, but all I know is when I’m specific, I’m consistent. Are you starting homework at 10 or 11 AM? How long is your lunch break? Include everything on your visual schedule.
And look, I get it, you might not have much control if you have dinner at 6 PM on a Wednesday or you have no control if your workout starts at 7 PM because it depends on if you get off work at a decent time.
I would say, still schedule it in. Do your best. The main thing we’re exercising is being able to look at our time in chunks. It’s being able to see that technically, we do have “free-time” and it just is about what we prioritize to see how we are going to fill it.
Step 5: Adjust accordingly
Now that it’s planned, it’s time to live it out. From what I learned, it’s better to have this all planned out before the quarter or semester starts. If school isn’t a thing anymore, just pick a week to start. Either way, wherever you are in the school-year or in life, you just need to jump into it.
The only reason I say to live it out before the quarter starts is because the best time to implement a new schedule is before things get crazy and before you come up with a lame excuse to get out of it.
Live it out and adjust. Remember to be realistic. Change is hard. It’s hard to throw yourself into a new schedule. I get that. Stick to it. Stick to working out for those 3 days that you told yourself you were going to do and take an honest evaluation each day and week. Can you commit to working out to 3 out of 7 days? Why or why not? Why are you cutting it to 2 days? Is it genuinely because that’s more realistic for you or is this just an excuse to be lazy?
Ask yourself these hard questions and adjust accordingly.
Step 6: Pure Discipline
In 3 words, stick to it. Make it a habit. The biggest mistake is we tend to get lazy with our schedule. We cut our studying and homework time short and what happens, we’re up doing homework Friday night when are supposed to have Friday nights be for our small group. The quicker you make it a habit, the less likely you are to break it and the only way to make it a habit is by being consistent. Treat the scheduled study times as if they’re the scheduled class times. If you promised to always come to your 2 PM class, make that same promise to your Saturday morning study hours. Consistency is key.
It’s going to be challenging as you get adjusted and remember, be realistic with yourself.
Time management and prioritization are huge. They’re essential. The truth is we do have at least some “free time”, we just don’t always know how to use it. The truth is you do have enough time to read, bake, weightlift, or take a nap, it’s just about your priorities. You have 24 hours in a day. That’s 168 hours in a week. How are you going to use your time? What matters most?
And listen, it’s not all that easy. I’m sure you have a billion questions and arguments for me and why this won’t work. In that case, why don’t you check out Part II. I’ll answer a few of your questions.
Before you go. I’ve attached a scheduled I used during my sophomore year of college. Living off of a schedule really opened my eyes to how much free time I allow myself to give. Although parts of the schedule are pretty vague, this was just about me being realistic.
On a day-to-day basis I would create a schedule within my schedule so I could be more specific. For example, under “study”, depending on the day and week I would divide up my subjects by the hour so I knew what I was working on. I would also figure out what to do in the spots that are left blank.
You know what’s realistic for you. Have at it and good luck. I’ll see you in Part II.
Thanks for reading.