How to Have Free Time in College / Part II

Hey, I’m assuming you’ve read Part I. This post is different.

Feel free to read this entire post or just find the questions that are applicable to you. Before we dive in, let me remind you, whatever you do and whatever method works for you, be realistic with yourself. Thanks for reading. Welcome to Part II. 


What about exceptions?

What about the day after my marathon? Am I still expected to run the next day? What about when my homework takes longer than usual? What if I need longer study times because of an upcoming test? What about when I have to work an extra two more days for work? What if one week I want to hang out with friends on Saturday and the next week I want to hang out with them on Sunday?

This schedule is as strict as you make it. You’re allowed to switch things around, that’s the beauty of these types of priorities. You’re more than welcome to skip your workout, have more or less free time than scheduled and replace activities, no one is stopping you. All I will say is be careful. From what I’ve noticed, when I lose that consistency, that’s when it feels like I have no free time.

Let’s break down what happens. When I decide to skip my morning Bible study to spend the extra 30 minutes studying, it allows my schedule to become less strict. The next time I skip my Bible study it’s because I’m lazy and am just finding an excuse to sleep in. Say we apply this theory to other areas in our life. What happens when we schedule to study for 4 hours and it ends up being 2 because I decide to not stay on task. Well, assuming I needed all 4 hours, now I’m behind schedule. This takes away the free time I was supposed to have. Instead of going to the gym, now I’m stuck doing homework. If you’re not careful, you run into a cycle of excuses and catch-up.

Listen, I get certain exceptions. I get having to study longer. I get skipping a workout. All I am saying is be careful when you do so. Be careful when you allow your schedule to be flexible. Remember the first time you skipped class? The second time you decided to skip, I’m guessing it was easier. It’s that same logic. Be realistic but be careful.

How do I effectively adjust my schedule when it’s only for a certain week?

A typical example of this is if you have a test coming up on Friday and you need to spend more time studying or turns out you want to get together with your friends on Sunday instead of running those 10 miles.

My best advice is to get on it early. Be thinking about that “exception day/week” so you can plan. It’s about managing your time. You add something; you take something else away. If I need to study in the evening, that means I take away my evening free time. If my evening free time consists of watching YouTube – I don’t have a desire to catch-up later in the week. If my evening free time consists of a Bible study, then I just fit it in somewhere else in the schedule.

How do you fit it in? Be attentive to the gaps in your schedule. If my test is on Friday, chances are I don’t have to start on the homework on Saturday (like I normally would), and then I would fit in the Bible study that I’ve been replacing. It’s about noticing when you need to make exceptions and planning so you still have time for at least some things.

So in short, be thinking and planning ahead.

How do I have free time when I underestimated my work load?

As an engineering major, I can relate to this, easily. I end up spending way too much time doing homework and studying for a 3 credit class, not to mention I’m taking 15 credits.

It’s about two things: time management & priorities

Listen, I know you can’t perfectly guess how much studying you’ll need to do outside of homework, not to mention the endless amount of homework you probably already have. That’s why as you put this schedule into action, you adjust accordingly. You realize you need to study an extra hour for your organic chemistry class. Adjust your schedule. Maybe adding that extra hour means you cut your lunch break in half or only limiting yourself to 2 episodes of The Office.

Or maybe during midterm season, you decide not to go on your weekly photo shoot. It’s up to you. That being said, it’s about what you prioritize and how you decide to spend your time. You add something; you take something else away.

What do you do if you schedule 4 hours of homework but you don’t have that much homework every week?

You decide. Personally, I’m a fan of getting ahead so when I am done with homework, I just study and make sure I really know the material. My reason for sticking to that is because if I get to things earlier I’m less likely adjust my schedule.  When midterms and finals came around, it didn’t shift my schedule because I was already ahead on my studying. Being ahead allowed me to keep my evenings pretty open (like I scheduled to do so) and tests weeks were more enjoyable. I didn’t have to cram and I still was able to have some free time. I thrive on consistent schedules so I try to do whatever I can to avoid changing it. 

How do I have free time if my original schedule consists of so much stuff?

It’s hard and if I’m talking to a fellow student, I get that depending on the quarter, semester or year, you’ll have more or less free time. I’m assuming you have this question because you looked at your schedule and realize there’s not a lot of flexibility.

My school schedule consists of doing school for 60+/-  hours in a week. That’s a lot. That being said with that arrangement, I almost always let myself enjoy my free time after dinner. I don’t let myself touch homework after 6 PM and I use those remaining hours of my day to enjoy my free time…even when I am tempted to keep doing school.

But that being said, you’re probably still a lot busier than me. I’m fortunate enough to not have to work while in school. I’m fortunate enough to functionally live off of less than 8 hours of sleep.  So, you’re probably busier than me.

In terms of finding free time, I’d say try to get creative. Listen to that podcast you’ve been wanting to listen to on the commute to class. Audio books are wonderful if it’s too hard to find time to read a physical book. Multi-task when it comes to mindless tasks like doing your laundry or cleaning your room. Bike to work and get some exercise that way.

My system isn’t perfect and I’d say with the little free time you have, really think about how you want to use that time in the most productive way. For some, reading the Bible is at the top of the list. You may have only 15 minutes of free time so that’s when you do it. For some, a nap is essential. For some, going sailing is important. You might not be able to do everything, but hopefully you can at least do some of the things that are at the very top of your list. I hope this crazy schedule you have is temporary. I hope you can find rest as the Bible calls us to rest. I’m praying for you.

How do I prioritize free time over work/school?

The trick is to understand that there are times you do prioritize things over work/school. I assume by school, we’re not just referring to classes, but also homework and studying.

Arguably, you prioritize sleep over school, at times. Does that mean you take a nap, every time you feel tired? No, but you allow yourself time to prioritize sleep at times more than school.

I can apply this same reasoning to free time. The only difference is you’re less likely to prioritize it because it isn’t a necessity. You don’t need to always prioritize video games over school/work. You don’t always need to make time for it. Yet, sometimes you should. Again, be realistic, but I don’t think that prioritizing video games for a couple hours a week isn’t going to hurt you. I know for me. I need to take breaks when I’m studying, even during finals. It gives me a chance to relax and not get burned out so easily.

What if I naturally procrastinate? 

Get better. Do better. Maybe I’m wrong, but learning how to manage my time is a very important life skill. It gives you better balance and probably less stress. That’s what I’ve learned.

If you naturally procrastinate, I’m sure you do get your free time in, but I’m guessing you don’t get a good amount of sleep because you’re up finishing that homework assignment that was due yesterday.

I also know that it’s easier said than done because time management is one of the skills God has blessed me with. It naturally is easier for me than the average person.

Convincing you that time management and living off of a schedule might be tricky if you’re stubborn. All I know is it’s calming to rarely get so behind on my studying/homework that I end up doing a lousy job, pull an all-nighter, or stress myself out over due dates. If you want better time management skills, this is a great way to practice.

What if this doesn’t work?

What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. I get that. Hopefully, you at least give it a try and if it doesn’t work, evaluate. What worked? What didn’t? Why? Hopefully from there you can figure out what is realistic for you. I’d love to hear your feedback.

What if I don’t want to live this way?

I’m not forcing you to adopt my way of living. If I’ve been coming off that way, I apologize for my arrogance and self-righteousness and I pray that God continues to teach me humility. All I know is this method works really well for me. I’m less stressed. I’m happier and I don’t use the “I don’t have time for anything” complaint. And even though it works for me, it might not work for you and that’s okay. This is just what works for me and thought I would pass off that knowledge to you.



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