Grades, Friends, AND Adequate Sleep? How to Have It All

I’ve been going to college for a few years now, and if there’s one skill that I’ve grown to consider essential, it’s time management. With all of the excitement brought on by Orientation and Involvement Fair, it’s easy to forget that there are just twenty-four hours in a day, and yes, some of those need to be devoted to academics.

What’s amazing about Rutgers is that it’s such a microcosm of what’s going on in our culture right now. There’s so many events, opportunities, and organizations tugging you every which way, and it’s enough to make you throw up your hands and decide you don’t have time for any of it.

Here in this post, I want to prove that you do, indeed, have time to do it all. You need to look at two important facts:

  1. There are 168 hours in every week.
  2. Used effectively, 168 hours is more than enough time, no matter what your schedule may be.

Before I go into detail, let it be known that I made it a point to be as realistic as possible, based on what I know about the life of the average student. However, this is Rutgers, where there’s no such thing as an average student. I’ll be listing responsibilities alongside the number of hours per week expected most will use for them. Now, let’s begin with the most important item…

Sleep – 50 hours

Getting roughly fifty hours of sleep per week – meaning 7-8 hours per night – is non-negotiable. Granted, everyone’s different, but 50 hours per week should be the absolute minimum for most people. Earlier this year, I researched exactly how sleep affects our brains, and while I don’t have time to go into detail here, the most important thing I can relay is that sufficient sleep plays a vital role in memory and cognitive function.

If you were to say to me, “Come on, Joe, I’m good with just a couple hours and a cup of coffee,” I’d first ridicule you for developing a dependence on caffeine, and then I’d remark that if you think you’re good with just a couple hours of sleep, imagine how great you’d be with a full-night’s. And if you really can perform optimally with only a few hours, then congratulations – you’re an outlier. As for the rest of us, 50 hours minimum.

Classes – 12-18 hours

Purely speaking of classes (as in time spent in lectures, not outside studying, which we’ll cover next), the time you’ll allocate corresponds to your credit hours. I’m taking fifteen credits, meaning I’m in class for fifteen hours every week.

Now, you may need to miss a class for the stray doctor’s appointment, but aside from that, this too is a non-negotiable item. What’s great is that this is where you start to see what’s possible, because, for the most part, nobody will have more than 18 hours of class time. So, if you’re sleeping 50 hours and you’re in class for 18, that means you still have 100 hours left in your week. We’re not done yet, but that alone should open your mind to the possibilities.

Study & Homework – 20-25 hours

There’s all sorts of estimates out there on the expected amount of study time per credit hour. I’ll leave you to decide for yourself in a moment, but here’s my take on the issue. Doing homework is part of studying, as it directs you to explore relevant information, and drills you on that information.

Perhaps I’m an outlier, but in my honest opinion, studying, doing homework, and writing essays should make up about 20-25 hours throughout your week. The key is to effectively coordinate your study times so as to build upon momentum. For instance, I have on Thursday an hour-and-a-half gap between two of my classes. The smart thing for me to do is fit in an hour of studying right there while I’m still focused on the material. What’s also important to remember is that consistent study habits will save you time in the long run. When mid-terms come up, you’ll be confident because you already know the material, and won’t need to cram for hours and hours (which never works anyway).

Commuting and Other Chores – 25 hours

Even if you live on campus, you’ll still need time to get around. Fortunately the bus system is efficient, and there’s no reason that you can’t study while riding or waiting for the bus. Commuters should consider their own time needs here.

When it comes to other responsibilities, the biggest thing is eating. The good thing is that eating can sometimes overlap into social/leisure time, but for the case of most of your meals, you still have to consider the time you’ll need for going to the store, shopping for food, preparing the food, etc. The temptation might be to grab a quick bite when you’re on the go, but trust me – $3 here, $4 there – it all adds up. So while that’s a discussion for a later article, keep that in mind and don’t make unnecessary purchases to save time.

Be an adult. Eat your vegetables. Make your bed. Exercise. Clean your bathroom.

Work – 20-40 hours

The fact of the matter is that most of us will need to work while in college. The good and bad news is that, realistically, you probably won’t be working full-time. So while you might be thinking work could overload you, you’re most likely going to only have 20-25 hours per week to dedicate to a job.

Free Time (If there ever were such a thing)

The paradox of free time is that most of us when we have it choose to idle it away in front of our TVs and social media. Taking everything into account, I’ve shown that most of us will have 10-41 hours* of free time each and every week. Use it wisely!

Do things that will invigorate you; things that will create memories you’ll have to be grateful for. Join a club, play a sport, go out with friends.

*Calculations for free time

  • Free time = week – sleep – classes – studying – commute & chores – work
  • 10 = 168 – 50 – 18 – 25 – 25 – 40
  • 41 = 168 – 50 – 12 – 20 – 25 – 20

Here are some final tips:

  • Make a physical schedule: Nowadays we have all these apps on our phone meant to boost our productivity. Digital schedule, alarms, you know what I mean. In my experience, the best way to stick to a schedule is to have it in front of you in a notebook that’s easy to take out and look at.
  • Make daily to-do lists: This might seem burdensome, but the real burden is wasting time not knowing what you should do. Before you go to bed, ask yourself what needs to get done, and make a list that you’ll have as a guide the next day. Again, make it physical – pen & paper.
  • Limit social media: If you’re on social media, it’s fine to accept it as a part of your life, but don’t start scrolling into oblivion. Open whatever app you use, check for notifications or messages, go through those, and close it.

One last thing I want to say came to me as I’m writing this. I recall reading in a book by high-performance coach Tony Robbins about a young man in his workshop who believed he’d need a billion dollars to make his dream life a reality. Tony decided to itemize all of the young man’s desires, and in doing so determined that this man could make all of his wildest dreams come true with just $20 million – still large, but much more in reach.

Similarly, we always tend to believe that we’d need each day to be twice as long for us to live the lives we want. But the math doesn’t lie. I’ve shown you here that when you really look at your schedule mindfully, you can have it all.

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