A year of firsts | Lesson #5: Manage your time


A year of firsts, or how I learned to stop worrying and love university

This is the fifth instalment in a series of blog posts by second-year Arts student, Breckin Baillie. He shares his experience as a first-year at UBCO, and gives tips about making the most of your university experience. If you haven’t done so yet, check out part one, part two, part three, and part four of Breckin’s journey.

Hey everyone, my name’s Breckin and I just finished my first year here at UBCO. If you had told me a year ago that this year at university would have been one of my best years ever, I definitely would not have believed you at all. University felt like my Everest: this big insurmountable obstacle that I was fairly certain would chew me up and spit me out.

Chances are that some of the incoming first-years reading this may feel the same way — nervous, uncomfortable, anxious. That’s all normal, I promise, but there are ways to make the transition easier so you can make the most of your first year.

Here are some of the most important lessons I learned this year.

Lesson #5: Manage your time

Keep in mind that although the professors can help you understand the material, you have to make sure to do your own due diligence as well. The biggest issue that I and so many other students face is time management.

If you’re doing a full course load, you have five courses a semester, each with their own papers and projects and assignments all due at a certain time. This transition may seem overwhelming at first, but if you stay on top of it, you’ll be just fine.

Here are some tips to help you manage your time wisely:

Start an assignment the moment you get it.
It’s tempting to put off a paper assigned on Friday until Monday so you can enjoy your weekend, but it’s actually easier when the information is fresh in your mind. Also, the quicker you start, the quicker you finish, and no one likes having to stay up until 4AM the day of the deadline to finish that essay assigned a month ago.

Turn off your phone while you’re studying.
It’s a deadly trap that so many of us fall into: a quick Snap there, a short little scroll through Instagram here, and suddenly hours have passed by and you’ve done no work. It sucks, I know, but there comes a time where you have to silence distractions and get to work.

Seek help immediately if you don’t understand a concept.
Don’t just cross your fingers and hope that whatever you’re not understanding now won’t show up on the midterm or the final. If you don’t understand something, ask your classmates or professor now instead of walking into the exam room still not quite sure how to write a thesis statement.

Make a schedule.
Professors will very rarely remind you of the due dates for things. I got a big dry-erase calendar and wrote all the important test dates and assignment deadlines on that, but even something as simple as a day planner can really help to organize your mind

Read your syllabus.
The syllabus is the closest thing to a formal contract between your instructor and you. Every assignment date, every topic that’s going to be covered, the breakdown of marks and the weighting of grades, everything is in there.

Save it to your computer. Send one to your mother. Read it often. I can say from personal experience that about 25 per cent of the questions other students asked my professors could be answered by checking the syllabus.

Attend class (whether it’s online or in-person).
I know that sounds obvious, but you will save so much time simply by attending class and being taught the material rather than frantically flipping through the textbook trying to teach yourself a concept.

Having good time-management skills will make your university experience better, but keep in mind that you’re human. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to miss class to take a mental health day. It’s okay to put your wellbeing before your schoolwork.

Check out the Student Learning Hub for help developing a time management strategy.

In the final instalment of this blog series, Breckin will talk about the online learning environment. Check it out here: Lesson #6: UBC: virtual edition, and if you haven’t read the previous sections, check them out here: part one, part two, part three, part four.


Are you a student at UBC’s Vancouver campus? Learn more about UBC Vancouver’s academic and learning resources, the Chapman Learning Commons, and peer coaches and tutors.


Breckin BaillieAbout the author

Breckin Baillie is an English major, an avid singer, and a lover of dogs. He is currently in his second year of UBCO’s English program. He plans to continue his education past his undergraduate studies and eventually earn his PhD in English Literature, with an aspiration to one day become a university professor.

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