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Time Management Tips

This guide offers time management and productivity tips to help you succeed at MCC.

Study Smarter

Study smarter with these time management tips:  

  1. Make a to-do list. Your daily list should have no more than 7-8 items in order of priority. When we try to do too much it's easy to become overwhelmed, which can lead to stress and anxiety. In fact, we often get less done by trying to do too much. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. Downloadable templates are available below!
  2. Use a calendar. Calendars are one of the most useful productivity tools available. Whether you prefer an app or old-fashioned pen and paper, calendars help you effectively plan your time and hold yourself accountable. Google Calendar and Apple Calendar are easy, free options, or use the downloadable templates on our Free Planners page on this guide. The best planner is the one you'll use, so keep it simple!
  3. Minimize distractions. Major distractions include social media and mobile devices. Our homes are also full of distractions, as it's easy to find things to do to avoid working on homework. Utilize distraction blocking apps and library study rooms to create a distraction-free study zone. 
  4. Schedule study time. Just like you have a class schedule, you should have a study schedule. Remember, if you just wait until you have time, you have a higher chance of procrastination!
  5. Use a timer. Often referred to as the Pomodoro Technique, working in timed, uninterrupted intervals can help you manage distractions and avoid over saturation and burnout. See below for more information about this technique. 
  6. Use a Priority Matrix. This is a tool that helps you sort tasks and prioritize them based on importance. By analyzing and prioritizing your tasks you can better manage your time so you can stress less. Download our priority matrix template below!
  7. Do a weekly review. A weekly review is a great way to reflect on what you did well in a given week, determine ways you can improve, and allow you to look forward to upcoming work. Weekly reviews help you hold yourself accountable, schedule time wisely, and avoid being surprised by deadlines.
  8. Set a time to stop. While it is important to keep on top of your to do list, it's equally important to allow yourself time to relax. By setting a time to stop working, you allow your mind time to reset and get ready to face the next day head on. 
  9. Load up on brain food. Eating the right foods can help enhance your memory, improve your concentration, and more. Want to know more about foods that fuel your brain? Check out "Foods Linked to Better Brain Power" by Harvard Health Publishing.
  10. Get a good night's sleep. Research shows that sleep deficiency can negatively impact concentration, mood, judgment, and overall mental and physical health. Getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important, positive things you can do for yourself. Up your sleep hygiene game with these tips from Sleep Foundation!

Check out these free downloadable templates:

Customizable Canva Templates (free Canva account required)

Develop Your Focus Skills

1. Identify your distractions. It's important to know what your distractions are before you can minimize and/or eliminate them. Turning off notifications and using blocker apps can help keep you on task. Utilize quiet spaces like the library to avoid distractions at home. A messy study space can be overwhelming, so it's great to declutter and get organized.
2. Stop multi-tasking. While it might seem like you can get more done by multi-tasking, it's actually counter-productive. Multi-tasking forces your brain to continually switch gears, making it much more difficult to focus. In general, multi-tasking costs you time and results in lower quality work.
3. Manage your energy. Complete tasks that take a lot of mental energy when you're feeling fresh and energized. Low energy tasks like checking email, scrolling social, and catching up on your favorite show are great activities when your energy is low.
4. Know when to take breaks. Sometimes less is more when it comes to studying. Taking breaks can help you avoid becoming oversaturated and burned out. If you're having an especially hard time concentrating, it might be your brain's way of telling you to stop. The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to build breaks into your study time.
5. Read a book. Reading can be a great way to hone your focus skills! Make time each day to read a book just for fun and take time periodically to evaluate what you've read to make sure you're absorbing what you're reading. This is a great way to practice processing complex information. 

Plan Your Study Sessions

When you schedule your study and homework sessions, you are more likely to finish your assignments on time, be more prepared for exams, and experience less school-related stress. By blocking off time for undistracted work you can overcome procrastination and get more done in less time. A great tool to get you through study time is the Pomodoro Technique. This technique involves using a timer to track your work and break times. Learn how to use the Pomodoro Technique below!

Pomodoro Technique


1. Identify your task

2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.

3. Work on your task with no distractions. If you think of an idea unrelated to your task during this time, write it down for later.

4. End your work when the timer rings.

5. Take a five minute break and then start again.

6. After 3-4 25 minute blocks, take a longer break of around 15-30 minutes before continuing on. This is great time to stretch, grab a snack, or take a walk.


Pomodoro Technique steps outlined in this section

Image credit: Microsoft Partner Network

Take Great Notes

Taking great notes can be a huge time saver come study time. Below are examples of note-taking systems. Keep in mind, the best note-taking system is the one that keeps you organized and makes your life easier. Everyone is different here, so go with the approach that is most effective for you. 

Cornell Notes

This method uses columns to simplify your notes, put emphasis on main ideas, and make your notes easier to review later. This method consists of three areas on a page:

  • Note-Taking Area: Six inch note taking area on the right side of the paper
    • Use this area to take notes during your lecture, try to use concise sentences and keywords
  • Cue/Recall Column: Two and a half inch margin on the left side of the paper
    • Use this column after class to jot down questions, keywords, main ideas, etc. from your class notes.
  • Summaries: Two inch summary section along the bottom of the paper
    • Write a summary of what you learned in your own words

When it is time to study your notes, use them similarly to flash cards. Use the cue/recall column to ask yourself questions and then try to answer without looking at your notes. To learn more about Cornell Notes, visit Cornell University's Learning Strategies Center


Cornell notes layout example

Image credit: The Cornell Daily Sun


Outline Method

Have you ever created an outline for a writing assignment? This note-taking method uses this same concept to organize your notes as you jot them down. Outlines consist of three main parts:

  • Main point
    • Sub-points
      • Supporting point, fact, or thought

You can use markings, such as bullet points or Roman numerals, or you can omit markings since your indented spaces create a visual map of your main points and sub-points. 

Example of an outline layout

Image credit: Goodnotes