Guide on wellbeing: time management 

This section gives tips for students on how they can use their time efficiently and in a balanced way that supports their wellbeing.

Time management is a funny concept – because obviously we have no control over time itself, only over what we do in time. Whatever word we use, the central question is, how can we get things done effectively, and how can we gain a sense of satisfaction and balance in our use of time. One could say that effective time management is the opposite of both procrastination and overproductivity. 

You’re your own boss – and employee!

As a student, you have to not only complete the assignments that you have been given, but also plan, evaluate, and generally administer your own work. Whereas most workers have clearly defined work hours, work space and tasks that they get support with and that they need to report about frequently in different ways, as a student, you mainly need to carry out your work without any of these external support structures. So it is no wonder that many students experience a lot of procrastination. 

Creating structures that steer your time management

One of the most important study skills is to flexibly be able to create structures that support and steer your time management. With these kinds of structures that create direction, it is far easier to get things done effectively, than say, with self-discipline (which actually tends to lead to more procrastination). So when it comes to your studies, you could say that a well-planned and -structured job is already a job half done. One way of creating structures is to clearly define boundaries between your work hours and free time. In practice, this means scheduling your work hours, and then relaxing with a good conscience during your free time. Another example of such a structure is making use of a calendar and creating a system for collecting and planning work tasks, such as to-do lists. 

Reflect on what you want to spend your time on

Try to be as realistic as possible when you think what you want to spend your time on and set clear time limits for your work. When you do this, it can be significantly easier to achieve important long-term goals compared to trying to evaluate how much time you need based on looking at the total hours of a month or an academic term. 

When needed, these time limits can be changed, but the more you get used to having to make do with a certain amount of time, the more efficient your rhythm of work will become. The thing is that work tends to stretch out to fill all the time that it has been given. So if you also want to make sure you have high-quality free time, make sure you try to do your work effectively inside clearly defined boundaries, so that you can enjoy your free time with a clear conscience! 


When we consider time a limited resource, it is easier for us to act intentionally with this precious resource. Here are some tools that you can use to increase the intentionality in your use of time: 

  • Create a vision for the year: Create a mind map of the important areas of your life and the things you would really like to get done by the end of the year. Choose the kinds of goals that make you feel really excited about life! Keep your mind map somewhere visible, perhaps on your wall, so that you do not forget about it. 
  • Create monthly checklists: Make a list at the beginning of each month of the things that you would like to get done from your vision for the year. Make the list as clear and easily achievable as possible. Keep your checklist in a spot that you see regularly and remember to try to get excited about getting the tasks done as early as possible each month. 
  • Plan goals for your week/day: Pick the goals from your monthly checklist, your calendar and your to-do lists that feel right to you on a specific day or week. Don’t cram too many things onto your list, and instead pick 1-3 things that are really important. 

If you notice yourself getting tired of your daily lists, it can be helpful to explore your yearly vision again, and to find inspiration from your big-picture vision. You can also imagine how satisfied you will feel when you get the things done that you have on your list. You can try savouring the pleasure of how great it’s going to feel already in advance. This kind of advance pleasure can make you feel more inspired to take action and get the thing done. As with any suggestion, it’s good to experiment with different ways to get excited about getting things done, and to find what works best for you. 

Balance in time management

In the midst of all this focus on productivity, it’s important to remember that we are not robots. Our bodies, minds and feelings need rest, too. An overmeasured focus on productivity leads to imbalance, or in worst-case scenario, to burnout or other illness. For this reason, it’s more useful to focus on creating balance and harmony in life. In this balance, high-quality free time that’s free of thoughts on what you “should” do plays a central role. 

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