Balancing school with all of your other commitments is undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects of going to school. If you are like most students, you want to do well, but time is a finite resource.

In general, for each credit hour that you are taking, you should plan to spend 2-3 hours on that class material. For example, a 3 credit class means you should spend about 9 hours a week on the course- not including time spent in class! Those 9 hours consist of readings, assignments, and studying. Will you actually achieve this every week for all of your courses? Probably not, but keep this expected time commitment in mind as you divide up your time.


One of the keys to time management is establishing your priorities. One of the best parts of the MSU student body is the experiences and perspectives that each students brings. MSU recognizes that school cannot be someones’s full priority 100 % and it is possible to succeed at school while maintaining other commitments. It may not be easy but it is possible. Below are some tips for helping you determine your priorities and divide your time.

Time Management Tips

  • Keep a time diary: for a couple of weeks, it can be helpful to document how you spend your time. If you can, try to account for everything you do and how much time you spend on different things. This can help you see where your time is going and help you prioritize where you want your time to go. You can enter different time scenarios into the Undergraduate Snapshot to see how different choices impact your time and your degree progress.
  • Master Calendar/ Schedule: creating a calendar or schedule with all of your commitments, including school, work, family/ friend time, hobbies, etc. can help you to see what is coming and help you determine what is most important over the coming weeks. Look for times that will be particularly busy and see what accommodations you can make to give yourself some balance. For example, consider taking time off work or reducing your hours during finals week and midterms.
  • Plan your schedule: each week, sit down and list out what you have to do. For things without a specific time, plan when you are going to do those things. Try to predict any obstacles that will get in the way of you completing your weekly tasks and see if you can mitigate them ahead of time.
  • Block scheduling: allocate larger blocks of time to similar tasks. Only work on those tasks during those times and when time is up, move on to your next task. You can (and should) take short breaks throughout long working periods. Experiment with different times for different tasks and see when you are naturally more productive and where it is a little harder for you to focus. Try to schedule tasks that need focus (like studying) for times/ settings that lead to deeper focus.
  • Be where you are: don’t worry about what you aren’t working on. Stay focused on the task you are presently working on.
  • When signing up for classes, consider the learning format: For example, if commuting to campus is difficult, look into hybrid or online courses and reallocate that travel time to something else. If you are someone who doesn’t do as well setting your own schedule, look into face-to-face classes so that you have built-in focus time. Different class formats work for different people so don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you! Talk to your advisor about different class types.
  • Don’t forget fun! While it may seem weird or not spontaneous to schedule fun, relaxation and recharging is just as important as your other commitments. Planning time for fun breaks up your busy schedule and you may find yourself more focused after taking some time off.
  • Lean on your support network: if you find yourself overwhelmed with all of your obligations, see if you can get help from someone in your support network. Maybe you can arrange for your partner to take on most of the childcare during a particularly busy time or maybe you can ask a friend to grab you some dinner (be sure to reciprocate in the future). Your support network wants you to succeed and are probably willing to help out if you ask!
  • Seek help ASAP: if you find yourself struggling in a course, the sooner you ask for help, the better. Your professors are willing to work with you, but if you wait until the last minute, it creates a stressful situation for everybody and your options may be limited. The earlier you ask for help, the more options you can explore.
  • Break large tasks into smaller components: if you have a big paper due at the end of the semester, for example, break it down into smaller steps like research, writing a first draft, editing, writing another draft etc.
  • Set goals and deadlines for projects: like the tip above, you can create your own intermediate goals and deadlines for different parts of a larger project
  • Avoid perfectionism: while it is important to do your best, perfectionism gets in the way of progress because it is often used as a reason to procrastinate. In most cases, done is better than perfect. Remember too that your best changes from day to day, even hour to hour so be kind to yourself!
  • Learn to say no: if you already feel like you do not have enough time, it is not the time to take on additional work. Say no and focus on your existing priorities or if a new opportunity will serve you more than something you are currently doing, it is okay to reevaluate your priorities and say no to something that no longer works for you.