by Natasha Lorca Yannacañedo, Assistant Professor
Visual and Performing Arts Unit in the Humanities Department
One of the biggest issues Hostos students struggle with is time management. Instead of planning ahead, they often crisis manage by leaving homework and studying until the night before an assignment is due. You probably wouldn’t guess it from looking at me but I am a huge Stephen Covey fan. Before I read his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I was already implementing in the classroom many of the things he refers to in his book, and the results have been extremely encouraging.
Time management is one of the most important skills to master in life, yet so many people do not have any clue about how to manage their time effectively. There are many reasons why. Distractions sidetrack effective time management; social media has become highly problematic in this arena. Failure to prioritize is probably the biggest culprit, and burnout is another huge contributing factor. Part of managing time effectively is learning to take breaks to increase your overall productivity. When I developed the curriculum for First Year Experience at L.I.M. College, one of the first learning outcomes I focused on was time management since this skill is so crucial for college and life success. When I have a student that is struggling with time management, I invite them to my office hours, hand them a copy of a blank weekly Covey calendar, and explain to them how to plan and organize their time for the week, instead of the night before.
I explain to my students the importance of living a balanced life and establishing priorities. We first discuss their life goals. I ask them what they want to have accomplished by the end of their life. I even have had students write their ideal obituary; this exercise often elicits some very strong emotional reactions but also results in some phenomenal epiphanies. With the calendars of their syllabi in front of them, we discuss the importance of looking at the semester as a whole and planning for all the major assignments ahead of time. And then, I have them establish a fixed weekly calendar of classes and study time that they can copy and then fill in the blanks for each week with everything else they need to accomplish. I encourage them to set aside specific times to be social and for exercise, and to have a spiritual component for the week. This spiritual element does not have to be organized religion; it could be a yoga class, a walk in the park, or meditation—whatever is spiritual for that individual. We discuss where there has been ineffective time management and strategies for remedying that lack of productivity.
Sometimes, my students realize that their schedule is truly impossible and that adjustments have to be made for the sake of their health. Often these are the students that are attempting to work a 40 hour week, go to school full-time, and raise children. Sometimes this even means withdrawing from a class. Students need to be able to achieve their life goals without sacrificing their mental and physical health.
Usually, once a student implements the weekly calendar, their grades immediately improve and their participation in class discussion increases. I often hear them encourage other students to come to my office hours for help. Overall, in order to be successful, students need to feel empowered and have the confidence that they can accomplish what needs to be done. Effective time management is key to this success and with a simple intervention, we can provide our students the tools to achieve this success.