How important is prioritizing in College?
Some people would argue that time management is the most important skill that most college students don’t have when they come to college. I would put a few skills higher, but managing your time is important (especially since the teachers aren’t going to micromanage you like they may have in high school). The first step is to learn how to prioritize – meaning which tasks should you focus most of your effort on.
The 80/20 rule
First, you should be aware of a general idea – the 80/20 rule. This is a rule of thumb that roughly states that you get 80% of your results for 20% of the tasks you focus on. This means that you need to figure out what is that 20% so you can get it done and get 80% of the success. Basically, this is one form of prioritization.
No is a valid answer
Another challenge with students is figuring out what to say no to or, simply, not do. In terms of academics, you may be overwhelmed and have to not do something for your classes – we’ll look at this below. Even more important is saying no to the extra-curricular activities. I would argue that most extra-curricular activities fit outside the 80% result domain, and you need to forgo those commitments when you don’t have enough time. Beware of college task bloat that many students experience because they say yes to everything. I would argue you can have 2 big activities in your college life. One is academics. That means you have one more to spend on a sport, club, hobby, social life, etc. Don’t spread to thin.
With an understanding of no and the 80/20 rule, the question is how do you prioritize and time manage your education. The first place to start is the syllabus. The syllabus gives you a direct view of what activities in a class are assessed, and how much that assessment impacts your overall grade.
Yes, most assessments and class activities are there to help you learn the material (and you should do them). If you manage your time well, stay up with a class from day one, and work at the material you really shouldn’t have to prioritize in terms of not doing these activities, but there are times when you need to decide what is most important to do.
Also, consider weighing how well you need to do on various assessments for your overall goals. If you have a realistic expectation of the grades you want in your classes, then you can shift your workload to focus on the assessments and activities that will allow you to achieve those goals. For example, if I’m going to get an A in computer science even if I don’t do too well on the final project, means even though I enjoy working on that project, I should reduce the time spent on it to focus on something else that needs more time.
Learn to prioritize to get that 80% success.