With 3-4 hours of language classes a day plus whatever electives or extracurriculars you might take part in, it can seem like there just isn’t enough time in the day. On top of classes, there’s studying and cooking and cleaning to get through, as well as whatever you do for fun to unwind from all that hard work. So how do you keep it together and get it all done? Here are a couple of time management strategies students have learned from their time at JCMU.
1. Make a timeline and stick to it
One way to make sure you don’t run out of time is to make a schedule for what you plan to do and when. This allows you to block out certain hours for homework or errands, or if you work best with variety, to plan to do each for a half hour at a time. You’ll know exactly when you’ll be done, which makes it easier to plan outings with friends. The hard part, however, is knowing exactly how long each task will take. Falling behind once can destroy the rest of your carefully-made plans.
2. Work first, play later… Or vise-versa
A way to avoid miscalculations is to hold off any other plans until you finish the task at hand. Just keep studying flashcards or conjugating verbs until you’re all done, and then whatever time you have left is yours for the taking. However, if you always do your homework first, you’ll end up going grocery shopping in dark all the time, and probably won’t see much of your friends. So, another method some students use is to set aside recreational time first, when shops are still open and everyone is available, and plan to study later. As long as you get things done on time, the order doesn’t really matter.
3. Pay it forward
Some students find it hard to enjoy themselves with the threat of a deadline hanging over their heads. If you feel the same way, the best thing to do is to frontload your week with assignments or housework, so that you get things done ahead of time and have most of the week free to explore Japan. This is an especially good strategy if you plan to travel on the weekends. It might mean you have to sit some activities out, but you’ll make up for it with all your free time later.
4. Divide and conquer
What do you do if you want it all? To hang out with friends, cook a satisfying dinner, and get all your homework done on time? With many of these strategies, something gets put off for the good of the others. If you like working in groups, however, there might be a solution. Many students get together in the dorm lobby to do their homework, play games, and share meals. Study partners can keep you accountable and give you some encouraging human companionship. This might help if you prefer to study alone, but don’t be afraid to join the group for shopping trips or other errands where you can shoulder the load together.
The habits you build in time management can be applied in many situations outside of Japan and even after school. A difficult situation can bring out the best in a person, and a rigorous study abroad experience might be the key to unlocking your own potential.