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Planning for Success: Staying on Schedule in College


Learning to stay on schedule is a skill that is highly important for young adults. This is particularly important as scheduling and time management are commonly not taught in public schools. When young adults arrive at college, it can be quite a shock to have to learn on their own how to manage their time and schedule. Getting support in a summer program or during the school year can both help as methods to learn and improve executive functioning.

Executive Function

The term executive function describes a person's ability to focus, schedule, and remember. It is the ability to take in information, process it, and make adjustments to suit a current goal. Executive function involves planning and self-monitoring. Both of these skills are vital for being successful in college and living as an adult. However, many struggle with executive function due to certain conditions.

Challenges of Living With Executive Dysfunction

Certain mental health conditions, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression, decrease executive functioning. This can cause real challenges in college and overall adult functioning. Making and staying on schedule is important for completing goals, doing well in classes, and fulfilling work requirements. For those struggling with executive dysfunction, there is a disadvantage due to the decreased ability to manage and stay on your chosen timeline.

Value of Staying on Schedule

Being able to create and maintain a timeline has a huge amount of value. Let's say, for example, that you have a project for school or work due in four weeks. It is a large project, that includes working with multiple different people. Scheduling appointments, managing time, and adjusting as needed are all skills required to finish and complete projects well.

There are also long-term health benefits to creating habits and routines. Research has shown that consistent lifestyle modification and routines are highly impactful on mental and physical health. Examples include exercise, dietary habits, and stress management. Therefore, learning how to manage your schedule is a highly valuable skill. Learning these skills with support while in college can help you to be successful in adulthood.

Strategies for Staying on Schedule

While some may be at a disadvantage when it comes to scheduling and other aspects of executive functioning, many tools can help. Below we will outline some methods that can help you to stay on schedule. Remember that it takes time to learn how to create and stay on a timeline that works for you. Getting help from mental health care professionals or a life coach can help to do so.

Identifying Priorities to Put On Your Schedule

To stay on schedule, it is helpful to first identify what is most important. These priorities can be a result of when something is due, what you value more, or things that need to get done, such as renewing your driver's license. When you prioritize, you are more likely to stick to your schedule, as it includes things that are important to you. This means that you are less likely to get distracted or pulled away by something that is a priority but not on your schedule.

Create Realistic Goals

Realistic goals are very important when considering your schedule. Having too many things to get through in one day, for example, can create a backlog of things to get done. However, if you can schedule only what you can get done on any certain day, it is more likely you can complete projects or tasks without getting overwhelmed.

A realistic schedule includes realistic goals for what needs to get done while being flexible. This is highly important since things can change. One method of managing these changes is to reassess your scheduling goals regularly. If you have planned out a project for a month, try checking in weekly to see how things are going. However, if you are ahead of schedule, great! Being behind schedule might mean you need to adjust to fit more time in.

Get Reminders From Your Schedule

We live in a world of technology, much of which can be very helpful to maintaining a schedule. Apps as simple as a calendar can be set to give reminders at regular intervals. Setting up a reminder system, at a frequency that works for you, can help you to stay on schedule. Remember, this will look different for each person. It is most important to create reminders and a system that helps you to stay consistent.

Scheduling Regular Check-Ins

Checking in on how your schedule is working for you can help you to make adjustments and maintain a routine. If you are working with a mental health care professional or life coach, these check-ins may be with them. However, they can be effectively done alone as well. The value of regular check-ins is that they provide a space to adjust, assess, and remind yourself that you have a schedule.

Scheduling presents problems for many students because skills like time management aren't taught in public schools. Those living with executive functioning difficulties, ADHD, anxiety, and depression come up against specific challenges with time management and staying on schedule. At Northwest College Support, our programs offer a unique experience. We help young adults learn necessary skills, like scheduling, while being supported. The skills learned in our programs can last a lifetime, helping students transition successfully into adulthood and thrive in college and beyond. If you would like to learn more about the programs we offer, call us today at (877) 485-2776 to speak with a staff member about how we can help you.

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