The Gift of Time: An Exam Survival Guide

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Students studying in the library.

Jane is running out of time.

Finals week has finally arrived. But instead of being well-rested and prepared, Jane is fishing out crumpled-up and questionably-stained notes from the bottom of her book bag and running on the fumes of her eighteen cups of coffee. She’s stressed, sleep-deprived and hasn’t brushed her hair in days.

Sound familiar?

If there is one skill to hone throughout a lifetime, it’s that of time management. Procrastination, laziness and carelessness had their place in high school but serve no purpose in college—or beyond. Gone are the days in which you could put off your English papers until the last minute and cram for tests the night before. Unless you want to end up like Jane, who already has her job application to McDonald’s ready, it’s important to figure out a time management system that will work for you.

The most important part to remember, before you do anything else, is to make sure that God is the center of your every day. “If the [Christian] sincerely plans his day in prayer, then executes the plan with all energy and eagerness,” asserts J. Oswald Sanders, author of Spiritual Leadership, “that is enough.”

The Art of Scheduling

“A goal without a plan is just a wish,” as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry famously said. Similarly, a day without structure is pointless. Planning out your days, your weeks and your months is a simple but effective way to maximize your productivity. There is no better method of ensuring you put your time to good use and that you are reaching your goals.

Scheduling may seem like a daunting task, especially for the notoriously unorganized college student. (Or, to put it more politely, “spontaneous.”) But adhering to a schedule that you tailor according to your personal needs, goals and priorities is endlessly valuable.

The most obvious tool for this is a planner, whether it be paper or digital. Seeing your entire day laid out in a visual format can be game-changing in figuring out how to best organize your time. You can use the gaps in your schedule for more meaningful pursuits, instead of scrolling through social media. It’s surprising how the spare minutes add up.

Perhaps, however, you’re like Jane, who already has a planner—but has never had the patience to figure out how to make it work. She used it for maybe a week and then forgot about it for the subsequent eleven months. Now it sits on her overflowing desk, practically untouched.

Make sure that every hour has its purpose and that, most importantly, you fulfill these purposes. You want the time you spend to be intentional and to propel you forward in your goals. Don’t be like Jane who plans out the perfectly productive day and then refuses to even wake up in the morning. Having discipline enough to manage your time wisely means being able to do things you don’t want to do.

The Importance of Goals

Your ambitions are what should drive your schedule. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, write a book or even just get all your work done on time, these are all goals. The key to goals is to break them down into manageable tasks to accomplish over a period of time.

The easiest way to illustrate this is by using an example. Remember Jane? (I hope so.) Let’s say that her ultimate goal is to pass all her classes this semester with A’s and B’s. If she tried to tackle this with no preparation and no plan, she would be assuring her own failure. But if she established an achievable strategy, then her goals—no matter how “impossible”—would be that much more tangible.

span style=”font-weight: 400;”>First, Jane would break down her overarching goal—getting A’s and B’s—into monthly goals. Her goal could be to simply make sure that at the end of every month she has either an A or a B in all her classes. Then she would do her weekly goals: complete her homework, review her lecture notes, study thoroughly for big tests. Finally, she would use those specific goals to construct her daily schedule like penciling in time to study for Friday’s test or reading half of her textbook reading after lunch.

Fulfilling her daily goals helps her fulfill her weekly goals which helps her fulfill her monthly goals, until it’s finals week and she’s no longer stressed or sleep-deprived but rather passing all her tests with flying colors. Just like Jane, you can achieve your goals, as long as you have the discipline to. Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors puts it like this: “Are the habits you have for today on par with the dreams you have for tomorrow?”

The Example of Jesus

If there is someone who perfectly embodied the importance of time management, it was Jesus Christ. Never was a minute of His wasted, an hour of His that was in vain, a day of His in which He failed to do what He needed to. The twenty-four hours in a day that He had—the same ones that we have now—were enough for Him to fulfill His duty. Sanders says, “The secret of Jesus’ serenity lay in His assurance that He was working according to the Father’s plan for His life—a plan that embraced every hour and made provision for every need. . .. ‘Unexpected’ events were always foreseen in the Father’s planning, and Jesus was therefore undisturbed by them.”

When it comes down to the core of managing time and increasing productivity, Christ should be your role model.

Jesus looked to God for all guidance and every single second of His was spent intentionally, to glorify God. Not only did He not waste His time, but He didn’t rush God’s timing either. He was patient and enduring, not allowing disruptions to throw Him off course. He didn’t get bogged down by useless details but allowed the full providence of the Father to direct Him.

Our goal with our time management and productivity, we must remember, is not to further our own agenda but rather God’s. And whatever His divine will for our life is, that is what we should be pursuing wholeheartedly.


Cristina Joseph

Cristina Joseph is a content marketing intern for BJUtoday.