Learn how to budget your time in college in a few simple steps! Takes less than 10 minutes, and it'll change your life! College tips by Sara Laughed

How to Budget Time in College

Welcome to the third week in our #ptmclass – the free productivity and time management (PTM) workshop that I’m co-hosting with Kayla Blogs and Dani Dearest! For the month of October, Kayla, Dani, and I will be improving our productivity and time management together and help you do the same. Today, I’m showing you how to budget time in college!

College was a big adjustment for me. I went from my gap year, when I had all the time in the world, to a new environment in which I had very specific deadlines and constraints on my time. Early in my first year of college, my dorm hosted an event on time management and something called the 8/8/8 method, and it drastically changed how I budgeted my time. That made my transition a lot easier, and ensured that I had a healthy idea of where my time should be going.

The 8/8/8 method is pretty easy to understand. The idea is that each day should be spent in three ways – sleep, work, and fun. The basic model is to split your time evenly (8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, 8 hours fun).

Of course, this doesn’t always work for everyone. Where do food, showering, or meetings come in? How about extracurriculars? How about life‘s responsibilities, like doctor’s appointments? Some people say that these should be taken out of fun time, which makes it more like overflow time. Others say that there should be more categories, so you end up with something like 8/8/3/5, or 9/7/4/4. To find your perfect balance, I recommend these steps.

Prioritize sleep

I will never apologize for putting my sleep above everything else. Sleep makes me a better, happier, and more functional person – and it probably does the same for you! Because of that, it’s important to factor in sleep first. You probably have some idea of how many hours of sleep are best for you personally. For most people, the mix is between 7 and 9 hours. My perfect time is about 8.5, but including preparation time for sleep (brushing teeth, reading before bed, etc.), let’s round up to 9.

Next, calculate non-negotiables

Using your time management diagnostic sheet from week one, check out how you spend your time on “non-negotiables.” Examples would be classes, a part-time job, and important weekly meetings that you can’t miss. Add them up by day and find the average amount of time that you spend per day doing these things. That numbers is your non-negotiable work and meeting time. Let’s say that for me, it was 4. Taking out the 9 hours a day I spend sleeping, that leaves 9 hours a day for studying, taking care of myself, and doing fun things.

Now study!

Just like above, calculate the approximate amount of each day that you spent studying or working on school. Find the average for each day – that’s your goal! Let’s say I spend 5 hours a day doing this. That leaves 6 hours over for…

Fun and overflow

Meals, exercise, crafting, spending time with friends… that’s what this time is for. Some days, you’ll have more of this time; on days when you have a big exam coming up, you’ll have a lot less!


Let’s say that this mix is a reflection of how you spend your time, not how you want to spend your time. Maybe you want to spend more time studying, or less time sleeping and more time being with friends. This is the time to look at your personal mix of numbers and see where you can make adjustments that reflect the life you want to be living. I’m happy with the balance that I came up with above, so I’ll be keeping it the way it is, but I encourage you to experiment with yours!

That brings my personal example to a mix of 9/4/5/6. This is actually not too far away from our basis of 8/8/8, which is a good thing! Every day needs some work, some play, and a whole lot of sleep. Finding a good balance based on your personal experience gives you a goal for each day. You can use this number to guide yourself when planning your day!

That’s how I budget my time during the semester. If you like this series, join us in the Facebook group to follow along!

Sara Laughed

Hey hey! I'm Sara, an American writer living in the Netherlands and working as a product manager.

  1. Aly Bubbles says:

    Hey Sara! I love how you put sleep first. People underestimate how much sleep they need! When we are rested, we can perform optimally/more efficiently the rest of the day 🙂

  2. Holly @ Hope & Mascara says:

    This popped up on my Pinterest feed today and it couldn’t have come at a better time! Classes and recruiting for summer internships is making January crazy. Thanks for this post, it’s very helpful! 🙂

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