PICTURE THIS: You sit down with your computer and organic chemistry books, focused and ready to power through your studies for the day. Fast-forward to an hour later: You’re browsing your favorite blog checking out the latest posts.

Minutes spent studying: 0
Minutes spent reading blogs: 57

You’ve just experienced a time-suck, a classic time management pitfall. And, like any pitfall, it’s all about identifying them and knowing how to avoid them.

WORKING WITHOUT A TO-DO LIST

You spend more time figuring out what to do or completing nonessential tasks than really studying. To be most effective, keep a long-term “master” To-Do list; a weekly To-Do list; and each evening, quickly jot down the tasks you want to complete the next day. You’ll be focused and know what you need to get done.

NOT SCHEDULING YOUR TASKS

Once you have your daily To-Do list, estimate how long each task might take and then schedule those tasks into your calendar. If you haven’t planned time to get something done, it’s not going to happen.

POOR LOGISTICAL PLANNING

This is especially critical for students that are off campus often for work or meetings. You know what I mean… somehow you have a 10:00 a.m. class on campus, a lunch meeting on the other side of town, classes in the afternoon, and another meeting back on the other side of town that evening. Finally, you’re heading back to campus to study well into the night. Not a good use of your time. To the extent possible, manage your schedule based on location. Then, the evening before your meetings, plan your route to figure out the quickest way to get from point to point.

CONSTANTLY MONITORING EMAIL AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Responding to email as it comes in, especially when it’s not urgent, takes your focus away from other tasks. Schedule time on your calendar – 10:00 a.m., noon, 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. – to quickly review email and respond to urgent messages. For all other messages, respond before you go to bed. And, while you’re at it, schedule time for Facebook, Twitter, and reading your favorite blogs-preferably during your lunch break or at the end of the day.

YOUR STUDY BUDDY, CHATTY CATHY

Although she’s always ready to rehash last night’s episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, it’s not a good use of your time. Practice the polite exit. Something like: “Cathy, can we catch up a little later? I’m struggling with this assignment.” That’s definitely an excuse anyone can understand and respect.