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Time Management Tips for Nursing Students

NurseJournal Staff
Updated March 22, 2023
    Many nursing students have out-of-control schedules and a vanishing social life. These time management strategies can help you achieve your goals and still get some sleep.
    Credit: Getty Images

    Are you frustrated because you do not have enough time in your day to finish your tasks? You may have found that if you don’t control your schedule, it controls you. Many nursing students find their days filled with studying, research, clinicals, part-time jobs, and trying to fit in a social life.

    At the end of each day, many nursing students face a far-from-finished “to-do” list and looming class deadlines. We’ve all been here before:

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    • I keep getting distracted by notifications.
    • My “to-do” list is so long I’m overwhelmed just looking at it.
    • There are too many “top” priorities.
    • I’m stressed because I can’t get everything done.
    • I can’t focus. I’m pulled in too many directions.

    With the right time management tips and an effective system, you can plan your days and weeks to finish your work with less effort. With these time management and focus techniques, you will waste less time and feel more energized at the end of the day.

    Good time management skills help you change your lifestyle for the better, leading to less stress and more control. On this page, we offer ways to help you better manage your time and energy while you’re in nursing school.

    Simple Time Management Techniques for Nursing Students

    Data demonstrates that when nursing students are under stress, they allot much of their time to academic tasks to overcome stress. Yet, researchers found that students need to allot time for extracurricular activities to be satisfied and avoid nurse burnout.

    Using time management strategies helps you become more organized. It can help you make the most of your time. You can prioritize the tasks needed, so you have leisure time without stress. Good time management reaps:

    • Greater productivity
    • Reduced stress
    • Improved efficiency
    • More opportunities to achieve your goals
    • Greater opportunities for professional advancement

    These skills will come in handy when you face nursing finals or have a more hectic schedule.

    The following techniques can be used alone or combined together. They don’t require buying anything or subscribing to apps.

    tableTime Blocking

    Time blocking is a management tool that focuses your efforts throughout the day into blocks of time dedicated to a specific task. Most people jump from task to task based on a “to-do” list. Time blocking requires that you prioritize the task list ahead of time.

    Your time during the day is blocked out to accomplish specific tasks. At the end of each day, review the tasks that were not finished and adjust the time blocks for the following day. For example, you may have blocked the following:

    8 a.m. – 11 a.m.

    11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

    12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

    Grocery Shopping
    3 p.m. – 4 p.m.

    4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

    6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

    7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

    9 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

    At the end of the day, you might have skipped grocery shopping. Then, you would need to adjust the next day’s schedule to accommodate the task. This type of time management front-loads the planning to reduce decision-making throughout the day.

    If it’s possible, many people find slotting the task you least prefer first makes the rest of the day more productive.

    How to Do It

    • checkCreate a calendar on paper, your notes app, or use a digital one.
    • checkAt the end of each day, make your list for the next day.
    • checkCategorize each task to fit into a specific set of hours (time block).
    • checkBlock out each hour of the day for a specific task.
    • checkYour next day is planned! Complete each task during the allotted time block.


    Timeboxing is less intense than time blocking. In time blocking, you plan ahead by breaking down tasks to complete in the time you have. For timeboxing, you dedicate one block of time to spend on one task.

    This technique is handy for prioritizing the least appealing tasks on your list or for preventing procrastination of long-term projects.

    For example, you have a cumulative physiology nursing final next week. Using the timeboxing method, you can set a fixed amount of time, let’s say three hours, on your calendar each weeknight leading up to the final.

    Once you set the time on your calendar, treat it like a scheduled meeting. Don’t reschedule or get distracted by other events. Dedicate these three hours to studying for your final.

    Benefits to timeboxing include:

    • It’s easier to force yourself to work on tasks you don’t enjoy or will be hard to do.
    • You can set strict limits on the day and time that helps with organization.
    • It helps boost productivity and focus when you ensure no one interrupts or distracts you from your task. You impose a time limit on yourself to complete a specific task.

    How to Do It

    • checkPlan what you want to complete in the timebox and how long you’ll need for each timebox.
    • checkPlace the timebox for your task in your calendar for the appropriate amount of time, or schedule a reminder on your phone.
    • checkAfterward, evaluate if you completed the task and how you might change the goal or length next time.

    clipboard-checkTask Batching

    Task batching means you group similar and smaller tasks together in a specific time block. This time management tool helps you power through your smaller tasks in one sitting.

    Many people believe that multitasking is a good way to get a lot done in a short amount of time. However, you likely know from experience that checking email, eating lunch, and listening to an online conference cannot be done together. You might miss something in the conference or respond to the wrong emails. Multitasking actually costs the U.S. economy $450 million every year! The lack of focus increases the likelihood of mistakes and reduces productivity.

    Task batching is a variation of time blocking. In fact, you can include task batching in your time blocking calendar. For example, you could block 30 minutes twice a day to check emails, respond to notifications, and scroll through your social media if you have time.

    The benefit of task batching is it can help you from impulsively checking notifications or abandoning current responsibilities to respond to emails.

    How to Do It

    • checkPlan a list of similar but smaller tasks you can complete in that time frame.
    • checkSchedule reminders to complete these tasks once or twice daily.
    • checkKeep watch of the time while completing the tasks or set an alarm.
    • checkFinish on time. Put the tasks aside until the next scheduled time block on your calendar.

    calendarDay Theming

    Day theming is a more advanced version of time blocking. You can use this time management tool for more complex projects or ongoing work. Instead of devoting a couple of hours to a task, you focus your whole day on working on one initiative. For example, if your anatomy nursing final is the next day, you may focus an entire day on studying for that final.

    Day theming may not work consistently as a time management tool for your studies as a nursing student since you’ll often be juggling several deadlines at once. Instead, day theming can come in handy for running errands, cleaning, applying to scholarships or internships, or even self-care for nurses.

    How to Do It

    • checkDecide what day of the week you will devote to a specific theme, such as a day at the library, running errands, cleaning, or filling out financial aid applications.
    • checkMark in your calendar or set a reminder for the task theme of the day.
    • checkMinimize distractions to maximize focus during the day.

    clockThe Pomodoro Technique

    The Pomodoro Technique is a proven way of becoming more productive and developing better study habits. All you need is a timer. This strategy encourages you to work with the time limits you already have in your calendar.

    The basic strategy is to break your work time into 25-minute chunks followed by 5-minute breaks. These 30-minute time periods are called pomodoros. After four pomodoros, you take a longer break of 15-20 minutes. The idea is that the timer instills in you a sense of urgency and limits distractions.

    The forced breaks help keep you from getting frazzled or burned out. This technique can be incorporated into any form of time blocking. For example, you may have blocked 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. to work on a term paper. Instead of writing for two straight hours, you might be more productive by writing for 25 minutes and taking a 5-minute break. Determine how many words you want to write in each 25-minute block, and then go for it!

    How to Do It

    • checkIf you’ll be using the technique for consistent projects, set the timer for 25 minutes with a short break after the alarm goes off.
    • checkMake the most of these 25-minute windows by muting notifications or other distractions.
    • checkWhile adding a time block to the calendar, estimate how many pomodoros are needed to complete a project. Ensure your time block has the necessary time needed.