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Back To School Coping Skills for Everybody: Where has all my time gone!?

All the amazing students in my practice are headed back to school this month. It’s got me thinking about the coping strategies I had to learn on the fly when I was in school. There was never a class on time management, or how to study, or manage all that stress. Much less how to negotiate with a professor or stand up for myself when I knew something was unjust.

Turns out there are a whole bunch of Educational Coping Skills you can learn that makes school and learning way easier! Let me introduce one of my time management favorites: Building A Schedule.

Birdseye view of person on computer with clock face background

Here’s a hard truth - There are only 168 hours in the week.

I hear from a lot of people that they feel "chronically over-scheduled". Its often a schedule full of delightful things - meaningful work, interesting activities, great friends, working out, hiking, taking care of their children -- but we end up feeling stretched so thin its hard to feel present enough to enjoy them all. School is often like that. There's the courses, and the labs, and the homework. The commute. An outside job. Keeping up our relationships so we avoid burn out and depression.

Let's get down to brass tacks about what actually works for you.


First, answer the following questions with a number:

1. How many hours will you be in class throughout the week?

2. How many hours will you commute each week?

3. How many hours of homework do you have each week? Grad school classes often recommend 3 hours of homework for each in-person hour of class. Undergrad is often a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio.

4. How many hours do you plan to work each week? (Don't forget the commute on this one, too!)

5. On average, how many hours of sleep do you want each night to take care of your body and mind? Multiply this number by 6. (The number should be somewhere between 36 and 54. If you like to sleep in on the weekend, make sure to give yourself those extra hours.)

Pause here. Add it up. Subtract your total from 168 and see what's left. Do you already feel overbooked? BREATHE. Its okay. You're not alone.

Before we start editing and cutting I want you to add up the other hours of all the things that are just as important.

6. How much social time feels good for you each week? How much social media time?

7. Are you dating? In a relationship? How many hours do you want to spend with them?

8. Do you like to exercise or have a hobby like playing in a band or going to the ceramics studio?

8. Do you take care of a pet, or child, or elder?

9. What else?

10. Then there are the basics, like eating, getting dressed, taking a shower. Add a couple hours per day for meeting your basic needs and multiply by 7.

Add everything up and see where you are.


That anxiety you feel is the same anxiety you're feeling every time you run out of time. Its pretty normal. When we don't think it through, we often start to skimp on the self care first, like sleeping and the things that nourish us. We get cranky. We can't keep up. This is when depression and anxiety and trauma symptoms get kicked up.

Draw out your ideal week. Break it down by the half hour. What feels good to do when?

Day planner showing September in yellow script

Try something different this fall. Have a heart to heart with yourself about how many classes you are taking or hours you are working. What things can be cut ahead of time so that in 2 months you are still breathing? You have all the permission in the world to slow down. For me, social media has to go. My dear friend The Money Witch speaks the truth when she says "you can either be on time or you can look at Instagram". Every damn day.

Start to learn to prioritize what you truly value and keep bringing yourself back to that. Over and over and over.

Upper photo credit: Kevin Ku

Lower photo credit: Estee Janssens

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