Nessa, RN - December 12, 2022

Time-Management for Nursing Students: How-to Prioritize Tasks

Time management nursing school tips, nursing student tips, how to time manage

When everything is a priority, how can we possibly manage our time properly? This is a thought that crossed my mind countless times while I was a nursing student. Time management is a skill that doesn’t get nearly enough attention for the importance it plays in a successful nursing career.

Regardless of how you organize yourself, be it digitality on google calendar or a planner app, or if you prefer analog paper and pen, finding a time management strategy that works for you is key to not only surviving being a nursing student but thriving.

I’ve broken down the time-management strategy that took me from organized chaos (hello to the ADHD struggle) to a consistently motivated, and productive nursing student.

The “Must Do”, “Should Do”, and “Nice to Do” Strategy

Oftentimes if we don’t have a prioritization strategy, we end up doing the things we like first and putting off the not-so-exciting tasks. This would be fine if the things we like were also the most pressing to-do’s, but that’s not always the case. This leaves us stressed out at the end of the day because we’re tired from working or studying all day and we have to force ourselves to get the priority topics done.

There's already enough pressure as a nursing student.

Rather than putting yourself through this struggle, implement a simple game plan to tackle your tasks in a strategic and organized way. One of the most effective methods for prioritizing your to-dos is to break up your to-do list into categories of importance: "must do," "should do," and "nice to do."

Category #1: Must Do

The "Must Do" are your non-negotiables, they fall under the category of important and urgent. These need to be done regardless of what else is going on. The tasks that fall under “Must Do” go straight to the top of the list and should be done before anything else – even if they are boring or mundane. Some examples of must do are:

  • Study & review pharm notes from 10am-12pm  
  • Email professor to clarify notes from yesterday's class

Category #2: Should Do

Things on the “Should Do” list are things that are important but maybe not as urgent as those on the “must do” list. You know that you need to get to them, but if it doesn’t get done that day you won’t be stressed. Some of my should do are:

  • Start reading chapter 4 for class 
  • Complete at least 30 practice questions

Category #3: Nice to Do

As you might suspect the tasks on this "Nice to Do" list aren’t necessarily important or urgent, rather they would be nice or even fun to do. This can be seen as the cherry on top or even the reward for finishing your Must Dos and Should Dos. My “Nice to Dos” sometimes includes:

  • Reading a book
  • Catching up on one tv episode

Once you have your tasks organized into each category, start with the “Must Dos” and move your way down the list. Making time blocks is a great way to make sure that you have time for the most urgent and important topics. This means setting aside a certain amount of time to accomplish each item on the list. Just make a note of how much time you need for each of the things on your list and send yourself a calendar invite or pencil it into your planner for each task. This will allow you to set the time aside to fully focus on the task at hand.

Of course, everyone's list and priorities will vary, but here is example of how I would break down my Must Do, Should Do, Nice to Do list:

Time management nursing school tips, nursing student tips, how to time manage

Remember, “Good things happen when you set your priorities straight.” So when you feel your to-do list getting out of hand, take a deep breath and a minute to organize yourself so that you’re set up for success. Soon you’ll find that you’re the nursing student that others turn to for advice to stay cool, calm, and collected when the going gets tough.

Get a FREE copy of your own time management task list here:


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