Time Management and Stress at Tufts

How do students at Tufts allocate their time among study/work, social, and sleep? Are choices of lifestyles affected by school year, gender, race or major? Are students satisfied with their lifestyles and how would they improve their current management of their time?

The time management project set out hoping to find out information about time allocation and planning of Tufts students that was previously not available to the community. We hope that this project can give Tufts students a better idea of their peers’ performance and possible alternatives they could use to make life easier and less stressful.

We conducted our research by sending out a survey to Tufts community. We collected 85 responses from November 13 to 21, with 26% of male and 74% of female respondents. Among all respondents, 6% are seniors, 15% are juniors, 29% are sophomore and the other half are first-years. The sample size is relatively small, and gender distribution is different from the general Tufts community. Thus, the result may be different from the actual outcome of general Tufts population. However, we still obtained interesting findings ranging from Tufts Students’ priorities, influence of different activities on students’ time management, difference in time allocation between genders, and the effect of time management strategies like planners.  


What Do Tufts Students Prioritize?

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In order to determine the answers to this question, we had Tufts students rank different categories of activities, including social life, sleep/necessary daily activities, job, school work and relaxing, on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the top priority and 5 being the lowest priority.

On average, Tufts students ranked school work as their top priority and none of our respondents placed school work below their third top priority.  People generally put sleep and other daily activities as their second priority although social life was a close third. The majority of people put relaxing as their fourth priority, and more than half of our respondents put their job as their last priority. There may be a few explanation as to why jobs are ranked as the least important activity: it is either because the relative high percentage of first-year respondents are not being worried about jobs yet, or because the respondents don’t have a job.


The More Clubs, The Busier You Are?

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The activities that most respondent particpate in are pre-professional and media/campus publication clubs. Overall, most of the respondents to this time management survey reported feeling “busy busy” as opposed to “dying”, “kinda busy”, “not doing too much”, and “life is so beautifully empty” (in fact, no one believes life is so beautifully empty). The most time consuming club activity turned out to be greek life, followed by student government and sports. However, regardless of the busyness level respondents reported, the time people spend on clubs related activities are around the same. Among 47.3% of our respondents that feel busy busy, the majority of them are in one to four clubs. The clubs tend to be pre-professional clubs and media/campus publication clubs. They reported that they spend, on average, 3-5 hours a week on club-related activities.

Though, 82% of students in clubs believe they need more time at least every few days. With this extra time, students who participate in clubs would like to spend more time with their social lives and relaxing as opposed to working and studying.

What we learnt from this finding is that, though clubs are generally thought to be time consuming and hard to manage, people didn’t seem to be affected by numbers of clubs they take on. It is either because people adjust their time allocation to accommodate club activities, or because people decide number of clubs to take on based on their schedules. Either way, Tufts students clearly successfully plan their club activities to work with their schedules.


Difference in stress levels and time allocation between genders

Who’s more on top of their lives? Male or Female? This section devotes to interesting findings about difference on feelings about stress levels related to gender (there were no survey respondents that identified outside the female-male binary.)

15387542_1811946655741853_1708262837_oFrom the responses we received, stress levels detected are almost equivalent between genders: respondents 68% of female respondents relatively busy while 67% male respondents feel as so ; However, 21% of female respondents feel extremely busy (‘dying’), almost twice the percentage of male respondents. Compared to males, females are also more likely to feel like they are busier compared to their peers, with 35% of female respondents feel busier than most students compared to 16% of male respondents who feel busier than most students. Additionally, 45% of female respondents wanted more time every day as compared to 36% of male respondents.

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Following this observation, we tried to look into how people spend their time. Female respondents reported to spend more time on course assignments and less time on sleep and self-care activities: 23% of female respondents spent more than six hours every day on schoolwork while only 11% of male respondents reported as so; 14% of female respondents claimed to have less than five hour of sleep every day while no male respondents said so; around 44% of male respondent spent more than three hours for self-care activities while only 21% of female respondent enjoyed the same level. Given the relative more time spent on school work, female respondents also put more weight on studying compared to male respondents. Eighteen percent of female respondents wish they had more time for studying while only 11% of male respondents wish the same. This finding could possibly explain the higher stress level detected in females.


What Stresses People Out?

What take up the most time in the everyday life of a student? What disrupts their daily plans and makes them feel burnt out every late night? Finding answers to these questions can be the first step in start of solving the problem.

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When we take a look into the relationship between time management and time distribution among activities, we find that though there’s not a single contributor to stress, the amount of sleep people get everyday is a pretty clear indicator of stress level: Interestingly, 50% of respondents who feel a stress level of over four get less than seven hours of sleep each day.

Look further into responses, we find that school work is responsible for high stress levels as well: 35% of people who are at a “dying” level of busy, 20% of people who are relatively busy and 4% people who feel kinda busy spend more than six hours on school work. On the other hand, the stress level people feel seems unrelated to club activities, as the amount of time people spend on club activities are relatively spread out among different stressful levels. Since school work and sleep are correlated with stress level, it may be smart to put them higher on your priority list15540481_1811946629075189_2098343018_o

Due to the small sample set, it was hard to tell what’s the most “stressful” major on campus, but Mathematics, English, International Relations and Computer Science contribute to the top hits of ” dying”. Looking at percentages, 92.8% of bio-related major students, 83.3% of Humanity (international relations, regional studies, etc) students and 77.8% of computer science majors feel busy busy or above. Unfortunately, we didn’t collect significant number of responses from engineers, which would be interesting to compare with stress level of Art and Science students.


Effectiveness of Time Management Strategies

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Most of the time, our schedule is consistent and largely determines how we allocate our time. In this case, planned schedules, which we either record digitally or write on paper, is one kind of time management strategy that we naturally employ to organize our lives. In fact, according to our survey, 58% of the respondents usually write schedules on their planners. Our survey has a section specifically looking at people’s habits for planning what to do with their time, and the result generated insightful discoveries suggesting relationships between ways of using a planner to assist time organizing, people’s perceptions of how busy they are, and the extent of either satisfaction or frustration they feel about their time management skills.

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Have you ever felt more organized when you started to write down your plans for the day? According to our survey, many students say yes. Among the respondents who take the time to write down their daily activities on their planner, 97% consider themselves either extremely busy or rather busy. Interestingly, when asked how busy they consider themselves in comparison to other students at Tufts, 45% of the people who use a planner think that they are busier than their peers, yet only 10% of the people who do not use a planner have that belief. This result suggests that people who write on planners believe they have more tasks to do in comparison to their fellow classmates.

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Following that argument, some might be skeptical about planner usage as a positive time management strategy because it might make people think that they are busier than they actually are and therefore create stress. To that we say “no worries!” because one of our findings sufficiently counters this claim. We asked participants to rate their level of stress concerning time management issues on the scale of one to five — with one being the lowest level of stress — and it turns out that people who use planners rated around three and those who do not rated close to four.

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One of the most important concerns with planners is are we consistent in following our plans? In our effort to try and give an answer to this question, our survey asked for people’s degree of effort they put into writing in their planners and the consistency in executing their plans. Surprisingly, the result shows that people who rate their effort over three tend to have a lower consistency in executing their plans. Perhaps we should spend that extra effort of writing down plans on doing the tasks on our list to be more efficient!

As a conclusion, using a planner is one of the most common and rather useful time management strategies. Yet assuming not everyone appreciates this method, we will gladly present other choices of time organizing strategies so we asked respondents to select what strategies work for them. In the order of the most popular to the least, people make calendars and/or to-do lists, organize school works, set goals, break down assignments into manageable tasks, and follow routines.

However, many are still struggling with their busy schedules, especially in this rigorous academic environment. However, those of you are not alone! Tufts Academic Resource center offers time management consulting with consultants from various departments who are thoroughly trained to collaborate on strategies that meet your needs. In fact, according to our survey,

21% of the respondents have sought time management assistance and among such, 58% visited the consultants at Tufts. The majority of people who visited the service found it relatively helpful.

If you have problems dealing with the stress of accumulating tasks, going to a time management consultant can be a good choice to ease your tension.

There are so many more relationships and findings to mine from our survey. Additionally, we acknowledge that this survey was imperfect and could reflect inaccurate result due to relatively small sample size. Also, we recognize that more time management strategies could have been covered and studied, such as note-taking habits and goal setting. However, we hope our research provides some insights for students who are curious about theirs peers performance regarding time allocation and management, and we are open to comments and suggestions.


research, writing, and infographics by Claire Huang, Darby Huye, Mackenzie Parmenter, & Astrid Weng

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