What is Time?

When considering time management, perhaps the best place to begin is our understanding of what it is that we are trying to manage, time itself. A good first question might be, what is time? How do we define it? Is it real or just a concept created by human intellect for our convenience? Is time the same throughout the universe or is it specific to our experience here on earth? Would time exist if we didn’t? Without getting too philosophical, maybe we can begin by defining time based on what we use it for, a system of measurement. But what exactly are we measuring? What do we know about the increments of time? What do we get from 60 seconds? From 60 minutes? from 24 hours? What happens in 24 hours? Can science lend a hand? When we consider the earth, what occurs in a single 24 hour day? Of course, it’s the full rotation of the earth on its axis. What then occurs in 365 of those one day periods? Correct, the earth revolves one complete time around the sun. So we might perhaps say that time is a system of measurement rooted in our understanding of the movements of the earth. While that may get us closer to a scientific reality, it doesn’t seem to help us in understanding time in relation to managing it for our success. To have purpose, any attempt at management should see the concept to be managed as a resource. For effective use, resources need good management. If we see time as a resource, our first step is to define exactly what kind of resource that it is. With this in mind, let us propose the following definition of time for our purposes of managing it. Time is a valuable, equal-opportunity, non-renewable resource. 

  • Valuable because we can do a lot with it when we have it at our disposal. Time is money. It’s regrettable to waste it.
  • Equal-opportunity because everyone starts out with the same amount of time, no one gets more or less than anyone else. Each week we all get 168 hours to use. 7 x 24 = 168
  • Non-Renewable means that when it’s gone, it’s gone. It cannot be recouped. You can never “go back.”

Quick Thinking Exercise

The Value of effective Time Management can be best appreciated when we acknowledge the consequences of poor Time Management decisions.
  • List Some Consequences of Poor Time Management
  • List Some Benefits of Effective Time Management


Just as is the case with any worthwhile resource, time needs good management in order to make the most of it while you have it. Investing your time into things that matter to you makes sense, but it’s not always a guaranteed action on your part. Time management requires effort and a conscious desire to see it happen. It also requires logic and good reasoning. You must be realistic about what works and what doesn’t work. You cannot say that you are a successful full-time student if you are not willing to give it the time it needs to occur. If someone has a full-time job, they would probably be working about 40 hours a week at it. There aren’t many employers who pay full-time salary for only part-time effort from an employee. If you are a full-time student, how many hours a week does that require from you? You can start with class time. Using your credit load, you can determine how much time that you spend in class. One credit equals to just about one hour of class time, that’s why they are often called credit hours. A full time student takes between 12 and 18 credits, averaging around 15 hours or so of class time per week (a bit more if there is a lab). That’s just the time spent in class. You also need to devote time to studying, completing assignments, writing papers, working with other students, research and library work, and a host of other obligations. A good formula is to calculate one to two hours needed outside of class for every hour in class. With this formula, you can see that you are quickly at around 40 hours (or more) a week needed to be a successful full-time student. Add to that the other activities and responsibilities of your day to day life and you can can see how fast all of your allotted 168 hours of weekly time gets consumed.[1]


  1. Adapted from Ellis, Dave, (2006), Becoming a Master Student, Cengage Learning


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