8 is Great—And Works!

Time management is a struggle for everyone but but it can be especially challenging for students with learning differences who are adapting to a new, unstructured life in college.  

So first semester students in ECU’s STEPP program get some support through a program called “8 is Great” which is currently taught by Instructional Specialist Morgan James. The program has a long, successful history at ECU ever since it was created by Diane Majewski, the ECU Project Director for College STAR, when she was working in the disability services office ten years ago.

“I kept hearing the same problem from all of my students,” Majewski said, “They just didn’t know how to manage their time. So I created something simple and visual that broke it down into steps.”

“8 is Great” teaches students to block their 24-hour day into three 8-hour periods: Work, Play and Sleep. Work consists of classes, study time, and tutoring sessions. Play can include a job, gym, movies, campus clubs, eating and getting ready to do all of those things. Students are encouraged to get eight hours sleep on a regularly scheduled basis.

Both James and Majewski said students don’t realize that they should be spending eight hours each day on schoolwork. Majewski said she emphasizes that college is work, and students need to have a system. Sometimes it is necessary to further break down the eight-hour work day into a three step study plan, she said, focusing on pre-class activities, class time and post-class activities.

In addition to explaining the system, James helps students set up their planners and block out times with color coding. Every week, students check their planners and review how their activities stacked up against their goals. “Sleep seems to be the one area where they struggle and I discourage things like late-night cramming.”

“I want my students to understand how important the balance is,” James said. “A balanced day that includes eight hours of sleep helps improve attention, processing and memory. It also reduces anxiety and procrastination.”

James indicated that although there is some flexibility that can be built into the schedule on weekends, it is important to stick with the system. In subsequent semesters she offers a review to help ensure that students stay on track.

Majewski said she has taught the “8 is Great” system to many classes over the years but feels that it is simple enough for anyone to teach. She’s delighted that it has become a regular part of the STEPP Program at ECU.