I took a year off after college before I started seminary, and so I thought I was ready for it. Within two weeks, I was wondering what I had gotten myself in to. Seminary consisted of the same sorts of assignments as college—papers tests, reading—but I was not at all prepared for just how much of it there would be.
I soon realized that I needed a system or a routine to make it all work. It takes a careful juggling act to get it all right. A friend of mine shared his system with me, which I implemented with good results. Here’s what I do. I try to get up between 5-5:30am each morning, and first spend some time reading my Bible and beginning the day with prayer (this is essential). My earliest class is at 8am, and so I know I can get in about a solid hour of reading or studying before I need to get ready to go. My wife usually sleeps until 7:30 or 8 anyway, and so I get some very quiet, undisturbed, and productive time.
What I do throughout each day varies depending on when classes are, but the key is to not waste time. In college I majored in wasting time, and I always had to cram for things at the last minute, which meant 4am nights fueled by the strongest coffee I could get my hands on. Unfortunately I’ve had to fall back on those methods once or twice here in seminary, but I try hard to avoid them. There is plenty of time for me to get things done during the day. My wife works a steady day job, so I am home alone. I turn on some quiet classical music, and set out a pile of books in front of me. If I need a change of scenery, I opt for going to Panera Bread (free coffee refills!) or the seminary library.
Properly using your time should allow you to free up your evenings, for the most part. If you are married, this is key. You need time with your spouse. If I make full use of the schedule I have developed, I am able to quit working at dinner time, and keep the evening free for spending time with my wife. We are usually in bed by 10, and as a result, getting up at 5 or 5:30 is not an issue. That gives me plenty of sleep.
Full time seminary studies require discipline. It is not just something you can coast through. The demands are much higher. But a working schedule can help you keep it all in check. Prioritizing and developing a solid routine are important. Make sure you buy yourself a day planner of some sort, and map things out. There will be a learning curve, but you will start to figure out how long it takes to read certain things, how much time you should allot for papers, and when you should schedule the most intense things.
And I put it in parentheses above, but here I mention it explicitly: rooting your day in prayer is essential. No schedule will work properly or be effective unless it is hemmed in by prayer.