Time management

The following guidance has been created for you by the Student Learning Advisory Service, for more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an appointment or join one of our online workshops

Successful time management requires you to

  • understand where your time goes
  • reclaim more of your time for your studies
  • make optimum use of your study time 

There are various techniques to help you achieve this...    

Planning your time

Planners: use a term planner (for downloadable planners scroll to bottom of page), student diary or online calendar to record your personal, professional and university commitments. university commitments should include your assignment deadlines and exam dates, as well as times and locations of your lectures, seminars and other academic activities. Make sure that you keep it up to date, time plans rarely stay the same. For online time management tools go to Mind Tools.

Prioritise: with so much to do, you will need to prioritise some tasks or commitments over others. Keep an ongoing ‘to do list’ which indicates which tasks are both important and urgent (for example, completing and submitting an essay by the following day) and those which are important but can be tackled afterwards. Revise your list daily, crossing off completed tasks and adding new ones.

Work pattern
: find a routine that works for you. If you work best in the mornings use your most productive time for more demanding study-related tasks, and your less productive time for mundane tasks such as sorting, tidying or doing housework. Make sure that your study schedule includes breaks and some sort of physical exercise, even if it is only a 15-minute walk around campus. Both give your brain a chance to relax and re-energise.

Learn to say ‘No’: ensure that those around you - family, friends and colleagues – respect your right to opt out of things that will interfere with your study time. Try also to say ‘no’ to time-stealing activities such as TV, the internet and social media.

Focus on specific tasks: break academic tasks down into manageable chunks. Each study session – an hour, two hours, a morning, plotted carefully on a weekly planner – should have a clear, achievable target. This may be to complete a practise paper in readiness for an exam, or make notes on a key chapter in a book. Either way, fulfilling each specific task within a set timeframe will provide an ongoing sense of achievement and move you efficiently step-by-step towards your overall goal. 

Use downtime: make good use of the ‘in between’ times, e.g. travelling or waiting times. Carry some material around with you and use this time to go over notes, read or jot down ideas. During gaps between lectures, use the time to check out or return books at the library or even to do some research.

Save yourself time

Files and folders: invest in the stationery you need to organise your work - whether by module, topic or assignment – so that you can quickly find what you need, when you need it. Time wasted searching for things (perhaps several days accumulated over the course of a year) can instead be spent more productively.

Asking for help: Don’t spend time floundering. There is a lot of help available at the university. If you can’t locate sources in the library, ask the library assistants or the relevant subject librarian. If you can’t get to grips with an assignment, ask the seminar leader or consult the Student Learning Advisory Service. If anxiety is holding you up, you might want to visit the Counselling Service.

Effective reading: focus your reading on what is most relevant and useful, by surveying, skimming and scanning written material, before reading only carefully selected passages in detail. See the Effective Reading study guide for more details.
Effective note making: as you read and take notes, make sure you record the full reference details (author, date, title of publication etc.) of the source you are examining (book, journal, website, etc.) as you go along. This will ensure that you do not waste time later trying to relocate the source material in order to compile your reference list. To save time deciphering your notes when you come to use them, make sure that they are clear and easy to understand. See the Note Making study guide for more details.

Plan before you write: plan what you are going to write before you begin. This may save several hours of rethinking, restructuring and rewriting later on.

In short, be organised.

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