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 workshops. Alternatively, have a look at our SkillBuilder skills videos.

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...    

Take control of your time

Time plan tools: use some form of time planner to record your personal, professional and university commitments in one place. 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

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. 

Break work into specific tasks: break academic tasks and assignments down into manageable chunks, it will help you to monitor and keep control of your time, as it gives you incremental deadlines. To help give you an idea of smaller tasks, here are some typical stages involved in essay writing as well as managing a research project

The Assignment Survival Kit (ASK) is a useful tool to help you plan the stages of your essay project: ASK. If you experience any difficulties using the tool, please email: slas@kent.ac.uk

Time manage specific tasks: each study session or task, whether it is an hour, two hours or a morning, should be plotted carefully on your time planner, and 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. 

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.

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.  

Time saving tips

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.

Ask for help: Don’t spend time floundering or stuck on a task. 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 book an appointment with one of our Student Learning Advisers. 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. For guidance on planning your writing either book an appointment, attend one of our 'skills development' workshops, or you may also want to watch our on videos on managing your essay and structuring your essay.

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.  

In short, be organised.

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