Managing your time
Do you have three assessments due in one week? Work or family commitments? Friends making demands on your time? Is juggling your workload tough?
Being a uni student is a little like running a small business – we are our personal managers, scheduling appointments, meeting deadlines and prioritising tasks. Students who manage their time well tend to do better at uni than those who don’t, irrespective of smarts (Hopper, 2010).
Good time management is about three things: realistic prioritisation; doing the same task in less time; and minimising previously underutilised time (Hopper, 2010). Waiting for the bus or for a friend to arrive? Bring a book or your lecture notes to read or try to recall some important information that you will need to remember for a test. Those five or ten minutes add up at the end of the week.
To get you started, here are 3 time management tools that every uni student can use.
1. Making a Master Schedule
It’s a good idea to make a master schedule at the beginning of each session. This schedule should have a column for each day of the week, Monday to Sunday, and include a row for each hour in the day, for example, 7am to midnight. It needs to include formal classes as well as personal study time for reviewing class
notes, and completing your prep work, homework and readings. In addition, you should allocate time for assessment completion; this is your scheduled time for working on assessments and preparing for tests. The distinction between study time and assessment completion is important and will help you keep up and meet deadlines. An important time management skill for uni students is to learn the content as you go. Last minute cramming doesn’t work well- and it’s stressful!
Life is about more than study, of course. And you’ll need to schedule in your work shifts, family commitments, household chores, visits to the gym or your weekly soccer game, socialising and relaxing, as well as plenty of time for sleeping and eating. Keep in mind that your master schedule is flexible; you make adjustments as you go.
When putting together your schedule for the first time, consider the following tips (Hopper, 2010):
Make use of daylight hours
Study immediately after a class – while the material is fresh in your mind
Study at the same time and place every day
Plan enough time to study – at least 2 to 3 hours of personal study for every face-to-face hour
Space your study periods – 50-90 minutes at a time for each subject
Plan enough time for assessment completion – as a rough guide, the percentage value of an assessment task should suggest how long you work on it. E.g. for an exam weighted 50%, preparation should start half way through the session. This is only a guide and it’s important to have a think about which exam or assignment takes priority in any given week considering the due date and weighting of the task.
List activities according to priorities
Study during your prime time
Leave blank spaces in your schedule for added flexibility
With these tips in mind, have a go at putting together your own master schedule. Check out these templates (opens an external site) for some ideas to put together your own version. Remember to schedule time for study (keeping up with classwork and readings) and time for completing assessments (assignments and exams) for all of your subjects. Here are some helpful steps (Hopper, 2010):
Note those activities that are fixed e.g. classes, job, commuting
Note in the blank spaces the other activities that you need to do. E.g. for a three-hour class you are taking (e.g. “statistics”), fill in three spaces with study time (“statistics study”).
Note in the blank spaces assessment completion time
Note the other things you do in the week: exercise, meeting friends, family obligations, shopping, laundry, dinner etc.
Keep the remaining spaces blank, because life happens!
2. Keep a diary
In addition to having a master schedule, it’s a good idea to keep a diary, either on paper or digitally. At the beginning of the session, take a look at the Subject Outline for each of your subjects and record the due dates for tests and assignments. Keep this diary with you at all times. Consult it before taking on new commitments.
It’s also important to be able to say no to friends and family if necessary. Don’t promise to help your friend with her statistics quiz or agree to go to pub trivia, unless you really have the time. Being a uni student is a full-time job and we need to look after ourselves. Sometimes that means saying no to others. We can’t be good friends or relatives if we’re feeling stressed or time poor. Sometimes family and friends don’t understand how much time is needed for uni as ‘brain work’ tends to be invisible.
3. Make a daily schedule
Having trouble getting started? The first thing is to make a daily schedule or to-do list of everything you want to accomplish – best to do this the night before, or first thing in the morning (Hopper, 2010). Make sure you prioritise the tasks for the day. It’s also important to break larger tasks (e.g. writing a report) into smaller attainable goals (e.g. find three relevant journal articles, read Article 1, summarise Article 1 etc.). This will make the task more manageable. Plus who doesn’t like crossing tasks off their to-do list?
If you would like additional support with time management or other study skills, check out the library resources. HELPS also provides specific assistance with assessments. Have a look at the subject and course specific resources your faculty might provide.
If there are factors or challenges in your life making it difficult to implement the time management strategies suggested in this newsletter, please come and see us at the UTS Counselling Service. For some people, it may be helpful to have a chat to a counsellor about the life circumstances affecting their studies. You can make a free and confidential appointment with one of our friendly counsellors by calling 9514 1177 during business hours.