Have you got a to-do list? Is it on paper, on your phone or perhaps you keep it in your head. We are all very busy these days and this is certainly the case when studying. As the semester gets into full swing, you will be thinking about organizing your studies and getting into an effective study routine.
Everyone’s experience is different: many students are living away from home for the first time; for many, this may be in a new country; others are fitting a commute into their routine; student parents are juggling studies with the demands of family life; others may have caring responsibilities for relatives and friends; for some, placements will be part of the routine for the next few years and the wider demands of paid work are all too familiar to many students these days. But, despite the wide and differing experiences of our students, what everyone shares is the desire to succeed in higher education. One of the keys to this success is good time management. You’ll find that the need to learn to juggle the competing demands on your time and the ability to balance that time will serve you well in supporting your studies.
Top balancing tips
Use a time planner
The Learning Skills team has a time management module on the Learning Skills Hub. Which outlines a range of techniques to organise your schedule.
As a guide, it is useful to remember that students undertaking a full-time course should think about devoting about 37 hours per week to their studies (this figure includes contact hours, that is, all teaching, learning and practice sessions). Once you have plotted your contact hours on the planner, start to think about your other commitments: whether it is paid work; volunteering; clubs and societies; church; family commitments and your social life to name a few. Then this is where your balancing skills will come into action!
Schedule your study sessions
Got a day clear of lectures? Try scheduling study sessions with clear objectives to encourage and maintain motivation and the completion of tasks. If you find it useful to work with friends, try creating a study group so you can offer mutual support and have set break times. It is useful to schedule 45 to 50 minute study sessions before taking a quick break. Try setting a timer and work until it goes off. Depending on where you are working, it may be useful to get up and walk around. This is particularly important if you have been looking at a computer screen.
Keep a time diary
Try keeping a record of your study schedule and the hours you have worked. Reflecting periodically on how you are using your time can help you to identify any issues as soon as possible.
Don’t let submission dates surprise you
Use a time planner or Outlook Calendar to record submission dates. Knowing in advance your key dates will help you to plan time across the semester and will help to avoid any deadline surprises.
Use pockets of time
Got an hour between your lecture and a seminar? Sometimes we don’t use our time as well as we could because we think pockets of time are too short to write an essay. But how about checking some references, searching databases or proofreading that essay you finished yesterday?
Identify your time eaters
Time eaters are those things which cause us to be less productive than we might hope to be. When talking with students about this, the ones usually identified are phones, social media, Netflix, friends, domestic tasks and procrastination. The key to dealing with your time eaters is to identify them and think of ways in which you can reduce their impact. This could mean switching off your phone during study time, loading the dishwasher or checking social media on a quick break or arranging to meet friends for coffee when you have finished your study session. If you are letting procrastination get in the way of getting going with work, why not try free writing? Set a timer for 5 minutes and get writing. Remember, your work is for your eyes only at this point so relax and enjoy the process. Once you get writing, you will soon find that the ideas start coming and you find a way to get started with your assignments.
Creating boundaries around your study times is a really good way of getting into a routine and enabling you to enjoy all of your other activities too. You don’t have to be a tightrope walker but balance is important. Whatever your personal circumstances, when you feel you have undertaken your study hours for the day, you will find that you can enjoy your other activities all the more because you know that you are giving your time to all aspects of your life as student. This will play an important role in leading to a successful outcome to your studies. Good luck with the juggling and balancing!
Learning Developer (Arts and Humanities)
Student Learning Development and Research Support