Time-management is one of the most useful skills that you can develop as a student. Identifying how much study time is available to you, and making effective use of that time, is the key to staying on top of your workload and minimising stress.

Plan your weeks

Everyone has access to the same amount of time, but we use our time in very different ways. One way to use your time effectively is to plan your week in advance.  A week-to-view diary, calendar or planner (hard copy or electronic) is invaluable for this purpose. The Students’ Union circulates week-to-view diaries so try to get your hands on one of these if you can. Download one of our weekly planners if you would like to experiment with planning your week:

Start by looking at your week ahead and block off times that are not available for study: this includes time in class, as well as time spent on sleeping, eating, paid work, leisure, housework, travel, family commitments, and so on. It is important to allocate time to these activities as well as to your studies.

With the time that you have left, is it enough to allow you to start tackling the ‘A’ and ‘B’ tasks on your to-do list – that is, the most urgent or important tasks that you need to complete? If not, are there ways for you to free up some additional time? For example, could you work less hours, pay a babysitter, buy a dishwasher, or cook and freeze your meals for the week ahead?

If you can’t free up any extra time, can you find ways to make better use of your time? For example, could you use some of the time that you spend travelling, exercising, or completing housework to brainstorm, to listen to a study-related podcast or audiobook, or to plan the structure of an upcoming piece of writing?

One-hour, half-hour, or five-minute time slots can be productive. Don’t wait for a mythical ‘whole day’ to get started on a big task. That day may never come. Use your task analysis skills to break it down into smaller sub-tasks and make a start – any start – on one or more of these tasks.

Try to limit distractions – your mobile phone in particular! Build phone time into your day (perhaps as a reward for a successfully completed task) and resist the urge to keep checking for updates every few minutes. There are a number of apps that you can download to block your access to social media on your phone if you find it difficult to resist the lure of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and so on. Social media can be a serious time waster and if you are constantly checking your phone you won’t give your full attention to the task at hand.

Procrastination

Procrastination (putting off until tomorrow what should be done today) is a problem for many students. The ‘symptoms’ of procrastination include:

  • Chronic inability to complete tasks or meet deadlines
  • Concentrating on less urgent tasks when a more pressing task is to hand
  • Finding unproductive ways to pass your time when a deadline is looming
  • Avoiding classes, meetings, e-mails, or anything that reminds you of the postponed task
  • Blaming other people or external events for non-completion of tasks
  • Pulling ‘all-nighters’ to complete an assignment or prepare for an exam
  • Telling yourself or others that you work best under pressure
  • Telling yourself or others that you need to be ‘in the mood’ or ‘in the zone’ to work well

If you think that procrastination is a problem for you, check out our guide to addressing procrastination for some ideas about possible causes of, and ways to tackle, this issue. 

Downloads

  • Goal-setting activity sheet

    Goal-setting activity sheet PDF (116 KB)

  • Tips for Note-Taking

    Tips for Note-Taking PDF (123 KB)

  • To-do list template

    To-do list template PDF (106 KB)

  • Guide to task analysis

    Guide to task analysis PDF (118 KB)

  • Weekly planner I

    Weekly planner I PDF (121 KB)

  • Weekly planner II

    Weekly planner II PDF (124 KB)

  • Weekly planner III

    Weekly planner III PDF (108 KB)

  • Addressing Procrastination

    Addressing Procrastination PDF (122KB)