Managing your time effectively is one of the most valuable skills you will learn as a student. It shows discipline, organisation, and the ability to work independently – all of which will look great to future employers. At university, you will find that learning to work efficiently will make your studying feel a lot easier and even increase productivity, so you can keep to your deadlines and leave yourself the time to socialise and relax.
10 Time Management Tips
Time management will prove particularly important during the busy exam season when your schedule will likely be full of various assessments, coursework deadlines, and lectures. In order to help mitigate some of the accompanying stress, as well as stay on track for a healthy work-life balance, have a read of the below 10 time management tips.
Build a timetable
One of the top things you should be doing for time management is creating a clear schedule of everything you need to complete. This should set aside time for researching and writing essays, going to lectures, completing exams, as well as anything else you do on a regular basis – like play sports, hang out with friends, or attend extra-curricular events. ‘Time-blocking’ is a technique used by many people, including global business leaders, to divide the day into sections dedicated to a different activity. Humans are creatures of habit, so having a clear routine is often the best way to stay focused. You can get creative and draw out a calendar yourself (just don’t spend too long making it perfect as that defeats the point of time management!), but there are also plenty of online platforms that allow you to build a customised timetable.
Rome wasn’t built in a day! It may be tempting to take on as much as possible, in the hope of maximising your grade, but in doing so you risk your mental and physical wellbeing. Think about the amount of time you need for certain parts of your studies (individual courses often advise on how long should be dedicated to individual study, outside the designated hours spent attending seminars and lectures) and adjust your expectations accordingly. Remember, you need an average of seven to eight hours of sleep each night!
Allow yourself downtime
Expanding on the previous time management tip, you should always set aside time for winding down. Whether you like to head to the pub for a social fix, cook dinner and eat with your housemates, or simply curl up in bed with a movie, it’s important to continue doing things that distract you from the stresses of studying.
Various studies have been done on the optimum amount of time to work before taking a break, with results suggesting anything from 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break, or 90 minutes of work followed by a 20-minute break, can contribute to increased productivity.
Make a checklist
It can be really helpful to make a list at the beginning of each day, or week, of the tasks you need to get done in a certain timeframe. You might have an upcoming coursework deadline or reading task, whereby a certain number of words need to be written or read each day. Breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones can make the overall goal seem much more manageable, and it’s so satisfying to tick something off the list! Using a checklist also means you can prioritise certain jobs. It’s normal to have off-days where you simply don’t feel like doing much, so if you’re able to clearly visualise a hierarchy of your day, it can be easier to get just the most important tasks done.
Work with others
This applies to both how and when you study. While some people can only work on their own, others might prefer working in a study group. For students on the same course, it can be helpful to bounce ideas off one another, and the conversational approach might even help you to better remember key information. In other cases, simply being surrounded by other people will the same goals can be helpful in improving productivity. If you live in shared accommodation, work with your housemates on building a timetable that fits around each other. You could each dedicate the same hours to studying, ensuring that the house is quiet for everyone, and then arrange to have meals at the same time.
Studying without any short-term results can feel pretty challenging. Set a deal with yourself that after completing a particular task, you are allowed to take a break to go out and order your favourite coffee, or watch thirty minutes of your favourite TV show. Adapt your rewards to the time and quality of your completed work – reading a book chapter deserves a chocolate bar reward while finishing a long essay is more than enough to grant you a day off to do whatever you fancy.
In the exciting university environment, there are so many ways a student can be distracted. Assess your own procrastination downfalls and change your workspace accordingly. If you find yourself constantly tempted to check Instagram or scroll aimlessly through TikTok – delete the apps! Even better, put your phone in another room to avoid temptation entirely. That said, there are an array of apps and extensions available for both your phone and laptop that are designed to end procrastination. One of the most popular amongst students is ‘Flora’, a free app which allows you to set a timer for studying – during this period, a virtual tree will be planted. If you succumb to using your phone, the tree will die, while success will see your tree thrive. There’s also the paid option to plant a tree in real life if you manage to keep the virtual one alive!
Understand your learning style
By the time you enrol at university you might already have figured this out, but it’s just as important now as it was for learning as a child. In finding your personal learning style, you can assess how to maximise your strengths, work on your weaknesses, and ultimately make your time more productive.
Here are some study ideas for each of the 4 main learning styles – visual; auditory; kinesthetic; and reading and writing:
- Visual: Use graphs, diagrams, and symbols. For revision, this could include mind maps, lecture handouts, and flashcards.
- Auditory: Situate yourself in a quiet environment, such as the university library. Try recording yourself reciting study information, and listen back to them for memory recall. Many lectures are actually filmed, but if not just speak to the lecturer about recording it yourself.
- Kinesthetic: Incorporate movement into studying. This might sound strange, but can require as little as pacing around while you read, writing things by hand rather than using a computer, or even chewing gum.
- Reading/writing learners: This learning style sort of encompasses all the others, but it is clear to many students if they prefer to study purely through notetaking, rather than listening to lectures on repeat or creating brightly-coloured mind maps. During revision, it can help to start with comprehensive notes on a topic and gradually rewrite them, condensing the information a little more each time.
Focus on one thing at a time
For a student studying multiple modules with multiple subtopics, it can be difficult to focus on just one assignment. Multi-tasking rarely ends well, however, and you run the risk of spreading yourself too thinly – yielding sub-par results. Instead, you should delegate one task to complete at a time, and work this into your personalised timetable. Tell yourself that you can only move on to the next task until the current one is completed, and not only is the quality likely to be better, but the feeling of satisfaction that comes from finishing something will motivate you to carry on.
Unsurprisingly, planning ahead is a really useful technique for improving time management. If you have a 2000-word essay due in three weeks, you could write just 100 words a day! By breaking up larger goals into sections, the process of time-blocking will become even more efficient. Planning is also key for writing essays. If you set aside time before starting to properly research, brainstorm ideas, and formulate a rough idea of the essay structure, writing the content should be much easier. It avoids the need for frantic mid-essay reading and fact-finding and ultimately saves you time. Another part of forward planning is the idea of visualising your future, and a time when you no longer have deadlines to worry about. For students, thinking about finishing their degree and receiving a result they’re proud of can do wonders for motivation. Whether you’re working towards a dream career or excited to finish university and travel the world, any form of ambition can bolster you with the momentum to study well. Hard work really can pay off!
Here we are!
Hopefully, these 10 time management tips demonstrate that learning to work more efficiently can be done with just a few changes. It’s a daunting process for students, and the struggle to organise the various deadlines and jobs does often trip people up, but it just takes time and practice. Once you embark on a more streamlined study routine, utilising techniques such as timetable creation and procrastination avoidance, you should find that some of the stress is taken out of studying.
It’s helpful to note that you should continue to review and reflect on your time management and university routine. If there’s a lull in your workload, adjust your goals accordingly – there’s no point designating ten hours of study time a day if you only have general reading to do. Similarly, things will undoubtedly be amped up during exam periods. Conserve your energy during the calmer periods, so when it comes to the semester of deadlines and assessments, you are well equipped to work productively and efficiently.