Time management skills
Part of your learning strategy should be to identify your long-term goals relating to your studies and then plan accordingly. But even on a short-term basis you can plan effective study.
- What shall I do with the study time I've put aside today?
- What is important today for this week's goals?
- Would I be better off if I studied a section of my module, or worked out the tasks I need to do to complete my assignment?
Think about your short-term goals, such as completing an assignment. Try to divide your work for an assignment into manageable chunks that you can schedule into to the study sessions you have available. Breaking up a large task like this helps your motivation, so you really do get started on a particular study task. By setting goals and getting used to working to a plan you'll find it easier to stick to your study schedule.
Weekly schedules can help you to see how much time you have available to study, as you can also write in those times when you'll be working, or spending time with the family, for example. You may need to reorganise how you use your time in order to fit sufficient study hours into your week.
I was amazed when I did my time log. Did I really need to spend so much time on household shopping? So I tried supermarket home delivery services, freeing up more time to study."
Use daily or weekly 'to do' lists to help you to plan and prioritise. These can help to clear your mind and clarify what is really important for your studies, but they can also result in you making a commitment to yourself that you will do what you have planned and listed. It can be satisfying to tick-off the tasks you've completed on a list.
Planning is no guarantee everything will get done or that deadlines will be met, but the process of making a plan helps you focus on what the task entails and gives direction and purpose to your study.
|Target||What I need to do||With help from||Target date||Revised date||Date completed|
|Find out what the next TMA is about||Read the question and student advice||Bob - self-help group tutor at tutorial||12 April||12 April|
|Gather material for both parts of essay||Go through my notes extracting relevant bits. Check back through the module in case there is anything to add.||TV programme might be useful||13 April||13 April|
|Produce an essay plan for each part||Put the points in order||Discuss key points with Bob||13 April||13 April|
|Produce first draft of both parts||Put my notes in some sort of order with an introduction and conclusion||13 April||14 April||14 April|
|Produce final draft of part 1||Edit to make sure that all the points are relevant; proofread for spelling and grammar 'blips'||Self-help group meeting at pub||14 April||15 April||15 April|
|Produce final draft of part 2||As above||As above||16 April||17 April||17 April|
|Meet TMA deadline: 21 April||Have final read through (just in case!) and post to tutor||18 April||19 April||19 April|
An action plan can help you to identify what you want to achieve in the long term, and think through the steps you need to take in the short term to achieve this. This can make it easier to help you realise your goals. Your action plan could include these elements.
- My goal
- What do I need to do to achieve it?
- How can I achieve it?
- What resources will I need?
- When can I take action?
An action plan can be just a list of things to do, a chart giving deadlines, a diagram showing how the various parts of your plan interact, or a set of sticky notes on a sheet of card that you move around when each task is done. If you break down the overall task into a series of smaller targets, you can chart your progress in more detail. It's useful to have a way of recording your progress as well as a list of any sources of help that you need.
|My goal||a degree within six years|
|What do I need to do?||
need to complete 60 credits per year
allocate realistic time for study (i.e. 18 hours per week)
|How can I achieve it?||
do breakdown of typical week
note best and worst times of day for study
timetable in 18 hours using as much 'best time' as possible. Think about which study tasks I might tackle during 'difficult' times, e.g. watching course videos
|What resources do I need?||
Tom, my line manager - negotiate some study leave and/or flexible working hours
Clare - to add key family commitments to timetable (e.g. parents' evening)
parents - ask for help with children and garden
|When can I take action?||
talk to Tom during my appraisal on 10 November
talk to Clare next weekend while children are at swimming lessons and do timetable
ask Mum and Dad over for a meal next week