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Helpful tips for time management Time management skills

Completing an assignment or receiving good feedback and marks can be a real buzz, but if things don't go to plan don't get discouraged. Instead, consider ways of using your limited time to the best advantage.

  • Pareto's Principle, or the 80/20 rule, says that 80% of the result can usually be gained by concentrating on the most important 20% of the task.
  • Regularly check your study calendar - be aware of approaching deadlines so there are no surprises.
  • Mark or highlight parts of your reading which are holding you up and move on past them - return to them when you have read more, because generally it will make more sense.
  • Attend tutorials or visit your online forum if at all possible - learning with fellow students and being guided by the tutor adds depth to your study, and it helps you to see that you are not alone.
  • Write out the next assignment question - use it as a bookmark and keep it in front of you while you're reading, so your notes are focused and relevant.
  • Learn new terminology as it appears - try to use it in assignments to demonstrate your comprehension of concepts and ideas.
  • Highlight and make a note of references you'll need in an assignment as you go along - this can really save time later.
  • Tell your tutor or student support team of any difficulties you are experiencing - they'll be pleased to offer help and guidance.

I had read the chapter and studied the pictures ready for the tutorial, but when we discussed them in depth I discovered nuances I had not even imagined - it was like turning on a light!

Helpful time management tips


Eulina (Tutor): I know people out there will probably laugh and think well where's the time but you just have to just try and be creative. We have people say, I'm a bus driver and on my night shifts I take out my course books. I used to read an hour at lunchtime. Or if you know you're taking a long train journey you could read then or get up at extra hour earlier. Look at the chapters. You could divide them up and say, right I could read that amount in an hour so I'm going to do that. And if you do it in bits it's a smaller task. And by the end of the week you could have read a whole chapter or a whole course book.

So it's about dividing up work. Seeing time in your schedule where you can fit it in. And, obviously life kicks in. You get the summer holidays. Kids are around. You might have extra work etc. So I think OU students sometimes really beat themselves up about how they don't have the time or they're falling behind. And what they're actually doing is quite above and beyond what other people are doing anyway. So they really shouldn't knock themselves. And sometimes you will fall behind and you just need to take stock again. And try and stick to your timetable.

Staying on track


Ian (Student): When I fall behind with work the first thing I have to do is to try and not stress out about it. Because it's not good for your health. It gets you down. It de-motivates you. Which is the last thing you need when studying, when doing distance learning.

Michael (Student): Your work will get on top of you. Your social life will get on top of you. Your family and friends will get on top of you. Your study will get on top of you. The best strategy that I've always had for that is step back away from the problem. Give yourself a break from it. Even if it's just a couple of days. Even if it's a week. You can still get back into it in the end. And if you are slightly behind so be it. Again you prioritise the work you have to do. And you get back into it. But while you're close to it, it can become the be-all and end-all of your life. And you just need to get away. Relax. And move back into it when you feel that you're ready to do it.

Ian: I tend to find that exercise helps a lot. So even though I have fallen behind and even though I do realise that I could be spending the hour or two on doing work. I find that exercise actually helps a great deal. It helps to improve concentration. And when I do fall behind, the first thing I do is draw up a plan as to how far behind I am. And how much time I'd need to invest to catch up. The Open University and the tutors are also very helpful in assisting you and providing extensions and so forth.

Make active choices

Accept that you may have to compromise in your study and, if necessary, cover only the essentials. This keeps you in control, even if your marks are not as good as they could be with more time.

Talk to your family and friends. Perhaps they can help with childcare, walking the dog - or to read your drafts and listen to your ideas.

Talk to us

Contact your tutor or student support team as soon as you can if you fall behind. It may be possible to cover only the essentials in the module, but you should seek advice early. You'll find all your contacts on Contact us.

Last updated 5 months ago