Time management skills can be developed and improved with practice. First, you need to know how you use time as a resource in organizing, prioritizing, and succeeding in your studies while reserving time for other activities with friends, family etc. Next, execute the plan you make with regular reviews to ensure you are on track and always well prepared.
Strategies on using time
- Blocks of study time and breaks
Plan blocks of study time for a typical week. Plan study time when you know you are most productive. Ideally, a block could be around 50 minutes. After which take a break. A break should give you an opportunity to have a snack, relax, or otherwise refresh or re-energize yourself. Difficult topics may require more frequent breaks. Shorten your study blocks if necessary – but do not forget to return to the task at hand!
Review and tweak to find what works for you.
- Dedicated study spaces
It’s a good idea to have a dedicated space to study. Let others know about it, so they will not disturb you. Find a place space free from distraction (no cell phone or text messaging!) where you can concentrate well. It should be placed where you will consciously not too anything other than study.
- Weekly reviews
Weekly reviews and updating your schedule is an important strategy. Each week, review your assignments, notes, calendar. Select a suitable time, for example, Sunday night, for this and stay with it. Be mindful of deadlines and exams, tweak your weekly routine to adapt to them!
- Prioritise your assignments
When studying, get in the habit of beginning with the most difficult subject or task. You will be fresh and have more energy to take them on when you are at your best. For more difficult courses of study, try to be flexible. Build in a buffer or reaction time for example when you need to get feedback on assignments before they are due.
- Achieve “stage one” – get something done!
First and most important, start your task. You will understand the complete details and requirements of an assignment only when you begin the assignment.
“Perfection is the enemy of good”, especially when it prevents you from starting! Roughly draft your idea and get going. You will have time to edit and develop later. Only once you start can you understand the exact requirements and tweak your schedule to make time for things you may not have planned for.
- Postpone unnecessary activities until the work is done!
Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until your work is finished! Be able to identify the time wasters. This is possibly the most difficult challenge of time management. As learners we always meet unexpected opportunities that look appealing, they result in poor performance on a test or in preparation for a task. Distracting activities will be more enjoyable later without the pressure of the test or assignment hanging over your head. Think in terms of pride of accomplishment. Instead of saying “no” learn to say “later”.
- Identify resources to help you
Are there tutors? An expert friend? Have you tried a keyword search on the Internet to get better explanations? Is there reference material in the library that can get? What about professionals and professional organizations. Using outside resources can save you time and energy and solve problems. These will also give you a better and more wholesome perspective of the subject/task.
- Use your free time wisely
Think of times when you can study “bits” when walking, traveling on the bus, or perhaps you are in a line waiting. These are the perfect times for reviewing and rereading lessons. The bottom line is to put your time to good use. This time is different from the free time when you relax and enjoy other energizing activities. It just means using ‘in-between time’ fruitfully.
- Review notes and readings just before class
Make time to review class notes. It will help you identify grey areas and clarify them in class or from others. It helps to be prepared. Regular reviews will keep you ready to take on tests without anxiety.
- Review lecture notes just after class
It’s a good idea to review lecture material immediately after class. The first 24 hours are critical. Research shows that forgetting is greatest within 24 hours without review!
- Create a simple “To Do” list
This simple activity will help you identify everything you need to do/complete. You will be able to prioritize tasks as per their importance and draft a timeline to get things done. Review this list and make adjusts to ensure you achieve everything you set out to do.
- Daily/weekly planner
Write down classes, assignments, lectures, research, meetings in a book or chart. You can also sketch out your schedule. Every morning, check what’s ahead and every night check your schedule for the following day. Being prepared will help you do well and boost your confidence.
- Long term planner
Use a calendar sheet or a monthly chart so that you can plan ahead.
A Long-term planner will also serve as a reminder to constructively plan time for yourself.
All of us have the same 24 hours, but what we achieve is staggeringly different. Develop and use time management skills to realize and achieve your dreams.