I began my first university degree immediately after graduating high school. I had achieved well as a high school student, but it didn’t take a great deal of reflection to spot that my time management skills were virtually non-existent. Unfortunately, I developed no actually useful time management strategies during my university years either. Somehow I stumbled through bachelor and postgraduate degrees, but at the time, I never fully appreciated just how lacking in time management skills I was. The fact that I was seeing far, far too many sunrises and drinking far, far too much coffee, as I battled to complete assignments, should have alerted me to this fact. As should the frequent full-pelt SPRINTS (uphill, I’d like to add) as I raced, panic-stricken to get my assignments into the inbox before they locked it off.
Yes, I’m older. I first went to uni at a time when you had to physically hand in an assignment, when chatting to my fellow students was done over cheap coffee as opposed to online, and when using actual books was the only option for research.
Fast forward a few (quite a few) years later and I found myself studying once again, this time an external Master’s degree. Technology had well and truly arrived by this stage, but did that mean I had more time? NO. I had failed to factor in the seismic shift that had occurred in my life in the ‘between degree’ years.
This time around, I was married, with three small people, a full-time day job, an evening online teaching job, and weekend and afternoon piano teaching thrown in, just for fun. Add in school runs, school committees, school lunches, school concerts and sports carnivals … I was busy.
Before classes start, set up folders for each course you’re studying that semester on your computer, so you have places to put things once everything kicks off.
If you prefer to have hard copy materials, or like to have both, set up the folders you have bought, put the dividers in and label them up (e.g. Week 1, Week 2, and so on). Next, set up your weekly study calendar and your assessment calendar (I’ll cover how to do this in the next step!) so that you’re ready to go.
One of the most important things to do to set yourself up for a productive semester ahead is to put the due dates for each course you’re studying into an assessment calendar so you can see what’s coming up. Once you’ve done this, work backwards, including the main assessment tasks, such as research, drafting, fill in any gaps you’ve identified along the way or where you need to include references and work towards the final draft. I found that I generally had five weeks to work on an assessment task, so my assessment calendar looked like this:
By setting out my due dates and working backwards, I knew at each point during semester what I needed to be working on, which helped me stay on track. If you get really excited (and organised), you can prepare a multi-subject assessment calendar like the one below. I promise this WILL help you manage your time!
I know this sounds a little overly enthusiastic, but all I do is find five articles on the assignment topic. I don’t even read them. I generally go to a database or Google Scholar, find five articles and save them in my ‘Research Articles’ folder in H:\Subject 1\Assignment 1\Research Articles (see tip #3 above).
This way, mentally, I’ve made a start on my assignment. The next day, I can open this folder, pick the first article and start reading it and take notes. Maybe the article is relevant, maybe it’s not. If not– I have the next article to go on to. But I’m on my way.
This strategy has really helped me to overcome assessment procrastination, which ultimately, saves me time.
Life’s too short for boring shoes and plain Greek yoghurt, and it’s too short to spend it all stressed out because you have ‘no time’ to enjoy it. Some of these strategies will work for you, some maybe not. Excellent time management strategies can be developed, and they absolutely will help you to manage your time better and be a more effective student, and a member of the human race.
For more ways to organise your time efficiently so you can get more done, visit these time management resources on Social Hub.