Deb: How to organise quality study time and get more done
Debbie is a Career Development Practitioner at USQ and is passionate about helping students along their career journey. She enjoys hanging out with her family, reading books about people who climb very high mountains and playing music.
There is no way I could have made it through my master’s degree without a set of super-effective time management strategies. I didn’t have these the first time around when I was studying my bachelor and postgraduate degrees, but by the time I started my master’s degree, I had them down to a very fine art. Not to brag, but my GPA was great, so I know that time management skills can be developed and these strategies are effective.
Here is how I organise everything I have to do at uni into a manageable weekly study schedule.
Setting up a study schedule sounds so simple and everyone recommends it, but in my experience, not a lot of people actually do it. Personally, I know I couldn’t have juggled all of the things I juggled while studying my master’s degree without one.
Having a calendar stuck to my wall, right there in front of my face, helped me be accountable. Sometimes I’d cheat a little, but most times, the little voice in my head would whisper ‘you know you should be studying right now’, and this would push me in an office-ly direction.
So, how do you actually set up a weekly study calendar, and what type of things do you include?
I began with all of the immovable items: kid things, work things, other important ‘life’ things (grocery shopping, sleep, The Blacklist).
Next, I considered the study time that works best for me. I am a night owl, so morning study slots were never going to work for me.
I did some research to find out how much time I would realistically need to get through my work successfully. Both Google search and Ask USQ recommends 10-12 hours per week, which I think this is pretty accurate. I know a lot of people skate by on a lot less than this, but this is what I needed to achieve the grades I wanted to achieve. I am not a ‘Cs make degrees’ girl. If I’m going to dedicate this kind of time, effort and money to something, I want it to be done well.
I fitted these study hours into my weekly calendar. I studied two courses per semester so for me, this meant Monday/Tuesday = Course 1, Wednesday/Thursday = Course 2.
By 8pm, my kids were usually settled, so this is when I’d start study, and I’d generally pull up around midnight. Generally. Straight up, this is 8 hours per course. A good start.
Friday nights were kept strictly for vegetative purposes such as watching TV, staring at a wall, or rocking quietly in a corner.
Saturdays were used for study … generally two hours per course at least. Sometimes more when needed.
I tried hard to keep Sundays, like Fridays, for rest, recreation and recovery.
All work and no play …
I sincerely believe you need to build in time off into your weekly schedule, especially if you’re juggling many things. If you push yourself 100% of the time, you won’t learn effectively, and in all likelihood, you will burn out. You have to give yourself time and permission to enjoy your life.
Break study sessions into bite-sized chunks
I have learned that I work best in 50-minute chunks. After this, I need to give my eyes a break from the computer screen, and my brain a mini-break. So I would get up and grab a drink, or do something super fun like fold some clothes. Once the timer hit the ‘o’clock’ mark again, I would get back into it.
I also learned that I need to be specific in allocating time to specific tasks in my timetable, to break my four-hour study periods down. I am spectacularly capable of counting bricks in the wall or considering cleaning the fridge – something I never otherwise do, when there is study to be done. So writing ’Study’ on my timetable wasn’t enough. If I am specific about what needs doing at a particular time, I will do it.
I broke the times down like this:
Monday – Subject 1
Tuesday – Subject 1
Assignment work. This always depended on what stage of my assessment calendar I was up to. I’d either be researching, drafting, gap-filling, or working on my good copy.
See my blog on time management tips to tackle assessment for more tips on this!
Wednesday – Subject 1
Rinse and repeat Monday.
Thursday – Subject 2
Rinse and repeat Tuesday.
None of this is rocket science. Once you’ve developed your weekly study schedule, put it somewhere you will see it every day and stick to your plans. I have read varying theories on how long it takes to create a new habit. But like anything – diet, exercise – it does take time. You have to commit and hang in there, trusting that at the end of the day, these strategies will serve you well.
For more ways to organise your time efficiently so you can get more done, download these free, easy-to-use time management templates.