As a student, you have to deal with various demands on your time. Whether you’re studying for A-levels, or degrees at Undergraduate or Postgraduate level, you may well find that you have a part-time job to help to fund your studies. As well as this, you will want to factor in time for family and friends, sporting activities, socialising and relaxing. With a normal day being restricted to 24 hours, it is therefore vital that you learn time management strategies that allow you to manage your time effectively and ensure that you have a successful study/work/life balance.
Therefore, what can be done in order to make your student life easier and ensure the least amount of stress for yourself? The key is to identify the time management strategies that suit you and that you can implement from the beginning of the Academic Year. It is not a good idea to start thinking about impending assessments half way through the term, as you will have already missed out on valuable reading and research time. Here are a few tips that can help you to maximise the time available to you, from the start of Term and throughout your student life:
- Setting daily goals is a good way to ensure that the most important tasks are completed. This can either be done the night before or first thing in the morning. If you have an important presentation coming up in the near future, this can be the first goal to be achieved and ticked off the “to do” list. The next task can then be tackled. However, it is important to be realistic, trying to do too many tasks could lead to you doing nothing as you will feel overwhelmed.
- Try to use all of the spare time that you have. For example, if you have to catch the bus or train to University or College, this could be a time to catch up on reading. The time saved here could then be invested in going for a run or watching a film.
- Find a job that suits your energy levels. If you need to find part-time work, try to find a job where you would work during your least academically productive times. If you can study better in the mornings, try to find evening paid work. Similarly, try to schedule household chores during your least mentally productive times. This will ensure that time allocated to studying is productive.
- Ensure distractions are kept to a minimum when studying. Although listening to the radio/TV can help some students to study better, for the vast majority of students it stops them from concentrating fully on their work. When researching on the internet, try not to get distracted by Social Media. Logging out of Facebook will certainly help, as it takes a strong person not to read a message or notification that pops up. Research has shown that constantly checking Social Media has an adverse effect on productivity. Constantly being interrupted can affect concentration and lead to tasks taking a lot longer to complete.
- Get enough sleep. Whilst time studying should be maximised, if it is at the expense of sleep, it can be counter-productive. Thoughts will not be as clear, sitting in front of a computer screen or reading will make the eyes even more tired and in the long term, health can deteriorate.
- Decide where is the best place to study. Libraries and study rooms are not always the most productive places to study. Libraries are not always the quiet places they used to be. The inclusion of computers, often means that students sit together and spend too much time chatting. If there is a quiet study room, this might aid concentration. As most books and journals are available online now, students might also find that studying in their own rooms might be more productive. However, it is important to factor in social interaction time too, which could be at Lunchtime. The important thing is to ensure that there is quality time to study and socialise, as trying to combine the two will lead to both being diluted.
Identifying the time management strategies that work for you is often a case of trial and error. You may not instantly know when is your best time to study, or which tasks are better completed at a certain time of day.
However, as long as adequate time is allocated to studying, tasks can be swapped around until the most productive fit is found. The main aim is to manage your time adequately from the start, so that deadlines are prepared for in advance, stress is minimised and you can reap the benefits of a full University/College experience. Once you have identified which time management strategies work for you whilst studying, it will be an easy transition to transfer your newly learnt skills (inc your time management skills) to the workplace.
Till Next time
Mike Gardner is The Time Doctor