Managing your time
Life can be so busy! Whether or not you think yours is busy now, managing your time is an essential skill for both study and work--structuring your time effectively is vital to success.
You have a whole day ahead of you. Your assignment is due in two days but you'll spend the entire day working on it. It'll be fine. You sit at your desk, pull out your books, sort a few things, wander about a bit, make a phone call, read the question again, make a few notes, have lunch, send an email, have another coffee, start reading a chapter and ... suddenly the day is gone and you've got that meeting tonight and no assignment. But you've been studying all day?
Wrong! You need to learn and use organising and time management skills. Planning and efficiency are extremely important and do not necessarily come naturally.
Timetabling is the place to start. To help you plan your time efficiently, you will need three kinds of timetables:
- a term planner to map out key events/tasks for the term
- a weekly timetable so you can structure your time in the short term while allowing flexibility
- a diary with daily 'things to do' lists to keep you on track.
You can use your school's planner or make your own. Enter in important events, like assignment deadlines, exam dates and major tasks and family/social commitments. Put this up above your study desk (you do have one, I hope!!!). It gives you an overall view of the extra busy times so you can organise around them.
You need copies of a blank weekly timetable in one-hour blocks. Each week fill in:
- lesson times
- chores/domestic commitments
- other classes/sport time
- leisure/free time
Note: If you do not build in free time you will resent your timetable and not keep to it. Exercise is also important to keep your mind fresh and alert. Try to do some exercise at least a couple of times a week.
- Divide the rest of your time into homework and study time.
The 'things to do' list is important and should be included in a diary so you can carry it with you and shuffle things around when necessary. Each night you need to make yourself a list of what to do the next day, for example:
- read Biology textbook Chapter 2
- analyse English essay question and start thinking about how I will answer it.
Beware a whole day set aside for study. This can be difficult to use effectively. If you must study a whole day, draw up a timetable for this day and keep to it.
Try to study three different subjects per day, or at least engage in three distinct tasks. Changing tasks produces a new energy surge. People tend to wind down if they work on the same thing for too long. Work in intensive blocks with short regular breaks. Up to two hours on one subject is usually enough. An intensive two-hour work session can cover as much ground as a whole day of half-hearted shuffling about. Schedule adequate computer time. It always takes longer than you think. Have a plan of action in case of technological hitches. 'The computer was down' is no excuse!
Think about when your brain works best. This could be in the morning, at night or in the middle of the afternoon. Plan your 'things to do' list accordingly. If you are going to read a difficult text for the first time, do not start at 10.00pm unless you are a natural night owl! Do something less demanding in your 'low' times: organise your notes; write the next day's 'things to do' list. Get out of the house. Work in a library or other suitable space if that gives you fewer distractions. Review class notes on the same day. The more time goes by the less able you are to 'reconstruct' the ideas and commit any new ideas to memory.
Re-read all your notes every week. Build this time into your timetable. Obviously, it will take more time each week as your notes pile up but it will dramatically reduce your exam study time at the end of the term and make you confident that you know your subjects. Organise your notes and do not borrow notes from others. Taking detailed notes in class will save you heaps of time later. Re-writing and adding to your notes is a great way to revise what you've learned. Keep all your notes in labelled files in chronological order. If you have missed or know you are going to miss a class, see the teacher. Other people's notes are not very helpful - they reflect someone else's interpretation, often in a way that might not make sense to you.
Time management - Tips from PASS leaders