Monday, 19 October 2009

How to manage your time better.

timeSee the original by fullofbliss @ Flickr here.

A million and one things to do.
It’s about a month into the semester at most universities now – maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less for some. It’s at this point that tutors think “hey, let’s start handing out lots of essays!” and of course, they all think it at once. I have lots of university work to do without essays, never mind fitting in my actual work to make pennies and it can all get to me sometimes. I’m sure it can get to everyone. But it doesn’t need to. With a little bit of forward planning (and a bit of patience) you can make this buy time at university much more easy for yourself.

It’s gonna feel a little bit like high school…
Because in a way, you’ll be making a timetable for yourself. One that goes along with your university timetable, work rota and whatever else you have to fit in. Some of you will be able to only have to do this once a semester, or once a month. For people like me who get different shifts at work every week, I need to do this every seven days. So before we start, grab a pen and a piece of paper or open a new word processing document – whatever works best for you!

Back to the old lists.
I know, I know – whenever we do something like this I’m always saying make a list. For whatever time period your working within write down how many hours you’ll be a work (plus actual times), same for university classes and lectures and then all the assignments, essays and reading you’ll be doing. Obviously, with the university work it’s a bit of a guess for how many hours it’s going to take, but hopefully by now you know how long it’ll take you to write a 1500 word essay or read 50 pages of a book. Now make a second list of all the things you like to do and how long you tend to do them for, like reading, blogging, watching TV.

Put it all together.
We’re going to get a little picture happy here, but bare with me. Now’s the time for you to open up your spreadsheet programme or get out the ruler and felt tip pens. Create a grid with all seven days of the week along the top and then the hours you would realistically be able to give towards work, university and studying. For me that’s between 9am and 8pm before I finally lose focus. Then pop in all your solid commitments from the first list we made, the serious list – e.g. class times and when you will be at your work. It should look a little bit like this:


I’ve coloured mine to make it a bit easier to understand, but you don’t have to do this. So from this, we can see that the theoretical me has Monday afternoon and evenings free, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings free, Thursday mornings free, most of the morning and afternoon free on Friday and all day Sunday free. That’s a lot of time to fill.

Let’s say for my weekly tutorials I’ve been set

  • a small 1000 word essay to complete for the Monday morning
  • ten questions for the Wednesday afternoon
  • two sides of notes to be shared with the class on a Friday morning.

From the serious list, I have my guesstimates of

  • three hours for the essay writing (plus one hour in the library finding relevant books and journals)
  • an hour for the questions
  • two hours for the notes.
  • I will also need to do a combined total of five hours reading for all of my classes.

Let’s put all of these in what I think would be the best place for me:


Lots of new purple squares added there.You may have noticed that for the three separate assignments two of them are pencilled in for quite early in the morning. This is because that once you’re awake and had your breakfast and a nice cleansing shower you’ll do your best work. I don’t really know why it is, but I know I do better on my DS Brain Training earlier in the morning than later in the afternoon. Another point to note is that the essay has been split up. This is allow you to have another look at it after a break with a new perspective. You might find things to change when you’re finishing it up in that final hour – I know I do. Finally, I’ve spaced all the reading out because it’s easier to absorb when it’s in smaller chunks!

Remember that not so serious list of stuff we made? And see all those white spots up there? That’s where everything on the list goes. You don’t have to slot it in, I just brought it up to remind you that university isn’t all study, study, study – you have to do fun things too!

But how does this help me?!
Well ideally, once the hour is up, you stop reading, writing or whatever else you are doing. This only really works if you have your guesses right in the first place. But by setting yourself a realistic time limit, and working within them, you’ll be working yourself to your full potential and also more efficiently. Plus all the big white gaps can act as a good reminder that you have plenty of left over time in case you do need to give something that extra hour or two.

Hopefully this will help someone a little bit with the massive workload they feel they have, or maybe even help one of you work to your full potential. Please let me know how you all get on with this!



  1. This is a really good post!
    Im definitely going to try this one out!
    I always seem to not have enough hours in the day!
    Thanks for the great advice!

  2. Fantastic post! I've just started uni (again) and need to get myself sorted in terms of time management before everything starts piling up >.<

  3. Thank you girls :) Now I just need to stick to my own advice!

  4. hmmm maybe i should start trying this out. i procrastinate so badly.