Balancing lectures, assignments, extra-curricular activities, and a social life can be challenging, but effective time management techniques can help you get the most out of your university experience
Things don't always go according to plan as a student, so effective time management is essential. Having methods in place will allow you to adjust your schedule as needed and reduce stress. Many resources are available to students, such as academic advisors, tutors, and student services, so don't be afraid to ask for help.
Setting clear, time-bound goals gives each task you complete a sense of purpose and direction. Begin each semester by outlining your deadlines for every course.
'Find a good version of a calendar that works for you. Whether it's a paper notebook, online calendar or something else, so long as you have it all in one place, it will help,' says Dr Rushana Khusainova, lecturer in marketing at the University of Bristol Business School.
Having a plan of action will help you stay organised and avoid feeling overwhelmed by looming assignments.
There are many apps designed to help you study more productively. Calendar apps can help you keep track of important deadlines, while task managers can help you break down large tasks into smaller steps and track your progress.
Here are a few productivity apps you could try:
- GoodNotes - Import planners from the web and create visual representations of your ideas.
- SimpleMind - Map out your thoughts and ideas in a way that works for you.
- NaturalReaders - Text-to-speech software that can read your lecture notes aloud in real-time.
- Stay Focused - Blocks all notifications and apps, allowing you to concentrate.
- Trello - Interactive task boards that allow you to collaborate with others on group projects.
Create a schedule
Allocate specific time slots for lectures, study sessions, and breaks, and be realistic about how much time you need for each task.
It is important not to overschedule yourself, or you'll end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Choose a scheduling method that works best for you, whether it's using a digital tool such as that offered by My Study Life or a simple paper planner.
Finally, schedule time for self-care, such as taking a bath, reading a book, or spending time with friends to avoid burnout.
'Consider factoring in some flexibility in your schedule,' advises Dr Khusainova. 'Think about the activities that support your wellbeing that you are not ready to sacrifice.'
Write lists and categorise tasks based on urgency and importance. This way, you can devote more time and effort to the tasks that truly matter.
As David Evans, associate director for building and construction management at the University of the West of England (UWE), suggests, 'always do the quick and simple tasks first. This frees up time and space to tackle bigger projects. It also helps to keep many small, short buffer zones and space for any unexpected interruptions.'
Develop consistent routines
Routines can help you manage your time by reducing decision fatigue. This is a feeling of being mentally and emotionally tired from making too many choices. It can lead to procrastination, poor decision-making, and increased stress.
'Take five minutes in the evening to look through the plan for the next day. That way, you mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming day and will be less likely to miss an appointment or a meeting,' advises Dr Khusainova.
Routines can also help by establishing structure and predictability by setting specific times for waking up, meals, exercise, and study sessions, and breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Study at home
Remote learning gives you the flexibility to choose where and when you study. This flexibility can be a great time-saving advantage, reducing commute times and social interruptions, but staying focused and productive at home can also be a challenge.
To improve your time management skills when learning remotely, make sure that you create an encouraging study environment at home. This means finding a quiet place where you can focus without any distractions.
Many universities offer resources to help students save time and learn at their own pace, such as online lectures, tutorials, and discussion forums. Utilise these tools which often provide step-by-step instructions on how to complete tasks, which can save you from having to figure things out on your own.
Take regular breaks
While it may seem counterintuitive, taking regular breaks can boost productivity. Short breaks, such as stretching, working on a different task, or going for a walk, can help to clear your head and improve your focus.
You could try the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that uses short, focused work sessions followed by short breaks. The technique is based on the idea that it is easier to focus on a task for a short time, and the breaks help reduce tiredness and improve your attention.
To use the technique, follow these steps:
- Choose a task to work on
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the timer goes off
- Take a short break (typically five minutes)
- Repeat steps two to four until the task is complete.
After four cycles, take a longer break (typically 20-30 minutes).
You can find an adapted timer at Study Pomodoro.
For more tips to help improve your productivity, visit VeryWellMind.
Find out more
- Discover 5 ways to manage student stress.
- Read our tips on getting the most out of lectures and seminars.
- Get advice on how to revise for exams.