Managing Study Time
Managing your time effectively is the key to effective study. You may not know exactly how you spend the time you do have or you may think you do not really have enough time to study at all.
“I used to find there was always a good reason I could find to not do some study, or something pressing, particularly if it was something I was not interested in. There are always going to be some things that are automatically more motivating to you than others. I just remind myself of the short term goals and the long terms goals then look at which step I am on towards these, that usually motivates me to hurry up and get going!”
Often what is needed is to take a time audit of how you spend all your time. To do this you set up a diary for say a week or fortnight with times listed in it and note down you activities in that time frame. These would be things you do regularly- say ever Tuesday from 5-7 pm you play basketball, but you get home at 4 or 3.30, so is there a gap of time here that can be set aside on a regular basis to study?
As a parent you may need to take the children to soccer practice one night a week? Can you share the drop off and pick up times with another parent so you have a week when you are free? Can you take some notes or the laptop or iPod with you and do some work at the match or in a coffee shop nearby? Travel time to and from work can sometimes be used to for your study time for that new career you are planning. Which days are best for this?
In an office situation you may be asked to regularly check or audit your time spent during the day. Over a week or a month you note down what you were doing each hour, or possible each half hour a day over say a week or a month. It is time consuming to do this but you can quickly see if you do where the lost hours go who or what is dominating your time, what or who is taking away previous productivity time.
Is your whole day 9-5 every day of the working week interrupted with phone calls, junior staff dropping in and asking questions, checking and rechecking emails and responding? When it is hectic like this, you think you have no time in the day. Often a pattern will emerge, same goes for you time outside work when you may want to study. Audit the time and soon you will see what is happening. Set aside special times in the day to cater for activities in blocks.
Ideas on time management
• Have an hour say at the start and the finish of the day to attend to emails. Set aside another hour or so close to this for phone calls, a time for meetings. Let others know these are set times and at these times you will attend to those matters and not any other time.
• The same goes on the home or domestic scene. Have a set time you walk the dog, a set time for hobbies, a set time to help children with their homework, then around this allocate definite days and times for study and times for some decent relaxation and time off to yourself. It is surprising when you look closely how much time you can find that you can make more productive for study and you time.
• As a parent you can help children set aside their own timetable similar to this and make out one for themselves that works well with their fin activities and study activities worked out for a week.
• The obvious way to manage your study time is to create a schedule, allocating certain times throughout the week or day to undertake certain study tasks.
Some people though, have great difficulty sticking to a schedule- they procrastinate! About half students can find some easy distraction and reason not to study. It is easy to do when you do not think you will be good a something, it is all new, you have failed at some things in the past, it does not seem like a pleasant or fun activity. Most of this is just a psychological filter or blocking system your brain activates when it thinks something is threatening. This is where positive thinking works well.
• Turn your thinking and reasoning ideas around so they are positive and future directed breaking tasks into smaller sections, factoring in breaks and rewards along the way as incentives, picturing in your mind from the start that you will be successful and it will be something enjoyable.
• Focus not on the enormity or complicated aspects of the task but the rewards along the way and especially at the end when you achieve success. All make a great different your motivation and getting started. It is largely in the mindset and you have control yourself over how you choose to respond to the challenge, with optimism for the unknown, not fear!!
• When planning to study, for people who find study tedious; another way to manage time is to schedule the “fun things” in life instead of scheduling the “tedious”. An alternative is instead of allocating 20 hours a week for study; and looking forward to having left over time for fun; reverse the method- you might schedule 20 hours a week for fun and commit to spending left over time on study (This can sometimes trick the mind into getting studies done that might otherwise be avoided) Just make sure you have booked in the time slot for study and take it seriously or of course the FUN can fill out…. all the time! Remember that positive focus on future rewards it will bring!
Managing your time is easier.
Here are some tips on time management:
- Set study and free time goals, with timelines sub goals and deadlines.
- Develop routine study habits. Decide how you are going to plan. Whether you decide on a rigid plan or will determine your plan at the start of each week, decide what you are going to do.
- Draw up a blank timetable for the week. Do not schedule study times; just write in times when you do study on each day; and look at it each day to see how fast you are filling it up. (possibly build in a rewards system too i.e. for every hour of study the reward is a 20 min swim in the pool, doing a crossword, some small special treat)
- Write time studied on your chart if you stick at it for half an hour or more; but do not write it if you spend less time.
- Try to make a “start” each day. DO aim to do any particular amount of study. DON“T aim to start at any particular time of day. Just aim to start each day (Making a start without any presumption of how long you will study, is easier than making a start with knowledge of how much time you are obliged to spend).
- When you are studying alone make a game of it, compete with yourself! Try to achieve a task better or faster than you did last time; or in a shorter period of time than last time. If you normally write 300 words in an hour, you might challenge yourself to increase that to 350 or 400 words.
- Another well-known idea in academic circles is Ten minutes of nearly anything is tolerable and achievable, so the idea is to set a small amount of minimum say ten minutes, something you know you can achieve and build in bonuses for every five or ten minutes you end up spending after that.
- Develop a reward system for yourself. E.g. Allow yourself a piece of chocolate; or half an hour on a computer game, after each half hour of study.
- Define a goal before commencing a study session and stick to it (e.g. To complete an assignment, to finish reading a chapter; to work for 1 hour).
- Set your phone, computer or laptop to ring or remind you at a certain time when you have set aside to do your ten minutes or more and this will remind you to concentrate on your goal. Check it is set each night so that you are ready to study the next day and this is particularly important if you prefer to study or your only time to study is in the morning. If you aim is early morning set two alarm times one to wake up properly and another five or ten minutes later when you are refreshed and ready to go! Don’t forget the motivation too, to get started!
- Another reinforcing key that fits well in the brain is to tell someone important what your study goal or time goal is. This helps because they can remind you beforehand or ask you later how well you went with your efforts. Telling someone means you subconsciously know that person is likely to ask how you are going and this is more likely to help you to make the commitment.
- If you are studying a number of subjects simultaneously one alternative is to have a study book and timetable for each subject. Some subjects may be more important that others and need more time allocated to them. List the number of hours you need to spend studying, outline the subheading areas within the subject you are studying and set a time for each of these. Or, in the one study timetable have a timetable for each subject or course you are studying. Check at the end of each day or week that you are on target with the number of hours and subject areas studied, keep some spare hours aside in your study week to use for catch up if one subject is progressing slower than it should be.
- Break your study into small sections or chunks. When you know the time frame you have to study before the work needs to be completed set yourself a goal to complete by the end of each week if there is time or maybe it’s two a week or one a day. Make it an intense program of hard work when you do study, as if it is too light or easy and the time you set aside too little, it is easy to get distracted.
- Reward yourself after each small section is completed.
- Colour coding the subjects or study times on a timetable of all your activities is another way to set aside blocks of time and at a glance you can see by the colour which one you need to do today. Sometimes having a different coloured folder for each subject that matches with the colour outlined in your study timetable helps you to see clearly what needs to be done and what your study focus for the time is. Coloured themes and equipment can also help to make you studying environment and time spent more stimulating and enjoyable.
- Some students even DRESS for success to help them focus on their studying. Putting on a smart business jacket or hat can help focus for a professional course, put on your favourite football scarf for sports or physical education study, your chefs, hat and apron to study for your catering course or hospitality degree.
- Discover things that distract you and avoid them (anything that causes your mind to wander). This may involve turning off your phone, as constant calls and texting can be very distracting for students. Here are some other distractions to avoid
An extract from a book by our academic staff
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