One of the biggest problems some students face is managing their time while getting used to newfound independence, freedom, and responsibility. I’ve put together a few tips for making sure you can enjoy your university experience while still making the best of your education.
Prioritise your day in advance and try not to let new information overcomplicate that list. Your flatmate popping their head in to see if you want to watch a movie sounds like fun, but you haven’t finished the reading for tomorrow’s lecture! If one movie is going to stretch into two, into a long night, say no, or ask if you can start a bit later then finish your work first. However, prioritisation doesn’t mean only do the boring work stuff and you’re never allowed fun. Sometimes, having fun with your friends is going to be higher up your priority list than your work. As long as you know how to find a balance, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Knowing your Uni timetable is a big help when planning a work schedule. Do you have an hour after each lecture to do next week’s reading so it’s out of the way? Or do you need to do it the day before to make sure you remember it? Different people work in different ways and require different attitudes and levels of focus. You might have the energy to do next week’s reading but not tomorrow’s essay plan. Even if you’re not always working through your tasks in chronological order, maintaining some level of productivity where you can will help overall. Try to maintain a schedule to avoid letting your work build up until the final frantic weeks of term.
Monitoring (know your dates!)
Write down your deadlines and the details of each assignment. Put them somewhere you’ll see them regularly – a wall calendar, a diary you check regularly, even a piece of paper blue-tacked above your desk! Keeping this information in view means you’re less likely to be caught with the wrong deadline in mind. It also means you have as much forewarning as possible for deadlines that conflict each other.
Take a break
Sometimes, the motivation that you need just isn’t there. You can try to create it – give yourself something to look forward to, or tell yourself you can’t move on until you’ve done something, but if it just doesn’t come, that’s okay! If it happens too often, you need to work on getting stricter on yourself, but breaks are healthy and necessary. If you need to take an hour or two away from your workload, then that’s what you should do. And no feeling guilty for it either! Go out and do something fun.
However, when you do, make sure to take a proper break. Five minutes scrolling through Instagram feels like a great plan, but –
- It always ends up being more than five minutes.
- If you don’t leave your seat, your brain can’t properly differentiate between “work time” and “break time”.
- Right now, we’re surrounded by screens just to get our work done, and your eyes need a break too.
Go for a walk. Go to the gym or do some exercise at home. Make a cup of tea, or a snack. And when you do settle in to work, make sure you’ve sorted yourself out so that you can sit and work solidly.
Ultimately, time management is personal – different systems work for different people. Try experimenting for a week or two until you find the rhythm that works for you. University can seem overwhelming, but support is always there if you need it. If you’re struggling academically, reach out to your academic mentor or your module lecturer. In four years, I’ve yet to have a lecturer who was unwilling to help when I needed it. If you’re struggling with anything non-academic, the university has a Wellbeing Service accessible to every student. Just because you might be living away from home for the first time ever, doesn’t mean that you’re alone, and there’s no shame in asking for help if you need it.