Managing your time effectively is one of the biggest challenges for new university students. University can be a lot less structured compared to school or college, often with fewer formal classes to attend (although it depends on your subject). You need to be able to manage your own time in order to complete your assignments, review material, and revise for exams.

To make the most of the time you have, you can use a range of techniques for good time management. If you’re a first-year student, you can benefit from some of the tips we’ve put together to help you manage your time effectively.

Optimise Your Environment

The first thing you can start with is making sure you’re in the right environment to study. There are plenty of different places you can work when you’re at uni, which give you options depending on what you prefer. You could choose somewhere public like the library, or you might prefer to be somewhere more private like your own room.Wherever you choose to work, try to remove any distractions. You might do this by finding a quiet corner of the library, turning off your phone or putting it on silent, and making sure you’re not watching TV or anything else. Ask your housemates and friends to allow you time on your own without distracting you. Some people find music helps to block out distractions, but others might find that music is distracting in itself.

If you’re in your room, you could decorate it so it’s a calming environment for studying. Plants can have a calming effect, for example, so you might find they help you to concentrate if you’re allowed them.

Struggling to get things done? Try a change of scenery to see if it helps you.

Weekly Planning

Getting organised is one of the most helpful things you can do if you want to boost your productivity. When you’re organised, you don’t waste time trying to figure out what you should be doing or flicking from one activity to another. Weekly planning will help you to lay out what you need to do, which lectures, seminars, or labs you have to attend, and how you can fit your work around other activities. Sit down at the beginning or end of the week to map out your plan for the coming week with a timetable or a list of things to do.

Weekly Reviews

Weekly reviews are excellent for reinforcing anything you’ve just learned. They give you a chance to go over the subjects you’ve covered during the week. You can take a look at notes you’ve taken or any extra material you might have been given, including slides, documents, or printed information. Set aside some time at the end of each week, or at any point in the week that you feel could be a good time for a review. Just an hour or so reviewing what you’ve learned can help you to clarify anything you don’t understand and remember the lessons you’ve covered.

Track Your Time

Managing your time can be tricky if you find it hard to keep track of how much time has passed. Do you know how long it takes you to write 500 words? Can you judge when half an hour has gone by? Tracking your time can help you to work out how to use it more effectively.
If you need help with tracking your time, there are apps that can help you to do it. Some examples of apps you can use include Toggl, HourStack, and Eternity. You can use these apps not just to track your time but to organise and prioritise tasks too.

How to Prioritise Tasks

Prioritising your workload can be really tough if you’re finding it difficult to manage your time and productivity. When you have a lot of things to do with different deadlines, it’s not always easy to know what you should be doing first. Do you prioritise by deadline, workload, difficulty, or something else? One of the best approaches can be to do your hardest task first. Once you have the most difficult task out of the way, the rest of your work can feel like a breeze. Your most difficult task won’t necessarily be the longest. It could be the thing that you find most challenging or hard to understand.

Setting Realistic Deadlines

Setting deadlines is a must if you want to be productive and manage your time. You will have deadlines set for you for some of your work, but it’s important not to leave everything until the last minute. Setting your own deadlines will help you to manage your workload more easily, especially if you have several pieces of work due at once. It’s important to be able to manage your own expectations when you set deadlines. Don’t be too optimistic about how you’re going to use your time, but be realistic about how long something will really take you to finish.

Making Use of Time Blocking and Breaks

Time blocking is a smart technique that can help you to be productive. Everyone has a different attention span, but research has shown that we can probably only concentrate for about 90 minutes before we need a break. It’s especially important to take breaks if you’re using a screen so that you can give your eyes a rest. You’re not going to get square eyes, but you could start to feel the strain after a while. Try blocking your time and taking regular breaks. 90 minutes of working followed by a 15-minute break is a good place to start, but you can find your own rhythm.

The Importance of Self-Care

Remember the importance of taking care of yourself if you want to be productive. It’s difficult to be at your best mentally if you don’t care for yourself physically. Regular exercise, good nutrition, and plenty of quality sleep all contribute to a healthy mind. It’s easy to stay active while at university. Join a sports club or go to the gym to keep fit on your own or with others. Eating cheaply and healthily is possible too. Try some cookbooks or recipe blogs designed for students and eating on a budget for ideas. You should try to keep to a good sleep schedule too, even if you have some late nights.

By managing your time well, you can be more productive and reach your goals in your first year at university. Once you’ve completed your first year, you’ll feel ready to tackle the rest of your course.

Stress is something that affects us all in different ways. As a student, one of your major sources of difficulty is likely to be your academic workload. Other things can cause you to feel overwhelmed too, including relationships, money, and work. However, there are healthy ways to deal with stress and manage it so that it doesn’t affect you negatively.

What Is Stress?

We often think of stress as something negative, but it’s not always a bad thing. A certain amount can motivate us, push us to work hard, and build resilience. It is a response to things in our life that we can usually control, and which we can take steps to manage better. But stress can also become overwhelming and difficult to manage. It can cause feelings of anxiety and make it difficult to achieve what we want, instead of pushing us to work hard.

How Do Students Experience Stress?

Students can find that they are affected by stress in numerous ways. It’s natural to feel somewhat stressed when you’re at university. You have academic pressure, plus you might be managing various other issues that make your experience at uni even harder. Nearly half of students in the UK feel stressed by their course, although exactly how much varies by institution.

How to Recognise Academic Stress

When you’re feeling stressed, you might react in a few different ways. It might make you want to avoid things, or you might find it difficult to get things done. You can be physically affected by these feelings too, experiencing symptoms of anxiety such as an increased heart rate or headaches. Or you can experience emotional and psychological symptoms, from feeling panicked and anxious to finding it difficult to sleep.

How to Manage Stress

Stress is to be expected when you’re at university, but if you’re finding it overwhelming, there are ways to manage it. With the right techniques, you can make sure that it doesn’t affect you too much. You can even use small amounts of pressure to your advantage to help yourself be more driven.


Mindfulness is an excellent method for managing stress. People often feel anxiety because they are overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings about the past and future. Perhaps you’re worried about an essay that wasn’t marked too highly or about an upcoming exam. Mindfulness aims to get you focusing on the here and now, so you can keep calm and take things one step at a time. If you want to practise mindfulness, you might find that a guided mindfulness session is helpful. You can use an app or find a video or podcast online to guide you through your practice.

Get Physical

Frequent exercise is great for helping you deal with stress. When you exercise regularly, it helps you to process feelings of worry and anxiety through a physical outlet. There are lots of ways to be more active, and you don’t have to go to the gym if you don’t want to. You could join a sports club, go for a run, do some yoga in your room, or attend an exercise class. But your uni gym can also be great value if you want to make use of it.

Connect with Others

Spending time with other people makes stress easier to handle too. When you spend time with others, it gives you the opportunity to forget about your worries and focus on other things. Alternatively, it can be a good outlet if you feel like having a moan or you want to talk to your friends or coursemates about the things that are making you worried. It can make you feel less alone to learn that other students are also experiencing the same problems.

Manage Your Time Effectively

Stress can overwhelm you if you’re struggling to manage your time effectively. When you don’t have a handle on how you divide your time between different commitments and activities, you can find yourself having to rush to finish work or facing multiple assignments all at once. There are lots of techniques you can use to make the best use of your time. Try planning ahead and setting deadlines so that you can decide what you need to do and when in advance.

Get Quality Sleep

If you’re not sleeping well, it can have a significant effect on your stress levels. Poor quality sleep or not enough sleep can affect you in many ways, including changing your mood, making it hard to concentrate, and making it more difficult to deal with your emotions. Even though there are times when you might stay up late, whether because you’re enjoying yourself or trying to finish some work, it’s important to try and sleep well on a consistent basis. Quality sleep can tie into good time management. Try not to stay up too late too often.

Don’t Rely on Stimulants

It’s tempting to turn to substances that can keep you awake and focused when you’re stressed, whether it’s caffeine or something stronger. It might seem like the answer to your problems, but it could end up making things worse. If you’re using stimulants to help you focus, you can end up dealing with big crashes in mood and energy when they wear off. You might find that you actually end up making yourself more overwhelmed and anxious, rather than improving matters.

Avoid Procrastination

It’s so easy to fall victim to procrastination, especially when you convince yourself you have plenty of time to do something. Procrastination can also be tempting when you’re feeling stressed because avoiding your work seems easier compared to actually getting it done. However, the longer you put something off, the more pressure you can start to feel. You’re going to be under more pressure trying to get an essay written in 24 hours than you would be planning ahead and finishing with time to spare. Avoid procrastination and plan your time effectively to get your work done.

Taking steps to manage stress can help to make your time at university much more fun. Get on top of stress before it overwhelms you.

Leaving education is a significant milestone for every adult. Until now, your life has been on a clear path, following a set trajectory and pursuing pre-defined goals. Preparing for what’s next and embracing the unknown is a stark contrast. 

In effect, you’ve reached a crossroads. For the first time, you’re the master of your fate.

There’s associated excitement, pressure, and trepidation – as well as a good helping of fear about making the wrong choice for your future.

The reality is, there are very few ‘wrong’ choices. Many of us have multiple, ever-evolving visions of what we’d like our lives to be. They don’t always look like how we first imagined.

Many students feel trapped by their degree course title. Still, it doesn’t necessarily define the industry in which you end up. Take the Law student who realised they didn’t want to practise. Or the Mathematics graduate who went on to pursue their passion for customer service.

Then there are people like Steve Jobs. He didn’t graduate at all but co-founded Apple and later applied calligraphic design principles he learned at university to Apple tech.

So, Where to Begin?

As a student leaving education, everyone around you will have an opinion about what to do next – course professionals, careers advisors, parents, friends, and family. It’s a long list.

Working it out for yourself is often a lot more tricky. A great place to begin in your thinking is to start with what you know.

What are your interests and passions?

People liken loving your work to not working a day in your life. Whether or not that’s true is another story, but working in a field in which you’re already naturally interested is a great place to begin your working days.

Consider your hobbies, interests, and causes you care about. What do you love doing? Could you turn a pre-existing passion into a career?

What are you good at?

Chances are you’ll already have an idea of what your strengths are and what you’re not so good at. Ask your family, friends, lecturers, and mentors for additional insights.

Weigh your skills and strengths, and consider ways to apply them in the working world.

Does this information ignite any ideas about potential roles you could explore?

Take a personality profiling test, a career aptitude assessment, or talk to a Careers Advisor for ideas about what kinds of roles might suit your personality and skills.

Are there areas where your interests and strengths combine?

Look for patterns and areas of overlap between your passions and skills. The perfect place for career fulfilment and success is finding somewhere where they intersect.

Don’t be put off if the pieces don’t naturally fall together. It doesn’t happen for many of us.

For most people, finding a career we want and love is a combination of exploring new opportunities and embracing the unknown.

Where Will I End Up?

Your career will span most of your adult life, so it’s completely understandable to want to make the right choice about what you want from a career.

However, a job for life is no longer the norm. Careers today are less like ladders to climb than squiggles to navigate.

Nowadays success is defined by different metrics than money, influence, and power. Students entering the workforce and the Gen-Zs that have already arrived use their values as a career compass. They actively pursue increased diversity, inclusion, and equity in the working world, embracing making the world a better place as a critical metric of success.

A Squiggly Career Trajectory

Considering a squiggly career trajectory means embracing the idea that your career need not be a predetermined, linear path.

It’s about giving yourself the space to try new things and explore different professional working relationships. Allow yourself to try volunteering, internships, freelancing, short term employment, as well as the corporate career ladder model before making any long term commitments.

A squiggly career pattern is about defining learning and development opportunities as possibilities as well as plans.

Not making a decision straight out of university can sometimes be the best decision you make.

Think Possibilities As Well As Plans

Visualisation is a powerful tool to envisage your future career direction. But don’t limit your potential by having only one possible future set in stone.

Consider the ‘Obvious Choice’

What would be your logical career choice based on your experience, studies, and others’ expectations? It could be the right thing to do if financial security has come out top in assessing your priorities.

For an Engineering student, it might be becoming a mechanical engineer. For an Art student, a role in graphic design. Perhaps it’s none of the above, and you intend to take over the family business.

The more you think about it, does it seem the obvious choice for you, providing financial security and a sense of happiness and fulfilment in your work? Or is it something that others have chosen for you and you’re pursuing on autopilot?

Contemplate the ‘Ambitious Choice’

Where do you see your most successful self? Is it heading up a company, running an agency, becoming a successful architect? What challenges stand in your way?

Can you, and do you want to, overcome them?

What’s the ‘Dream’?

If you could be anything in the world, what would it be? If you could pivot your life in a completely different direction, what would it look like?

Assess Each In Turn

Are there similarities? Are they realistic based on what you know of yourself? What defines each choice?

Are there steps you can take to move the needle closer to becoming the obvious choice?

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

When it comes to making life decisions and considering your future, it’s logical to want to get things right. But no one has everything figured out.

Take things a step at a time, and don’t put yourself under too much pressure, always remember ‘there are no wrong decisions, only different ones.’

For support to figure out what happens next and advice about realising your goals for your brightest future, get in touch.

The job market today is tough. There are thousands of talented applicants just like you applying for the same roles. Standing out for the right reasons from the outset of the application process is crucial to get to the interview and beyond.

A solid personal brand may be exactly what you need to set yourself up for success. Below we explore the concept of personal branding to assist you in your search.

What is a Personal Brand?

Talk about branding, and everyone thinks of logos, large corporations, and household names.

But at its most basic, branding is about making yourself memorable. It’s about the steps you take to influence people’s perceptions of a product, service, or individual.

A personal brand is all about how you promote yourself to potential employers and ensure that they see you in your best possible light.

Get to Know Yourself: What Are You Trying to Achieve?

The first step to achieving a personal brand you’re proud of is working out what you’re trying to do.

Understanding the motivations, unique experiences and contributions you bring to the table is key to differentiating yourself from other candidates.

What are Your Values?

Your values are the things that matter to you in the way you live and work. They guide your key decisions and determine your priorities. Living by your values increases self-esteem, sense of self-worth, and overall happiness with your life.

Therefore, before beginning to create your personal brand, you must consider what matters to you and how you can embody and live by your values in your working life.

Take a moment to define your career success. What motivates you? Is it money or power? Is it a balance between home and work? Is it a feeling of contributing to a broader purpose?

Many people use fulfilment and happiness as metrics for employment success. Insights about your motivations are crucial to establishing that for yourself.

Your Skills and Life Experiences

Many applicants fall into the trap of only identifying and sharing skills and expertise gained from employment. Don’t discount education and life experiences as sources of inspiration for your personal branding.

Review your career history and identify critical skills you acquired during your employment. List ways you can demonstrate said skills (we’ll look at these later).

Do the same for your life experiences. Consider expertise you developed through things like caring responsibilities, travelling, hobbies, passions, and interests.

As important as your strengths are your weaknesses. Consider aspects of your working or personal life where you’ve struggled. Are there recurring themes and can you show what actions you’ve taken to address them? Are there situations or environments where you know you don’t belong or don’t succeed?

One last and beneficial exercise for many applicants is to ask your networks how they see you, your essential qualities, strengths and weaknesses. Friends, family, former colleagues are a wealth of insight for you to tap. You may be surprised by their responses.

They say knowledge is power. You can use this fact-finding exercise to prepare yourself for what comes next. Building a personal brand that casts you in your best possible light and overcomes whatever challenges an application or interview panel throws at you.

How to Build a Personal Brand by Design

Everyone has a digital footprint. A quick Google search will reveal details of your life, including the content you share online, your networks, and any media attention you receive.

A personal brand gives a recruiter a sense of an applicant beyond an application form. A strong personal brand developed by design, highlighting your values, strengths, and expertise, is a more appealing prospect than one left to chance.

Above we gathered information about our values, work and life experiences, which we can now use to shape and influence potential employers’ perceptions of us.

Google Yourself and Review the Results

Does what’s revealed cast you in a favourable light? It’s easy to forget that social media is largely public and viewable by the masses. Would you want a prospective employer to see what you post? If the answer is no, it’s better not to press ‘publish.’ Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.

Always Be Yourself (In Person And Online)

Keeping in mind your prospective audience doesn’t mean you should recreate yourself. There’s always a balance between casting yourself in the best possible light and appearing insincere.

A perceived mismatch between your digital personality and actions can cause you to lose credibility, so don’t ever try to be someone you’re not.

Things like a caring personality and a good sense of humour can go a long way to establishing a know, like, and trust factor with recruiters, employers, and your wider network.

Use your online content to demonstrate the positive traits, experiences, and skills you collected earlier on while retaining your humanity. Consistent personal branding is vital and means being recognisable as yourself wherever you are, whether on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or in real life.

Create a Content Plan

Getting clear on your needs, wants, and aspirations for your future is a real confidence-builder when creating content to support your vision.

Use your social media channels and blog (if you have one) to demonstrate and communicate that your personal brand instantly sets you apart from other candidates.

Consistently demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and experience in a relatable and valuable way. Speak directly to recruiters and employers in industry conversations while you do so.

Create a plan detailing when and where you intend to post, the kinds of content you’re going to share, the value you intend to impart, and the employers you’re going to target.

Demonstrate and embody your brand online and in real life, and you’ll instantly feel more confident, self-assured, and focused in your job search.

Don’t forget to use your existing network to your advantage. Employees often know of upcoming roles before they’re publicly advertised. Consistently sharing value and regularly appearing in the right people’s newsfeeds may mean you’re head-hunted or invited to apply for upcoming vacancies.

The Value of a Personal Brand

The value of taking the time to create a strong, cohesive personal brand can’t be overstated. It makes you memorable and empowers you to forge a career that aligns with your values, skills, and expertise, maximising your future prosperity and fulfilment.

Considering your wants, needs, and motivations for your next role and wider career helps you set the baseline for your future success. You’re able to make better, more informed decisions about the roles you choose to apply for and the companies you decide to approach.

Perhaps you need some support putting your plans into action?

Get in touch. We’re here to help.