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.
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 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.