Use time-management tools to create reminders for upcoming deadlines, develop to-do lists, and structure a daily, weekly and long-term planner that works for you.
Your lecturers will set due dates, and it can be helpful to set your own schedule for starting and finishing work. This can help you spread your workload and avoid ‘bottlenecks’.
It's easy to put off independent study. Make a timetable and decide when to read, do seminar preparation or work on assignments.
Everyone gravitates toward the tasks that they enjoy first, but it’s better to prioritise assignments based on how heavily weighted they are, or how long they’re likely to take.
If you’re finding it hard to stay motivated, use many small, achievable goals (‘finish reading this chapter’ or ‘check references’) rather than big ones (‘write the essay’).
To manage your time effectively, you need to have a flexible plan that works for you. Creating a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick to it 100 percent, but it will give you guidance and direction.
A semester plan helps you plan in advance and avoid leaving things until the night before. Using a plan, you can see due dates for assessment tasks and when you have multiple assignments due within a short time.
Plan ahead and write down the tasks and subtasks that need to be achieved each week so the overall assignment gets completed on time. For example, if you have four weeks until an essay is due and have broken it down into eight steps, you could aim to do two steps each week. Be aware that some steps require more time than others.
Your weekly plan should include your regular university commitments (lectures, tutorials, etc) as well as non-study commitments like part-time work, grocery shopping, watching TV and sleeping. Count up the number of hours that are blank and potentially available for study in a typical week.
Most full-time students need between 20 and 40 hours of private study per week (in addition to classes). Try to establish a weekly routine of study times.
Determine your most active and alert times of day (are you an early bird or a night owl?) and use these blocks of time for the hardest tasks, such as reading difficult material or writing assignments.
A daily plan will help you prioritise tasks and make realistic decisions about how much can be achieved each day. Focus on a single task at a time.
By using a plan day by day, you will be more accountable for your time. For example, writing ‘first draft’ in a time slot is better than thinking ‘I’ll do the draft sometime today’. Using a daily plan helps prevent procrastination and gives you something to tick off to feel a sense of progress and achievement.
To help stay motivated, give yourself small rewards when you finish a task. You can give yourself a bigger reward when you've reached a bigger goal, such as submitting an assignment.
Download Using planners and plans (pdf, 2.1MB) for more tips and blank sample plans.
If your timetable is full and you have no time to study, consider dropping some social commitments or rethinking your employment situation. Rework your timetable to provide adequate breaks between classes.
If you need to work to support yourself, be realistic about what you can manage.
Completing intensive units can help you make up units of study if you've had to withdraw.
This material was developed by the Learning Hub (Academic Language and Learning), which offers workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how we can help develop your communications, research and study skills.