STUDY SKILLS - ORGANIZING STUDY TIME
Short Term Planning
There are 168 hours in the week. At the start of the week it seems like plenty of time to get everything done. But after lectures, seminars, sleeping, eating, traveling, etc., there is frustratingly little time left. Here are some suggestions for how to get the most out of the remaining hours.
- Use a diary to allocate exactly when and how much time you have available. Factor in classroom contact hours at the beginning of the semester, and adapt the plan to include evenings and weekends.
- Compile lists of jobs to be completed during the week. Some of these, such as glancing over recent class notes, may be done in odd spare hours between lectures and discussions. Others, such as essays and research papers, will require longer stretches of time.
- Allocate these jobs to days and periods of time, depending on how big the task is and how urgent it is.
- Be flexible. Learn from your mistakes, such as estimating how long a project will take. If your schedule is not working, change it. Do not always work in the same place. Break up long study sessions into different tasks.
- Do not waste half of a study session sitting around waiting for inspiration. Do something to get your brain working: jot down tasks that need doing, start with one of the smaller tasks, read through some lecture notes to get you thinking about what you are reading/writing, draft a page of an essay, start in the middle of an essay or other assignment, if this is more straightforward, then go back to the beginning later; you can always change it later
- Work to the deadline you have set. Do not start late or finish early.
LONG TERM PLANNING
The work you do week by week has to enable you to meet deadlines during each semester and to complete all of your course requirements over the academic year as a whole. This means you need to plan your work over the two 14 week semesters, the Thanksgiving holiday and Spring Break. How should you do this?
- Consult with your instructors to find out how much of the syllabus of each course you will cover at specific points during the semester
- Find out your deadlines early and structure your work so that each project is completed on time. This means planning your semester's work during the first week of the semester. Work out when you are going to begin each essay, seminar presentation, research paper, etc. Leave plenty of time for finding books, articles and other materials, and for taking notes. Leave room on a weekly basis for the more basic tasks: homework assignments, daily readings, etc.
- Plan your holidays as well. You may want to use them to catch up on reading, write an essay or paper, or just catch your breath!
The academic workload can seem very daunting at first, but planning sensibly will make it manageable. Remember to be flexible and revise your plans if necessary; talk to your instructors and your advisor about how your work is progressing.