Thursday, November 20, 2008

Organize Yourself and Your Time

There is so much going on at WSU and in your classes; how can you fit it all in?

The key is to get your time under control.

To manage your time successfully, you need to get informed about:
1. What you have to do (e.g. assignments, seminar reading, paid work)
2. When they have to be done (e.g. deadlines, lecture & seminar times)
3. How to fit them into the time you have (dividing up available time)

Remember that I only know about assignment deadlines for the courses I help you with It’s up to you to manage your work for all your different classes, so you are able to meet all your deadlines.

Top tip…
Much of the information you need will also be accessible online, on Blackboard or via your course website. If you can’t find information about deadlines, referencing etc, ask your instructor or TA. Don’t guess – guessing wrong could hurt your grade.

Planning to meet your deadlines

The key to good time planning is to have systems to keep everything under control, and to make them simple so that you’ll actually use them.
· Diaries are good for carrying with you to write in dates as you get them – but they don’t give you an overview of how your term looks.
· Electronic reminders on your watch, mobile or laptop are easy to set up – but also easy to cancel when they go off.
The simplest way to get a clear visual overview of the time you have and the tasks you need to fit into it is to make a paper term plan that you can fix up somewhere you will see it every day (e.g. above your desk). If you would like a template to help you with that, let me know. I can help you.

Ø Start by entering deadlines for your assignments so you can see when your busy times will be. Include seminars and presentations you need to prepare for.

Ø In the ‘Remember’ column, add any events which you need to take into account when planning, e.g. family birthdays, social events, sports fixtures etc.

Ø Decide on the major tasks you need to complete for each of your deadlines, and roughly how long you need to spend on each.

Ø Fit them into the ‘Targets’ column, working back from the deadline.
So the plan for one essay might look like this:


Wk 8

Brainstorm and plan research by Friday (30 mins)

Wk 9

Start research (3 x 2 hrs)
Mum’s birthday – go home Friday, leave at 3

Wk 10
Essay due Friday
Write first draft Monday afternoon (3 hrs)
Edit, proof &check refs Thurs morning (2 hrs)

REMEMBER that this is only for one essay - you will need to fit all your work in. So you may need to set artificial deadlines so you’re not trying to finish all your essays at the same time.

Making a study timetable
If you schedule your study times in advance, you won’t be wasting time each day deciding whether and when to study. Book study times into your timetable with lectures and seminars, as academic commitments.
Make a week plan with columns for each day of the week, and rows for ‘Morning’, ‘Afternoon’ and ‘Evening’.
Ø Enter lectures, seminars and other fixed academic commitments.
Ø Add regular commitments like paid work, club meetings, sports fixtures and training.
Ø Mark up times which you are going to commit to as study sessions. A good target to aim at is five two hour sessions a week.
Ø Plan to be flexible – if something else comes up, you can trade a study session with a free session.
You will have busy weeks when you need to add more sessions, and quiet weeks when you can claim time back.

Choose your best times to study – most people have a time of day when they are more focused (often in the mornings), and a time when they find it hard to concentrate (often after lunch). Trying to process or write a complicated text when your brain isn’t working well is a waste of time, and can be depressing and discouraging. Work out your best thinking times, and use them for tasks that need more concentration.

"Timetables don’t work for me". You may find it works better for you if you keep an overall tally of the hours you spend studying in a week. add more study times, or give yourself more free time as necessary.

How many hours should I study?

The University’s view is that studying is a significant occupation, like full-time work. So if you are a full-time student, you should be spending about 35 hours a week on academic activities including independent study, lectures, seminars, tutorials and lab work. The more effective your studying is, the less time you will spend on studying.

Getting a work/life balance
Defining study times also means defining times when you won’t be studying. Being at university is about taking part in a wide range of activities, including sports and socializing; you shouldn’t feel that you have to study all the time. If you can take your study times seriously, you won’t need to feel guilty when you do something else at other times. I find that if I do not have a social life, then studying because quite difficult for me.

Getting organized and informed
If you’ve taken the trouble to plan your time, you won’t want to waste it because you can’t find the things or information you need.

Have a simple filing system – if it’s complicated, you won’t use it. One way is to use a box file for each module to keep lecture notes, handouts, notes from reading, photocopies, even small books. Stick lecture/seminar times, rooms, and deadlines inside the lid.

Decide on your spaces for study just as you decided on times for study. Find a place that works well for you. If you can, keep it as a space just for studying, so you can have all the necessary things close at hand. If it’s somewhere where other people might interrupt, it helps to have a way to let them know that you are working now but will be free later.

Finally - remember that things usually take longer than you think! If you find you don’t need all the time you’ve alloted, it’s extra free time.

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