5 steps to help you manage your time

Time management is about sorting out your priorities and making sure you achieve them in the time you have.

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Give yourself some time for planning ahead. Once you have a plan, you no longer need to wonder how much time you have for a task - you can simply get on with it!

1. Clarify your purpose

Ask yourself, "Why am I here?". Being clear about your purpose helps to determine the relative importance of the tasks you need to do.

2. Clarify your tasks

  • List your tasks. Make them as specific as you can. Where appropriate, break down large tasks into smaller sub-tasks.
  • Prioritise your tasks. For each task ask...
    • "How important is the task?" - If you have trouble answering, refer to your purpose
    • "How urgent is the task?" - ie, when must it be finished
  • Decide how long you need to spend on each task. This will be determined by...
    • the task's importance
    • the amount of time available

3. Organise your tasks

  • Provide yourself with a blank timetable. This could be a diary, an online calendar, or a wall chart giving an overview of the week / term / year ahead.
  • Fill in times of...
    • paid work
    • lectures, workshops, exams, etc
    • other activities / commitments that are fixed and predictable
  • Allocate time for...
    • domestic tasks such as shopping and laundry
    • regular breaks for leisure and relaxation
  • Decide on the periods you'll use for independent study and mark them in.
  • Check that the timetable looks realistic. Are the independent study periods of a reasonable length? Are they at times of the day when you study effectively? Have you allowed yourself breaks for relaxation, meals, etc?
  • Refer to your list of tasks. Allocate specific tasks to the periods you've allowed for independent study. Be as precise as possible. The urgency and importance of each task (see above) will determine when you do it and how much time you allocate.

4. Act!

Time management is more a discipline than a skill. Once you've drawn up your plan, do your best to follow it. If you fall behind, review your plan and amend it.

5. Review

  • Set aside a regular time for reviewing and updating your plan. A brief weekly session often works well.
  • It of often helpful to have an additional planning session at the beginning of each year and term.
  • Occasionally review how you're managing your time.

Break down large tasks into smaller sub-tasks

For example, for an essay the sub-tasks might be...

  • Outline early ideas
  • Extract relevant information from lecture notes
  • Research in the Library
  • Discuss key issues with other students
  • Review notes
  • Plan essay
  • Write first draft
  • Revise content and structure, and write second draft
  • Revise style, grammar, etc and write final draft
  • Hand in
  • Evaluate feedback received
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