Time management means planning to get the most out of your time. For students, this means being efficient when reading, writing, and studying in general to get more done. Many students struggle to concentrate and are easily distracted by smart phones and other activities. Practicing time management can help you increase your concentration span, stress less and be more productive.
Get to know your study style
There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for studying. By becoming aware of what works well for you over time, you can streamline? your study days.
- Start by finding out what time of the day you work best.
- Create a simple routine that puts you in the mode for studying. For some, it may be going to the library (reading room? reading hall?) every day at 09:00, for others, drinking a cup of tea. The important thing here is the signal this sends to the brain, that now the study day starts.
- A good daily rhythm can be created by alternating between different activities such as reading, writing notes or summaries, taking breaks, moving and discussing subject matter with fellow students.
- Try to find a work rhythm that can be used throughout the semester.
TIP: Don't work/write until you are completely empty
Finish work before you get exhausted, while there are still things left to do. Then it will be much easier to pick up where you left off the next day!
A writing log is a text consisting of short notes and reflections on your own writing process. The writing log is personal, and the form and purpose of the log are adapted to your needs. Some may want to explore the emotional aspects of the writing process and find a way through the ups and downs of the process. Others may need to clarify the current goals and document whether the goals have been reached. Either way, logging can contribute to more focused work, as well as raising awareness of one’s own study and writing style. It is also inspiring to look back at the different phases that are ultimately documented in the log and get a perspective on everything you have achieved and been through.
Here's a suggestion that can be used as inspiration:
Set aside five minutes before a work session. Write briefly what you think is the goal of the writing session, what you need to do to achieve that goal and what you think will be challenging. The goal is to write yourself into a mode where you are focused on the writing task that now lies ahead. When you’re done, write a little about what the session was like, what you got done, what’s left, and how you solved the obstacles you encountered. This way you write yourself out of the writing session so you can put the text aside and focus on the next activity of the day.
Time management tools
Shut up & Write is a way to manage time in company with others. The technique constitutes of writing for 45 minutes and then taking a 15-minute break where you can stretch your legs, talk to each other, have a coffee, or check various media. After the break you write for another 45 minutes, have another 15-minute break and so on. By following fixed intervals when writing, you won’t have to use as much self-discipline or wonder if maybe you should do something else. You can take a break with a clear conscience, knowing that you have worked well. Experience also shows that it is easier to concentrate on your writing when writing in the same room as others. Shut up & Write and similar concepts are arranged at several educational institutions in Norway.
Pomodoro is an individual technique for managing the time when reading or writing. It involves deciding what to work on, and then working intensively for shorter periods with small breaks in between. During the work session, you should put down your mobile phone and not check email, news, or social media. For example, you can follow this plan: Start with four sessions of 25 minutes of work and a five-minute break between work-sessions. Then you can take a break of 30 minutes. After this longer break you work for four more sessions of 25 minutes with five-minute breaks in between. There are several apps with a stopwatch that can control the time for you. Or you can use low-tech aids such as a kitchen clock.
By blocking distractions, we mean taking active action to avoid diversion from what you are supposed to do. And for most of us, that means avoiding smart phones and the internet. Social media is designed to grab our attention. Therefore, it can be a good idea to put your mobile out of sight or in another room during work periods. Working with analogue, physical media rather than digital – book rather than pc – is also a way to prevent yourself from checking news and social media. When you read and write with pen and paper, you also activate larger parts of the brain, which makes you learn and remember better. You can also disconnect from the internet if you don’t need it to work or use apps to limit your mobile and PC usage.
Taking a break is an important part of your studies. It improves your concentration and helps you get more out of every single work session. In addition, breaks increase motivation and inspiration. Therefore, you should manage your time so that you can take proper breaks. Add short breaks during the study day and take longer breaks in the afternoons, on weekends and holidays. During study breaks, you should do things that are pleasurable, like taking a coffee break with a friend, exercising, reading a good book, or watching TV.
Thinking of all the pages you should read during a semester or everything that needs to be done to complete a big assignment, can quickly become overwhelming. This can be counteracted through good planning. You can create multi-level plans, such as a long-time plan for the entire semester, a plan for each week, or for each reading session. Below you will find inspiration for what such plans can look like.
A progress plan is an overview of various activities you will carry out over a long period of time, be it a whole semester or an exam period. Here you can give yourself an overview of which texts to read for which lectures, sub-goals for assignments, submission deadlines and exam dates. What the progress plan contains depends on what you are planning, i.e. whether you are preparing for a school exam, are going to submit a term paper, or are working on a larger independent assignment. The educational institution’s course pages are a good resource for creating a progress plan. Here you will find a schedule for lectures and seminars, reading list and learning goals for the course, as well as information about assignments and deadlines.
During the study period, you will read a lot, and it is advisable to create structured reading sessions. Many people find it useful to have a personal and systematic plan for their reading. Your reading schedule can include reading sessions, time to write and process what you’ve read, and breaks between sessions.
Here's an example of how you can structure a reading session:
Decide what you’re going to read. Read in 25-minute sessions with a five-minute break between sessions. After three such sessions, you enter ten minutes where you will write about what you have read. It could be a summary of the article or chapter you’ve been working on, or questions about things you didn’t understand while reading. After the writing session, take a 15-minute break. Next, complete three more reading sessions followed by a short writing session as described above. In the end you will have worked for a little over three and a half hours where you got six focused reading sessions and you have started processing the reading through writing.
Adjustment of plans and realistic goals
It is important to keep in mind that the plans you make are not carved in stone, but often need to be adjusted along the way. Throughout the semester, you will receive new information about the size of assignments, sub-goals, and deadlines. Eventually, you’ll also become better acquainted with how you like to work and can adjust your plans accordingly. When making plans and adjusting them, it’s important to set goals that are realistic. Perhaps you had planned to read the entire syllabus twice, but as the exam or deadline approaches you see that you will not be able to do so. Then you should adjust the plan and make sure that you get through the syllabus and instead take good notes along the way that can be used when preparing for the exam. You can read more about reading methods and note-taking techniques here.
Don’t set goals that are so ambitious that you can’t meet them. Being realistic decreases the risk of disappointing oneself. A moderate goal can always be adjusted upwards when you get more exercise!