Throughout your time at University you will find many different demands on your time such as attending classes, preparing for seminars and completing assessments. These demands have to be fitted in with other aspects of your life such as work, family and your social life. Therefore it is important you learn how to manage your time effectively and plan your learning. Planning your learning involves identifying what is required, when it is required, and how you are going to achieve your specific academic goals.

What?

Be aware of all the demands on your time and be realistic of what is involved in each task and exactly how long will it take.
If you are working on an essay, for example, work backwards from the deadline (submission date) and plan each stage of the essay (to view an example essay plan click here).

When?

Planning helps you set specific academic goals by identifying what tasks require to be done and when you require to do them. Relate the tasks to time by asking yourself: What types of tasks are they? Do you need consecutive time? Can they be done in small breaks?
This may involve prioritising extra study time by cutting down on time planned for other activities such as socialising and sports activities.
Tip: You should start planning an essay as soon as you are given the essay question.
Daily planning - make a to-do list (perhaps on your mobile phone and set reminders) for each day the night before or during breakfast.
Weekly planning - plan your time using a weekly planner (to view a weekly planner click here) linked with your Celcat timetable of classes, trimester calendar, work, family and social commitments. Block out times you are going to commit to study sessions.
Tip: A rough guide is five two hour sessions a week. If this is not possible, perhaps block out the equivalent hours at the weekend. Avoid tired time late at night when it is harder to concentrate.
Monthly planning – plan your time monthly informed through your daily, weekly and monthly trimester calendar.

How?

To achieve your goals, stick to your plan. However, there may be times where this might not be possible and you will have to re-evaluate your plan and revise it. It is important you revise your plan to achieve your goals within the deadlines set, particularly submission dates.
Position your trimester calendar (assessment map) where you can see it on a regular basis.

Where?

You have planned your time and the next stage is to think about where best to study. It might be in the library or it might be at home, but wherever you decide make sure you have all the necessary resources (notes, books, PC/laptop, internet access) at hand and it is a place where you will not be interrupted or distracted.
Avoid being distracted when you are studying by your mobile phone (calls, text messages, social media, and music) television or radio. Avoid wasting planned time looking for things or information - make sure you are well organised.

Where?

1. After each lecture review your notes
Plan time to review your notes after each lecture. The longer you leave reviewing your notes the less likely you are to remember what was said. One of the main reasons for doing this is not only to make sure your notes make sense, but to try and spot any patterns and connections between the lecture and the literature.
2. File and organise your notes
File module lecture PowerPoints from GCULearn together with your own lecture, seminar and reading notes. The best way to do this is to have a separate folder for each module (perhaps a different colour). Make sure the front of the folder lists the following: Module Name, Module Leader, Lecturer and Seminar Tutor’s names. Use dividers in the folder and number them according to the module handbook weekly lecture programme ie week number one and topic, together with lecturer and seminar tutor names. It is important you file all your notes together under the relevant week and topic as this helps when you are planning your revision on a particular topic.
Tip: you can organise documents you need to complete assessments and create instant citations and bibliographies by using ProQuest’s referencing software RefWorks. Also, for generating and storing references use software such as Neil’s Toolbox and RefME.
3. Organise your favourite websites
Organise your favourite websites into categories such as University websites and discipline related websites. This allows quick access to useful material which can be read at a later date.

Remember

It is not all about studying, it is important to get a work/life balance and enjoy your time at University. Planning your learning not only helps you to do this, but it also helps you to STAY MOTIVATED!

Sources for further information

Cottrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook, 4th ed., Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke, pp. 121-150