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Time Management

Our top tips for getting organised, beating procrastination and effectively managing your time at university.

Welcome

Time management banner. Black text on a lime green background.

 

Looking for sessions and tutorials on this topic? Find out more about our session types and how to register to book for sessions. You can view our full timetable on our website, or view up-to-date availability in UniHub Appointments and Events

Not sure where to start developing your academic skills? Take the SkillsCheck for personalised recommendations on how to build your academic writing and study skills alongside your course.

Set your intentions

Just as with other important skills, time management and planning are skills that you can learn. Improving these skills will increase your efficiency in getting your academic work done, your progress towards long term personal skills, and your ability to feel calm whilst juggling many tasks.

Set your intentions
To feel as though your life is heading for success, you need to set an intention to take control, and decide what your key priorities are.

Take control!

If you believe you are in control of your world then you believe that you make things happen.
Change your viewpoint from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will do it’, and you will be on your way to success.

Get your priorities right

If you are juggling many things - a job, your family, social life, etc., then try to avoid unimportant distractions, and make sure you don’t forget your own health and wellbeing.

Prioritise and schedule your tasks

Prioritise and schedule your tasks

The first thing to do is to figure out which of your tasks are real priorities, and which tasks you need to limit or manage.  After that you can decide how to schedule the tasks to ensure you complete your priorities.

Prioritise important tasks

List of all the tasks that take up your time: including lectures or meetings, personal tasks, social events, ongoing projects, and long term dreams. Complete the following table, being honest about where each task fits in terms of urgency and importance, and then follow the advice:

Urgent Not Urgent
Important

1) Do

Work deadlines and pending deadlines should be slotted into your timetable first.

2) Focus

Aim to maximise time spent on 'focus' tasks so you can prioritise personal goals and manage stress.

Not Important

3) Limit

Try to minimise the impact of these tasks, which are often imposed on you by others.

4) Manage

Find a way to build time into your week to switch off or indulge in distractions, but set limits.

Urgent Not Urgent
Important

1) Do

  • Work for group presentation
  • Literature review for research proposal

2) Focus

  • Apply for work experience
  • Ask about Ph.D opportunities
Not Important

3) Limit

  • Coffee with Liz
  • Arrange birthday trip for Dad

4) Manage

  • Read Facebook posts from friends
  • Format my revision schedule

 

Schedule your tasks with tools

Once you have prioritised which tasks should take your attention, you can schedule your tasks with useful tools

  • Chunk up your time into small blocks and with rewards.
  • Set timers whilst working to keep focused and use apps to block interruptions.
  • Create ‘to do’ lists and update them regularly.
  • Use diary or electronic calendar, schedule or wall chart so you can see what's coming up.
  • Assignment planning apps can help you to plan out your work with mini-deadlines -
    Try out the Assignment Calculator from Leeds Beckett University. 

Manage big tasks with SMART plans

Manage big tasks to meet your deadlines

  • Break down big tasks and keep track of what you need to do for each task.

  • Set early deadlines with extra contingency time.

  • Review your progress regularly and adjust the plan if required.
     

Make SMART plans

Plan for your key priorities with SMART targets:

Specific

Create a clear and detailed summary of the end point

Measurable

How will you know you are making progress?

Achievable

Do you have what you need in order to meet your targets?

Relevant

Can you see the value in achieving your goal?

Time-bound

Set yourself a timescale and regular review points.

For example:

Specific

Finish my next assignment with a week to spare

Measurable

7 full days spare before the deadline

Achievable

If I start early then I should have enough time.

Relevant

I'll feel calmer and produce better work if I'm not up at midnight

Time-bound

2 March

7 March

10 March

12 March

19 March

Outline

Rough draft

Improved draft

Polished up

Deadline

 

Beat procrastination

Beat procrastination

  • Improve your competence and confidence - seek help to understand the task or improve your skills.

  • Address any perfectionism or pessimism that prevents you from moving forward.

Examples:

  • Change your thinking:
    from: 'I never do well, so there's no point even trying'
    to 'Maybe this time I'll get a better grade; I'm going to put all my effort in'.

  • Change your thinking:
    from: 'I need to carry on reading the literature before I can start writing'
    to 'I've probably read enough, and I should start writing now'.

 

Build your willpower and attention

Motivate yourself: Find some intrinsic interest in learning or set yourself some external rewards:

Intrinsic personal rewards, e.g.:

  • I'm interested in child development;
  • I'm proud I'm coping with University.

Extrinsic rewards and punishments, e.g.:

  • I hope I get good grades and feedback,
  • I'll finish this bit and have a nice coffee.

Willpower is like a muscle; every time you resist tempting distractions you will build your willpower up.

Make sure that you sleep well and eat well, and optimise your body's energy, environment, and working schedule, to maximise your chance of focusing and achieving success.

Next steps

Further actions:

  • Jot down the changes you plan to implement in order to stay on top of your studies -
    e.g. keeping a paper diary, or turning off notifications on your phone.

  • Also note down, right now, 3 small, achievable next steps you can take towards one of your current bigger tasks.

  • Book into a Skills Centre workshop or a 1 to 1 appointment to discuss how you are improving your time management and planning skills or where you need help.

Further resources: