All in good time…

Time is a bizarre thing when you are at university, it seems to shift and change one day to the next. I have felt like some days I would have all the time in the world and then feel rushed off my feet, often wondering how its already 6pm and how I’ve gotten nothing done during the day.  Over the past three years, I have made many attempts to bring some kind of organisation to my life, usually by trying to improve my time management skills. However they have all ended as spectacular failures resulting in the now very familiar and panicked rush before deadlines.

My many catastrophic attempts at effective time management have provided me with first-hand experience of what (not) to do when there are simply not enough hours in the day. Here are some of my tips…

1.      Do begin the semester organised.

Ensure you have your stationary supplies. Personally, I find that note taking is always much more fun when colourful pens are involved. Buy big folders, little folders, dividers, sticky notes, sticky labels, notepads, diaries and anything else you think will help you take better notes. Then, spend some time in the beginning of the semester to prepare for your upcoming classes: make sure you know when and where each of your classes will be for the rest of the semester, know how you’re going to take notes (e.g. do you have a system to use the colours? Are you using the Cornell method? Spider diagrams?), print out your timetable – including the times and rooms of your classes – and stick it onto your wall and/or on your phone. It only takes half an hour to do all of this but it’s so much easier and quicker than desperately searching through all those pages later in the semester.

2.      Don’t leave it until Week 12

There are times when I have gotten through a whole module without knowing what the assignment was. As a result, I didn’t always know what I should research or what I needed to do further reading on to complement the lecture and prepare for the assignment. This meant that I often had to do a full semester’s worth of research the day before the assignment was due. I’m not saying you should begin to focus on the assignment in the first week. It is always best to take a couple of weeks to settle into a new module, to figure the overall aim of the class and what you can expect to learn from it. Around week 3/4 you can start to look at assignments in more depth. It saves time and the results are better in the end.

3.      Do plan your days

Planning out my days has saved me more times that I care to admit – in my first year, I missed out on so many opportunities because I didn’t know the deadlines for them. As well as lectures, seminars and assignments, there are a million more things a university student has to fit into their day. There’s part time work, clubs and societies, volunteering, looking for further work opportunities, cooking, cleaning, shopping, having a social life, watching the new series of The Walking Dead… Sometimes, it’s too much for one head to handle. Get a diary (paper or electronic) and write down what you have to do in the day, or what you have to get done by the end of the week. There’s so much going on, it’s likely you’ll forget something important. Even if it’s just a reminder to send that email, or start that application form; it’s there for reference and to help you remember.

4.      Don’t put off the big tasks

I’ve wasted so much time because I didn’t want to do the big tasks as soon as possible. It is always easier to focus on finishing up those last few notes or filling in that quick questionnaire than to begin that massive reading or finish that application form. But trust me; putting in the effort for those big tasks as soon as you can really does pay off in the long run. There’s nothing worse than coming to the end of a big day and finally crawling into bed, only to realise the deadline for that really really important thing you had to do is tomorrow. When you’re filling your diary/calendar, you should put the big tasks in first and smaller ones can fill the gaps around it.

These are a few of my tips that have proved most successful for me and helped me master the skill of time management while at university. Hopefully these will be useful and will help you with handling your university life.