The exam season is soon to start. With so many “sweet temptations” around the corner – such as Christmas shopping or a nice cuppa under a fuzzy blanket and the old Netflix – time management seems to be the last thing on many people’s minds. However, we all know exams are important and do require a bit of planning to get you through. Without further ado, I’d like to share with you my top tips for effective “getting things done”-ness.
Tip 1: Get a diary
If you don’t yet have one, this is a must for effective time management. Not having one can result in double bookings or worse, missed meetings, or even….exams! Different diary formats work for different people and there are plenty of options out there, so do look for the one that best suits your lifestyle. If you balance uni and family life, an all-in-one life planner might be best. If you juggle with a part-time job and university, having a week-view diary might be best.
I personally still own the Palgrave Student Planner I absolutely fell in love with in my first year (yes, I’m that kind of stationary-obsessed individual, in case you haven’t figured it out yet). On the right is a picture of my last year’s planner, all worn out, next to this year’s companion. 🙂
Tip 2: Self-imposed deadlines
If rules are to be broken, then deadlines are to be bent. But never in the wrong direction. Once you’ve written down your key dates in your diary and you started a custom of regularly checking your schedule in your diary, you need to start the actual planning. This is important because it will allow you to avoid running around the university looking for a free printer three minutes before the deadline. Trust me, that’s not a stress-free thing to do.
The best thing you can do to avoid this is to work in advance and be ahead of the game. If your deadline is on a Friday, plan to have everything ready by Wednesday evening. This gives you time to juggle with in case everything unexpected happens and will also make you feel more productive.
Tip 3: To-do lists, To-do lists, To-do lists
This one needs to be managed with care, as it can cause an addiction (it can’t be just me!). To-do lists are the ultimate trick for day-to-day time management. A first step would be to start creating lists the night before, to get an idea of the things you need to cover the next day. Studies show that people who are more ambitious tend to underestimate the time needed to complete a task, while the opposite is true for the other category. So stay flexible and adjust your to-do lists based on what you actually achieve. But also, aim to cover more in a shorter period of time, by staying away from distractions such as Facebook and Twitter.
Once you become confident using to-do lists, you can start prioritising those tasks instead of simply putting them on paper as they come to mind. A useful method are the four quadrants, as shown below:
Tip 4: Rewards & Breaks
No one can work effectively for hours in a row. While this can be a strategy used before exams, it can be avoided through following Tip 2 described above. In order to actually be effective, breaks and rewards are key. It’s up to you to decide how often you take a break from studying, and also what you do during that break. If a break means closing a document and scrolling through Facebook, then this might actually make you even more tired. Instead, opt for a stretch and perhaps a walk through Student Central. Pick up some leaflets, something to drink or just walk around the campus for a bit.
What are your top tips for good time-management?