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Managing your time: Home

getting your work done

Learning online requires good management of your time, this guide gives you some helpful tips to take control of your time.

Principles of managing your time

Whilst managing your time is very personal, with different time managment approaches working for different people, there are some basic principles that are common to all:

  • organisation
  • prioritisation
  • focus 
  • and self-discipline to avoid procrastination.

These principles still apply if you are working away from campus. 

Oxford University Video

This video from Oxford University offers some good general time management advice

Organisation

Time can be wasted and deadlines missed if you are not at least reasonably well organised. Here are two ways to improve your organisation

Organise your diary/calendar

You cannot organise your time effectively without using a diary or a calendar. This can be paper or online but you must use it constantly and consistently

The first step to organisation is entering all your fixed tasks and commitments:

  • Enter all your deadlines as soon as you have them - Deadlines often bunch up together and recognising this can mean you can plan more effectively, perhaps by making earlier artificial deadlines to spread them out more manageably.
  • Enter everything that is unmoveable— for example live online lectures. This will help to give your time more structure. Include your tutorials, any part-time work, volunteering, regular child-care, family commitments...everything.

These are the framework events that everything else needs to fit around. Once these are in you can be more realistic about the time that you have to complete all the other tasks. 

Weekly planner

You may then find it helpful to then use a weekly planner to map out your week and help you to allocate time to all the activities that you need to complete. You need to include all activities (the list below is a good starting point) as it will give you a realistic picture of how much time you actually have.

  • cooking and eating
  • travel time
  • shopping
  • exercising
  • study time
  • University time watching lecture webinars/recorded lectures, seminars, meetings etc
  • Relaxing (watching TV or films, reading for pleasure, hobbies)
  • Socialising (chatting to friends on the phone, keeping connected via social media)

 Here is a basic time management weekly planner [PDF] that you can download.

Assignment planner

Our assignment planner is a step-by-step guide to help you plan, organise and find the resources you need to complete your assignment. It will help you to breakdown the different assignment stages for an individual assignment across the time you have available.

Dissertation planner

Our dissertation planner is a step-by-step guide to help you write a dissertation from starting to think about your question through to final submission. At each stage you will find useful tips and support.

Organise your stuff
  • Create a system for organising all your notes.
  • Every time you read something, keep a note of the information you would need to reference it. 

Spending just a few minutes each week organising your stuff can save you hours in the long run. Consider doing it on a Sunday afternoon and think of it as rebooting to start each week with a fresh and organised system.

 

Prioritisation

Some things are more important than others. They don't necessarily need doing first - but they need time allocating to them first. Assessed work is the obvious example but quite honestly it depends on your circumstances. You may have caring responsibilities and need to juggle looking after family members alongside study. Or perhaps you have the opposite problem, you have very little to occupy yourself with other than your studies and are finding it difficult to focus. Whatever your goals, at any given moment you will have to give priority to one task or another.

If we just look at university work, your priorities will depend on: 

  • Is the work assessed?
  • What percentage of the module grade is the assessment worth? (Give more time to those with more weighting.)
  • Will doing this task make my assessed work easier/better?
  • Will doing this task make a tutorial or lecture more useful?
  • How much time will it take?
  • How urgent is it?

Sometimes just answering these questions can be enough to help decide what to put where in the free spaces in your calendar/diary - if you are still struggling, think of using a tool like a to-do list or a matrix (see links to good examples of these in the related resources box on this page).

Focus

Focus is something that many people struggle with when working at home. There can be a number of distractions that you are not used to contending with when you are trying to focus on study. Once you have decided what you are working on and for how long, you need to ensure you can focus on the task at hand:

Avoiding social media

For most students, focusing means removing distractions such as social media and text notifications. Try to limit social media use and consider using used apps to block social media sites on your devices specified periods of time - try searching online for "social media blocker" and look at some reviews to find the ones that are best for your devices.

If you don't want to use a specific blocker, then at least turn off notifications (or even your whole phone!) whilst you are working on task - it will make the work quicker and allow you to enjoy social media guilt-free later on.

Environment

The other way to help you focus is to choose or create an environment that is free of distractions.

Your own home can be full of interesting things that can easily catch your attention, so consider where in your home might provide the least distraction. You may be lucky enough to have a study, or you may be able to set up a space at your dining table.

Alternatively, if your room is the only option, then think about how you can organise your space into a work zone and a relaxation zone. If you have to use the same computer or monitor, is there something you can do to signify work time and relaxation time. Clearing the desk, putting something different on the desk, changing the lighting or music - anything that is different can trick your mind into focusing.

Time of day

Different people focus better at different times of the day. Some like to get up early and get straight on before other people are about to distract them; others like late-night working, with the room dark and a desk light illuminating their work and blocking out everything else. 

In reality, most people are actually morning people - no really! Unless you wake up regularly (and naturally) at lunchtime, the likelihood is that you are not using your most productive time of the day effectively. For most of us, the most productive time is the first two hours after we are fully awake (we appreciate the waking up process takes longer for different people). So if you can, use those two hours for getting the most important thing for the day done - reading a difficult journal article, writing an essay, revising an important topic etc. Use hours later on in the day for catching up on social media, sorting your notes, housework, laundry etc. Don't waste the time when your brain is at its most receptive on tasks that don't require concentration.

Break a large task down in to smaller parts

You may find it helps your focus if you break down larger tasks in to smaller sections. 

Our assignment planner is a step-by-step guide to help you plan, organise and find the resources that you need to complete your assignment. It will help you to breakdown the different assignment stages for an individual assignment across the time you have available.

​Self-discipline to avoid procrastination

In the end, good time management comes down to self-discipline. Without this you can become prone to procrastination. Let's face it, there is nearly always something you want to do more than your university work. If you are working on a particularly difficult or uninspiring piece of work then even jobs you hate suddenly look appealing.

Self-discipline is all about balance. You need to build some relaxation into your routine so that you do not feel like your life is all work and no play. This can be checking your social media at specific times a day; a daily work-out routine; spending time with family or a couple of hours watching TV or gaming at the end of the day. When this is planned, it is easier to convince yourself to spend other times on your university work. 

Be wary of procrastination - busying yourself with jobs that need doing (like organising your files; tidying up; or even working on other more appealing or easier assignments) rather than getting on with the task you know you should be working on. This is when having a well organised diary can help - if you have already assigned later times for the other jobs then you have no excuse for doing them now!

For further help with beating procrastination see this video about the Pomodoro Technique or see the links in the related resources section of this page

 

Acknowledgement (click to read more...)

Creative Commons License  'Skills for studying online'. Our pages are a derivative of  Remote learning SkillsGuide available at https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/remote/home licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. We thank the generosity of the University of Hull Library for providing a CC BY-NC-SA licence and under the terms provide the same licence for our pages.

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Related resources:

Time management weekly planner by University of Southampton [PDF]

A  sample Gantt chart by University of Southampton [Excel]

Examples of how to use Gantt charts by University of Leicester

Managing your time by University of Southampton [PDF]

This video from Oxford University offers some good general time management advice

The pomodoro technique

Assignment planner by University of Southampton

Dissertation planner by University of Southampton

Prioritisation tools: To do lists by University of Hull

Prioritisation tools: Matrix by University of Hull

Beating procrastination by University of Hull

Time-saving tips by University of Hull