As an independent learner you will have discovered how important it is to manage your time effectively. There are lots of competing demands, some academic e.g. supervisions, some personal e.g. sleeping and eating, others social e.g. meeting friends. However, balancing all that is easier said than done, so here are some tips to help you keep on top of things.
Watch these short videos to find out about specific aspects of time management. You can practise these by having a go at the tasks and worksheets below.
This section contains slides with voiceover to introduce you to some of the key parts of time management:
However, if you want a quick overview, here are the slides delivered in induction workshops, Michaelmas 2023.
When you feel overwhelmed by the amount you have to do, you need to prioritise. This matrix can help you decide what needs doing first by dividing tasks up. Write a list of everything you have to do today or this week. This includes everyday activities like contacting family and friends, putting on a clothes wash, going shopping etc. If you struggle to plan ahead, look back on the past week and fill in the Time Log under the Time Management Templates section. Then fill in this template, writing each item in one of the four boxes. Those that you decide are both urgent and important are those to tackle first. Remember that eating, sleeping, exercising are all important! When planning your day (see the Time Management Templates), start with these so that they don't get squeezed out.
Watch the video on Prioritisation in the section above to find out more.
Break your tasks down into manageable chunks. Putting ‘Read book’ on a to-do list isn’t very helpful. This is your aim. You need to identify the steps that will get you there. These are objectives and you should make them SMART:
By taking this approach, the above task becomes: ‘Read chapters 3 & 4 between 5 and 6pm on Tuesday evening to learn the details of the case studies used by the author. Make brief notes in Zotero’. That way, you know exactly what needs doing, are more likely to be able to get the job done and know what remains to do if you run out of time.
Write out some SMART objectives for tomorrow. Revisit the 'How to' video for more information.
How do you know how long something will take you to do? This is one of the biggest problems when scheduling time for something on your 'to-do' list. It can be dispiriting if you are constantly taking longer to do something than planned. The best way to find out how long you need to block out in your diary, is to keep track using a grid or an app:
This will give you baseline data to allow for good, bad and ugly days! Keep recording it for a few days/weeks (depending on the intensity of the task). This will allow for variation:
Then, to estimate length of task that accommodates variation, plug these numbers in the formula below:
This way, you are less likely to underestimate how long something will take and block out the appropriate amount of time in your calendar. But remember that sometimes things do take longer than planned and that is OK. Build an hour into the end of the day as a buffer so that it doesn't matter if you overrun a bit.
Create a clear file structure online or on paper. Anticipate what you might create.
Read some of the books in our skills and wellbeing collections (a little bit of time invested in this may save you lots more in the future!) for example:
Books above are linked to the Wolfson iDiscover record.