Successfully completing a university degree does not happen by accident. You need to manage three particular aspects of life to be successful at university – time, everyday life and all its demands, and the physical and digital environment in which you study.
Time management is important because part of your responsibility at university is to read, to research and to write independently. You will need to plan carefully to ensure that you submit all of your assignments on time and attend all lectures and tutorials whether on campus or online.
In addition, you need to balance university commitments with family and work commitments. Included in this is maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body by taking time away from study for recreation and developing social relationships as well as eating a well-balanced diet.
You will need to find a physical place to study and store your materials in a logical and neat fashion.
Finally, you need to know and understand how to operate in a computer environment, especially saving, protecting and storing your digital files.
Time management is an integral part of any major project, including studying for a degree. Therefore, you need to manage your time effectively in order to sustain a balance between study, work and other life commitments.
Planning your time increases your chances of enjoying life as a student and helps to reduce stress about assignment deadlines and exams.
Good time management requires that you take a pro-active approach – know yourself, your goals, strengths and weaknesses – know how you are currently using your time and how you need to reorganise it.
Try using the weekly and semester planners provided below and once completed, display them in a prominent place at home where everyone who needs to can see them.
Tips to managing your study time
Your time inventory
Complete this inventory to work out where your time goes. Be as honest as possible to find out how many hours per week you have for study.
Plan a weekly timetable
Use this weekly planner to schedule your activities. It will need to be revised at regular intervals to adjust for changes such as different work hours and family commitments. The five or six weeks before and during exams may particularly require adjustment.
Create a semester plan
Use this semester planner to mark in minor and major assignment due dates and/or exams. Refer to your Unit Information guides. Don’t forget about other important commitments. These could be family and work events or even a major sporting or cultural event you are interested in.
Enter the date your assignment is due to get a plan for the time you have available.
Access the assignment scheduler.
Time management calculator
Use this interactive time management tool to see a breakdown of your hours per week available for study and everyday activities.
Access the time management calculator.
Creating a study space
Creating a study environment that works for you will help you to focus on your learning and enjoy your studies.
Checking the personal resources available to you at home, at university and other places, as well as within yourself, can reveal any aspects you need to focus on. These resources could include a space to work, equipment, support people and your own skills, attitudes and study habits.
This section shares ideas on creating your work space, organising resources and doing your best to ensure you don’t lose your work by backing it up and using anti-virus software.
Creating your work space
It’s important to claim a space which you can identify as your study space. Many students use their bedroom for study; however, your bedroom may be associated with the idea of rest and sleep, which doesn’t make it ideal for study. Nonetheless, it may be possible to screen off a corner of your bedroom or of some other room in your house which you can make into a study space.
The space you prefer may not be completely silent as there may be family noise in the background; however, that won’t necessarily disturb you. It may indeed comfort you.
Ask your family or your flat mates to respect the place you have created as your study space.
Stock up with the necessary tools and equipment such as pens, staples, folders etc, and know that they won’t be disturbed by others. Have a desk that is big enough for the job, and a chair that comfortably fits it. Make it your space; an inviting place; one that means learning and creating and being challenged and stimulated.
Organising your resources
Managing your studies includes considering the resources available to support you. These can be at home, university and elsewhere. Consider too the personal resources and attributes that you bring to your studies.
Work through this checklist to help you identify the resources you already have. If you can see some gaps, give these areas some thought or discuss them with friends or fellow students who may be able to provide some helpful tips.
- A separate study area
- A shelf for folders, books etc.
- Local library
- Internet cafe
- Organising events/family
- Formal study
- A computer
- A reading lamp
- Transport (own car, public)
- USB (memory) stick
- Making friends
- Completing tasks
- A babysitter
- People who support your studies
- Indigenous support person
- Library staff
- Learnline support
- Willing to try
- Like learning
Adapted from: Cottrell, S 2003, The Study Skills Handbook, 2nd edition, Palgrave MacMillan Ltd
Don't lose your work
Back up your work
Studying in the twenty-first century means knowing how to operate in a computer environment. Word processing, internet and file management skills are essential. However, learning how to save, store and protect your digital files is especially important.
Lecturers expect students to ensure they have backup copies of their assignments so that if a technical or other problem arises, they are still able to submit their work. Digital (electronic) files can easily be backed up to avoid the distress of losing your work.
Some helpful tips
- Always save a copy of your latest version of an assignment in at least two locations, such as on your computer’s hard drive, on a removable flash (or thumb) drive, on a writable CD, or on larger removable media such as an external hard drive.
- Email yourself a copy of the latest draft so that you can access it easily.
- While writing successive drafts of an assignment, try naming the file with the date in it for version control, or with a version number. For example:
MyName_XYZ123_Assignment-1_v2.docx or MyName_XYZ123_Assignment-1_17Apr12.docx
- Your lecturer may ask you to name a file a specific way before you submit it. Check your assignment instructions.
Protect your computer from viruses
Virus protection for your computer and files is also essential. Computer viruses are a common threat that can not only damage or destroy your files, but also spread easily to other computers through USB drives for example.
We recommend you have a current and up-to-date anti-virus program installed on your personal computer. These programs are usually set to regularly check for and download updates so that the most recent viruses can be recognised and managed.
Many new computers come with an anti-virus program which will eventually need to be renewed to ensure it stays current and effective. There is also a small number of basic free anti-virus programs available for personal use from reputable companies.
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