Psychology students on campus

Time Management

Probably the biggest difference between studying at school or college and studying at university is the need to work independently and take more responsibility for your own time management. Typically a school or college timetable for a student studying three A levels or AVCEs might involve around 20 hours per week of class time. In contrast, a university timetable for a subject like English might involve just eight hours of contact time a week and managing the rest is up to you! Here are some ideas to help you manage this study time well.

Using your Time Effectively

The extra 'spare' time you have is designed to be spent studying and it is not always easy to be organized and motivated enough to use it wisely. Even in subjects that involve much more weekly contact time there is the need for a considerable amount of work outside lectures and tutorials. Expect to spend about 40 hours a week in total on university-related work.

At degree level it will be your responsibility to decide:

  • which topics in the course to focus on
  • how much time to spend on private study and when to do it
  • where to find books and articles and how to use them
  • how well you are doing on a particular course

You may be set a number of tasks by different lecturers, all to be submitted at the same time (often the end of term) so you will need to plan your work in advance. You will also probably be set much larger projects than you have tackled so far. For these, it may help to break down the work into smaller chunks, each with its own target, eg complete reading and research by week 2, write first draft by week 3. Give yourself realistic deadlines but allow for emergencies, for example if you are ill or your printer breaks down.

It also pays to be organized. You will accumulate a vast amount of lecture notes and other material during your studies. How easily could you find the notes you made last month or last year? Learn to properly sort and file your notes as you go - it will really pay off in the long run.

Think about your working environment. At what time of day do you study best? How long can you work effectively before you need a break? Do you work better with others or independently? Are you more motivated if you work in the library? Do you work better under pressure? Does background music help? If you know how you study best, it will mean you should be able to use your time more efficiently. Finally, make sure you allow a reasonable time for relaxation, exercise and socializing. And don't spoil it by worrying about your work!

Hints and Tips: Time-saving ideas

  • Don't try rewriting all your lecture notes. A quick read through and a few extra notes in the margin should be enough!
  • Keep a record of the exact reference of any books or other sources of information you use (title, author's name, publisher, page reference, date, library catalogue number). It will save time when you refer to them in your writing and will help you find them again quickly if you need to.
  • Keep photocopies of the pages of key texts found in the library if you are likely to need to keep referring to them (but make sure you find out about copyright rules).
  • Take account of word limits. Make sure the amount of time you spend on an essay is proportional to its length. If you do too much research and writing on a 1,000-word essay, you will just have to cut it down at the end!
  • Make the most of time between lectures, or time spent travelling, to catch up on work or reading.
  • Set a specific task for each study period. This will help to give you a feeling of achievement, rather than turn you into a clockwatcher (only 10 minutes to go).
  • If you are feeling tired, start work on something else instead - don't waste ages on the bit you're stuck on.
  • If you can meet deadlines a few days before the end of term it will save you the time and stress of standing in queues for the photocopier, computers, library desk etc. All these facilities become much busier then as everyone tries to use them in the mad rush at the end of term.