5 best ways to manage your study time

How to study - Ways to manage your study time better

Time management is essential when it comes to studying for a test or exam, especially if you have a lot of them lined up within a short period of time! Many students struggle to find the time to study, particularly part-time students, and even if you do find the time to study, sometimes it can be really challenging to make the most of your time. We’ve touched on time management in two other articles (links to bad study habits and good study habits), but here we’ll discuss time management in a bit more depth.

Writing to-do lists and making calendars

One of the easiest ways to manage your time effectively is to write to-do lists. You may think you can remember everything you have to do, and when you’re going to do it, but writing it down helps you actually see what needs to be done. It also helps you structure your time better. If you can see you need to study a certain three sections, write them down so that you can make notes on how much time you need to allocate to each of them. By seeing it visually you’ll be able to plan your study time better. A to-do list also helps you keep tabs on what still needs to be done and the importance of different items on the list. To-do lists are also great for motivation – there’s very little more satisfying than ticking off a completed task!

Part of writing a to-do list for good time management can include making a study calendar, whether that be daily, weekly or monthly (although we recommend making all three!). By writing down what has to be done and by when you will better know how to break down your tasks. Start by jotting down all your exam and test dates (as well as task or assignment due dates, because you’re going to have to work around these). It’s also useful to include other important dates like birthdays, appointments etc, as these will also need to be worked around when studying for tests and/or exams. From there, you can now determine what needs to be done and by when (and the order of importance, but we’ll get to that in a moment). You also need to set mini-deadlines within bigger deadlines for yourself. For instance, if you want to get two chapters done by a certain time, decide by when you want to have covered the first.

Prioritising your work

Not all study material was created equal – some topics are more important to cover than others. This usually means they’ll need more time, so knowing which the crucial topics are to cover will help you allocate time, too. It also means that if you don’t get around to covering the less important stuff, you should still know enough to pass your test or exam! Also, it’s not enough to designate your work based on its importance or urgency just once – you need to be updating the priority of your work constantly, as you go along. Use the to-do list – that is, prioritising means listing the things on your to-do list in order of importance and urgency. And it should go without saying that the most important work needs to be covered first.

The primary objective of time management is to make sure that you allocate your time wisely in order for you to achieve your goals. For instance, if you wanted to be an Olympic athlete, you would need to train for at least several hours every day for multiple years. In a very similar way, to get the best marks you possibly can, you need to know everything you have to study, and which sections of your material are the most important.

Being realistic about the amount of work you have to study

We all like to think we’re going to cover a ton of material when we finally get around to studying but that hardly ever ends up becoming a reality. You know how much work you’re actually able to get through in a certain amount of time. For example, don’t plan to cover 300 pages of your textbook in one afternoon – you’re not going to get through all of it and that will really demotivate you. It’s better to break down your work into bite-sized, more manageable pieces. That way, you can stick to your schedule better and you might find yourself being able to study more stuff than you originally intended to! If you’re not sure how much material you can cover in a specified amount of time, it’s a good idea to do a personal assessment. How do you do this?

Well, you need to keep track of all the studying you do, every day, over the course of one whole week, from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep. This means you need to record every single detail of everything you do – when you sit down to study, start the timer. When you take breaks, stop the timer. Every time you stop, take note of how much material you’ve covered (for example, how many textbook pages).

The method requires you to keep track of everything you do for an entire week, from the time you wake up to the time you fall asleep. That means recording every single detail. At the end of the week, add up the totals. For example, count the number of hours spent on eating, travelling, studying, talking on the phone, shopping, exercising, smoking, watching TV, being online, etc, until you have a complete picture of where your time goes. If you find you are losing a lot of time to activities other than studying, try to balance your schedule. Start eliminating the time bandits by making small adjustments in your habits and behaviour in order to get better control of your precious time.

It’s also important to remember that studying isn’t just reading through your material, it’s also about doing research, making notes, and consolidating information through revision and testing yourself. These processes are necessary and take a lot of time, so be sure to allocate your time accordingly! You also need to know when during the day you’re most productive – don’t plan to study at night when you know very well that you’re more productive in the morning, or vice versa. And if time isn’t a luxury – and it usually isn’t – do your most important/difficult work during your most productive hours, otherwise, you’re going to waste time struggling with your work. Leave the smaller, less important and/or easier sections for times of the day when you’re less productive.

Consistent studying

On the back of the previous point, it’s much easier (and better!) to study a little bit each and every day, rather than hunkering down in front of a mountain of work over the course of one or two entire days. It also helps to review notes as you make them – don’t wait until test week or exam time, revise the content you’ve covered during lectures or whilst you’ve been making notes on your material at home. Get into the habit of this – make daily reviewing and revision of notes part of your daily routine, even if it’s only 10 to 15 minutes every day. This will help to consolidate information while it’s still fresh in your mind, saving you time during test week or the exam period.  So, by doing a little bit every day, you’ll probably cover all your material come test week or the exam period, so this means that instead of spending time making and organising your study notes, you’ll really just be revising your work! And revision is probably the most important part of studying because that’s how you get information to stick.

Being flexible

This goes in conjunction with several other tips. When it comes to managing your time, it’s all very well and good to have everything planned and mapped out, but life happens – make sure you’re able to reschedule your studying time should anything unexpected come up and drag you away from your studying time. This is also where consistent studying and revision comes in – if you do a little bit every day, it’s not going to be a total train smash if you don’t get around to your planned study session, because you would have already covered a significant amount of work by the time something unexpected comes up!