Getting organised

It is important to manage your time at University if you want to meet your academic deadlines and still maintain a good study-life balance. Something as simple as using a calendar or planner can help you to organise your time effectively and plan assignment deadlines around other commitments.

Time management

One of the first things you can do to manage your time better, is determine how you currently spend your time and identify gaps you could be using more productively. Use the Evaluating Your Use of Time guide to check where your time currently goes. Could you use it more efficiently? What changes could you make?

Pomodoro Technique

If you struggle to manage your time whilst working on assignments or projects, why not give the Pomodoro Technique a try. This method allows you to focus your time in short bursts (e.g. 25 minutes) on one specific task at a time. You work solidly until the end of the allotted time, using a timer to keep you on track. It is important that you give the task your undivided attention for the period you have set. Once your pomodoro is completed, take a short break (e.g. 5 minutes) and then complete another pomodoro. Working in this way allows you to break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks; cut down on distractions, and consistently set objectives to achieve.

Useful apps

To start getting organised, choose a format that works best for you, whether that’s a paper diary or phone calendar. You could also try downloading one of these apps to help you get more organised on the go.

Useful apps

Making the most of lectures

It goes without saying that attending lectures is an important part of university study. Yet, to really make the most of a lecture, what you do before and after is just as important.

Before your lectures

Prior to attending your lecture, plan ahead as much as you can. Have you completed any set pre-lecture reading or looked at other recommended material? Familiarise yourself with the themes of any upcoming lectures by checking out your module information. Tutors may upload slides or related documents to Learning Edge which you can view before attending the session. You will understand the lecture more, if you have familiarised yourself with key terms / themes to be discussed.

After your lectures

Following the lecture, revisit your notes and check you understand what you have written. If there are gaps in your notes or you were unsure what was being discussed, you may need to supplement them with further reading or research. Don’t leave too long a gap between the end of a lecture, and revisiting your notes, re-read them whilst they are fresh in your memory.

Lecture Capture (Panopto)

Lecture Capture (Panopto) is an additional learning tool, which uses software to capture a tutor’s voice in sync with the lecture slides. Tutors can record their lectures and upload onto Learning Edge for students to revisit at any time. This can be useful if you need to clarify or expand upon any of the notes you made during the session. It is user friendly and allows you to adjust the speed of playback. Check with your tutor to determine if your programme area is using Lecture Capture (Panopto).

Note taking

Making notes at University will help you to make sense of what you are learning and help you to remember it later. Note taking is a skill that grows with practice and during your studies you will develop this skill further. The important thing to remember is there are no set rules for how you make notes, ultimately, if you can understand them and use them for the purpose you intended – choose the method of note-taking which you prefer. To find out which style of note taking you prefer, you might try out some different methods. Lists can work well if you are someone who prefers a bulleted list of points, whilst a mind map can allow you to visualise your ideas, identify links and most importantly, recognise the gaps in your knowledge too.

Mind maps

You don’t have to be an artist to create a useful mind map, but if you prefer technology over coloured pens, you may prefer to use software to create your mind map. MindView 7 allows you to create your mind map online, you can add comments to your points easily and move your ideas around. You can also export your completed plan to Word, which will create a starting structure for your assignment.

Critical note taking

Make notes wisely, rather than just highlighting text or copying information out word for word. Think about the points being raised, what are they telling you? The Critical Thinking toolkit provides tips on how to develop as a critical reader, the more questions you ask of your reading the more it will impact on the notes you make from academic literature.

Useful apps

Assignment planning

When you receive an assignment, it is essential that you plan out the time it will take for you to complete it. This isn’t just the time it will take to write the assignment.

You also need to allow plenty of time for all the following tasks:

  • reading and understanding the assignment question / learning outcomes
  • planning
  • making a search plan (i.e. what are the key terms you need to search for?)
  • searching the Library Catalogue / Discover More to source key literature
  • reading and note taking – give yourself as much time as possible for this
  • formulating ideas, revisiting and amending your plan
  • writing your assignment
  • editing your assignment – this is not proofreading
  • proofreading
  • online submission

There are many steps involved in writing your assignment, which is why planning is so important. Check out the Academic Reading and Writing section for more tips on planning your assignment.

Useful apps

Academic resilience

Nurturing your academic resilience can help you face any challenges or setbacks you encounter during your time at university. From receiving a disappointing mark to feeling out of place in your seminars, recognising that you have the potential to succeed despite the adversity you face is paramount.

With research suggesting a positive correlation between academic resilience and attainment (Cassidy, 2016), you may find it helpful to distinguish whether you have what psychologist Carol Dweck (2012) refers to as a ‘growth’ or ‘fixed’ mindset.

Fixed vs growth mindset

In an academic context, those with a fixed mindset may:

  • Only be interested in their grade
  • Ignore feedback
  • Take comments personally
  • Blame others for their results
  • Think ‘I can’t do this’

On the other hand, those with a growth mindset are likely to:

  • Be interested in feedback as well as the grade
  • Act upon their feedback
  • Remain objective
  • Approach their tutor for support
  • Think ‘I can’t do this yet, but I can improve by…’

Further reading

For further reading on mindsets, we have the following titles available for loan in Catalyst:

BROWN, B., 2010. The Gifts of Imperfection. Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life. Minnesota: Hazelden Publishing.

DWECK, C. S., 2006. Mindset: The new psychology of success. How we can learn to fulfil out potential. New York: Random House.

RUSSELL, H., 2016. Leap Year: How small steps can make a giant difference. London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd

If you would like to know more about growing your academic resilience you can work through our Grow Your Academic Resilience interactive online toolkit.

Group work

Working in a group with your student peers can be a really rewarding activity to undertake at University. Working collaboratively with others on a shared project can help you develop skills such as communication, time management, critical thinking and decision making. In the following information we have pulled together some key considerations and top tips to help you get started and work successfully in a group.

Getting started with group work

Things to consider

Top tips

Online group work

Useful guides and toolkits

Guides:

Online toolkits:

Online courses:

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