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.
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?
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.
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:
2Do is a list and calendar-based time-management app. It can be used to create multiple tasks, checklists and projects. The user can set reminders for tasks, which can be re-ordered, filtered or focused according to the user’s changing needs. Photos, files etc. can be attached to tasks. 2Do allows you to keep track of your upcoming tasks.
Any.do is similar to 2Do – a list and calendar-based time-management app which can be used to create multiple tasks, checklists and projects. Any.do offers more options in terms of file attachments and sorting. However, it does not have some features present in 2Do (i.e. repeat and multiple alerts only available in the paid-for upgrade).
Wunderlist is a list-based time-management app. It is simpler than 2Do & Any.do, which means it is easier to use but doesn’t offer some of the other apps’ features. Tasks can be added with attached notes and files. Reminders can be set and task-lists can be shared. Wunderlist features a “smart” feature where it reacts to trigger words such as “tomorrow” when scheduling reminders etc.
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 have the opportunity to 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.
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. Inspiration 9 and MindView 7 allow 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. Find out more more about Assistive Technology.
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.
You could also try downloading one of these apps to help you get more organised on the go:
Go Conqr is a social learning platform. It allows you to create Mind Maps, Flashcards, Quizzes, Slides and Notes to help you learn more easily. The Go Conqr app is fully integrated with your web account, so your learning resources are always at hand. Users can follow study and discussion groups as well as individual users, giving them access to further relevant learning resources.
Evernote allows the creation of notes in multiple formats (checklists, sketches, photos, scans, audio, video, PDF’s & web clippings). Tasks can be synced across all devices and shared with other users. Documents can be annotated and worked on by multiple users. Evernote allows all your notes to be kept in one place.
OneNote is similar to Evernote. Notes can be filed into notebooks and stored in multiple formats. Frequently used notes can be pinned for easy access. Note format and structure is very flexible, and as with Evernote tasks can be synced across devices and shared with others. A ‘convert to shape’ feature simplifies hand-drawn notes.
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
- Making an essay plan
- Making a search plan (i.e. what are they 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 essay plan
- Writing your assignment
- Editing your assignment – this is not proofreading!
- Online submission
As you can see, 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.
There are lots of apps available which can help you in the planning of your assignment; whether that be how your store and read articles, to organising and managing tasks for a group project:
Instapaper allows the user to save and store web articles, which can later be read offline. Saved content can be adjusted for ease of reading and sorted and filed to allow the user to keep track of their documents. The appearance of the article (font size, line spacing etc. can be adjusted for the readers convenience).
Pocket is similar to Instapaper. Saved articles can be tagged to allow for easy searching and Pocket recommends stories based on the user’s interests. Like Instapaper, Pocket has a text-to-speech function for users who prefer spoken word to text learning.
Trello is a project management tool allowing users to create work boards for projects and designate workflows. Tasks can be assigned to other users to facilitate group project work. Syncing allows all users to keep up-to-date on outstanding tasks and those completed by themselves or others.
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 prior 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).
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 refers to as a ‘growth’ or ‘fixed’ mindset. While those with a growth mindset believe that their abilities can develop over time, those with a fixed mindset would instead argue you are destined to a predetermined level of intelligence. Read more about these mindsets below…
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…’
For further reading on mindsets, we have the following titles available for loan in Catalyst:
Useful Guides & Toolkits
- Evaluating Your Use of Time:
- Planning Your Time
- Weekly Planner Template
- Prioritising Your Time
- Priority Graph Template
- Getting Organised
- To Do List Template
- Dealing with Distractions
- Using the Pomodoro Technique
- The Crux of Time Management
- Top 10 Tips for Achieving Assignment Success
- Essay Planning
- Unpacking the Assignment Question
- Launch our online interactive toolkit for Note Taking
- Launch our online interactive toolkit for Planning Your Assignment
- Watch the Understanding your Learning Outcomes video