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 (e.g. repeat and multiple alerts only available in the paid-for upgrade).
Microsoft To Do
Microsoft To Do is a task management app that can help you plan and manage your day from your smartphone, tablet and computer.
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).
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. 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. Find out 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 a plan
- 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!
- 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.
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…’
For further reading on mindsets, we have the following titles available for loan in Catalyst:
If you would like to know more about growing your academic resilience you can work through our Grow Your Academic Resilience interactive online toolkit.
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
- First, make sure to find out what is required of you from your tutors. Check Blackboard for guidance documents and make sure you understand the task or project being set. A great way to make sure you are on the right track is to check your Learning Outcomes or any assessment information.
- Arrange an initial meeting with your group to work through the project requirements and identify your main tasks and key milestones and deadlines that will need completing. This is also a great opportunity to meet people you may not have worked with before, so take some time to get to know each other.
- Discuss your project together and begin to allocate roles and tasks. This will ensure there is equitable distribution of the workload and help your group understand what each other will be working on and how this is related to their role / task.
- Set some further meeting dates to check in on everyone’s progress and to work on collective tasks together.
- If you have been asked to present your group work, it is a good idea to arrange rehearsal meetings. This will allow you to practice a run through of any verbal presentations ahead of the real time event or assessment. Visit our Presentations pages for more information and tips on presenting.
Things to consider
- Some members of your group may have other commitments (e.g. work, placements and/or caring responsibilities) alongside their studies so it is important to discuss and factor these in when setting group meetings, workload and deadlines.
- Some members of your group may have additional learning needs and require more specific support and guidance when working in groups. Remember to be considerate of these and try to establish any specific requirements at your initial meeting.
- Some students may find it challenging to work with people they do not know or haven’t worked with before, so always remember to be kind to each other. ☺️
- Create a checklist of key roles, tasks and milestones, breaking down your group deadlines for each of them to be completed.
- Pay attention to accountability and roles within the group, instructions and deadlines should be clear and explicit and workload division should be equitable. Good communication is one of the simplest ways to ensure a great group working experience!
- Check in with each other to ensure all group members understand their role and what they need to be doing. We would recommend exchanging emails and if possible / comfortable share your mobile numbers too. Consider setting up a WhatsApp or Teams chat group, as these can be a great informal way to check in with each other outside of your formal meetings.
- Allow time and flexibility within your plans to arrange follow up meetings, study sessions or tutorials with your lecturers to go through any details.
- Always make sure you understand how you will be assessed and keep an eye on your Learning Outcomes to make sure you are not veering off in a different direction.
- Create your own personal checklist to keep on top of your individual tasks and deadlines. This is also really useful to understand how they factor in with your other responsibilities and commitments.
Online Group Work
Working collaboratively online has never been easier and there are lots of great tools and technologies to assist you. Online meetings, hosted on platforms such as Microsoft Teams, are great for meeting up and working simultaneously with your group members, wherever you may be located.
- Office 365 and Microsoft Teams is available for all students and can be used to create, edit, manage and work collaboratively on popular Microsoft Office products (e.g. Word, PowerPoint and Excel).
- Blackboard Collaborate is another great platform to meet with your peers online. Blackboard Collaborate is a virtual classroom tool that lets you upload files, share applications, and use a virtual whiteboard to interact with each other online. Check with your module tutor to find out what classrooms are available for your group to use.
- If you have been asked to present your group work, you can use either of the platforms mentioned above to practice delivering your presentation. You can even record your meetings / presentations to watch back or recap on discussions.
- It is always a good idea to check your connectivity, audio and visual settings before you meet online, whichever platform you are using.
- When meeting online you can work simultaneously on shared documents in real-time and even share your screen to present updates on the work you have been completing.
- Save important group work documents (e.g. assessment guidance, Learning Outcomes, project outline and deadlines) in Microsoft Teams so all group members have access to them and to ensure you are all working from the same version.
- Set up your own Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp chat group to keep in touch more informally with your group members about your project outside of formal meetings.
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
- Launch our online interactive toolkit for our Grow Your Academic Resilience.
- Watch the Understanding your Learning Outcomes video