Using Time Management to Improve Study Skills
Most students start out each new semester of school with high expectations. They envision themselves being successful in their studies and school work but they fail to put together a realistic plan, or establish a routine, that will enable them to achieve academic success. There are only so many hours in a day, days in a week, and weeks in a term. And if you don't pay attention, the end of the semester will arrive before you know it – catching you by surprise. To achieve academic success, you must carefully manage your study time on a daily, weekly, and semester basis. The following is a time management strategy for doing exactly that.
Step 1. Prepare a Term Calendar
At the start of each new term, before you get heavily involved in your studies or other activities, prepare a calendar that covers the entire term. Your term calendar can look like a regular monthly calendar, or it can employ a different format. Whichever format you choose, your term calendar should outline the following:
- Assignments with their due dates
- Tests with their dates
- All school activities
- All out-of-school and extra-curricular activities
Step 2. Prepare a Weekly Schedule
Unlike your term calendar, which is planned out in its entirety at the beginning of each term, your weekly schedule is prepared at the beginning of each new week. Each Sunday sit down and prepare your weekly schedule. Although you'll prepare your weekly schedule each Sunday, you should update your schedule as the week progresses and new items arise. To prepare your weekly schedule do the following:
- Write down on your calendar each class you have for each day of the week
- Take a look at your term calendar and write down on your weekly calendar items that need to be completed, or are occurring that week (i.e. assignments, tests, events, etc.)
- Go back and review all your class notes and your schedule from the prior week to see if there is anything you need to add to this week's schedule that is carrying over.
- Add to your weekly schedule any out-of-school and extra-curricular activities you'll be participating in during the upcoming week.
- Note down the day and time for each assignment, study session, work group or project you'll be completing during the week. These may be occurring in the evening, after school, or during school.
Step 3. Prepare a Daily Schedule
You'd think a term calendar and weekly schedule would be sufficient to effectively manage your time, but they aren't. You also need to prepare a daily schedule. Each evening, prepare a daily schedule for the next school day. Place a check mark next to each item to be completed as it is completed. To prepare your daily schedule do the following:
- Jot down everything from your weekly schedule that you need to do for the coming day.
- Write down everything from your previous daily schedule that wasn't completed and needs to be completed the next day.
- Check your daily schedule for the current day to see if there are any other school activities that you need to include for the following day.
- Include any other activities from your weekly schedule that need to be included in your next day's schedule
You'll notice that one of the keys to effectively managing your study time is to start with the big picture and then work down to the detail. Your term calendar provides direction and instruction for accomplishing the big picture. Your weekly and daily schedules provide the detail required to accomplish everything in your term calendar, enabling you to accomplish your term goals one day and week at a time.
Other Time Managements Skills
Once you've developed a term calendar, weekly schedule, and daily schedule, there are several other strategies that will help you accomplish more and make the most effective use of your time. These include:
- Prioritize your assignments. As you progress through your education, you'll find the topics of study become more complex, the work load more demanding and the material more challenging. By the time you arrive at college, there just isn't enough time in the day to get everything done. Start the habit of beginning your studying with the most difficult, or important, subject or task first. Tackling the hardest subjects first, while you're still fresh and energized, will make the remainder of your studies much easier.
- Find a dedicated study space. Some students will spend the first 20 minutes of their study time just looking for somewhere to study. A key to ongoing time management is to find a dedicated study space free from distractions where you can concentrate. If you want to change up your study space, that's fine, just make sure to find a study space that works and stick with it.
- Create blocks of study time. Not only should you have a dedicated study space, you should have dedicated study time–blocks of time where you focus on your studies. Blocks around 40 to 50 minutes are ideal, but may be longer or shorter based on the subject and your ability to focus. It's okay to take study breaks during your blocks for a snack, or just to get up and walk around, but make sure to return to your studies.
- Schedule activities for after your school work. One of the most difficult, yet important, elements of effective time management is to put your school work first. It's easy to say you'll get your school work done later, or just before you go to bed. It's just as easy to say you'll do it tomorrow when bedtime arrives and you no longer have the disposition or energy to get it done. Complete your school work as soon as possible. Putting off less important activities until after you complete your school work will allow you stay on track and focus on your "fun" activities without the pressure looming school work.
- Use helpful resources. The old adage, if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again, while useful for many of life's situations, isn't always the best philosophy when you're strapped for time and can't figure out your chemistry homework. As you progress through middle school, high school and then into college, it's wise to rely on the help, expertise and knowledge of others to assist you with the learning process. Smart friends, tutors, study groups, and even the Internet, are useful resources for tackling complex subjects and making the most effective use of your time.
- Join a study group. Study groups offer several advantages to students, least of which is the ability to cover more material faster. Working in a study group makes it possible to research and learn about various topics quickly. Each member is assigned a topic and then provides a summary to the group.
- Get exercise. Eat right. Get plenty of sleep. Yeah, you've heard this before, but let us say it again. Get exercise, eat right and get plenty of sleep. If you're not at your peak, you won't be able to focus or concentrate, nor will you have the energy or stamina to get your studies completed efficiently. Going to bed an hour earlier can make all the difference the next day in your ability to make the best use of your time.
- Be flexible. You can't plan for everything. Unforeseen obstacles are bound to pop up, so plan accordingly and be flexible. Just want sure to get back on track as soon as possible and maintain your monthly, weekly and daily schedule.