Study skills

La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Study skills

Achieve@Uni
La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Achieve@Uni
La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Study skills

Achieve@Uni

Time management

Effective time management allows you to work smarter but not harder or longer. You can plan your study time, set goals, prioritise tasks and break down tasks into smaller workable parts.  

Follow the steps below to begin managing your time.

Time audit

What are the current demands on your time?  

Consider a typical week on your calendar or weekly planner. Record all study and non-study activities like, eating, sleeping, socialising and paid work. Find out how you really spend the time available to you. 

Time management style

How do you prefer to work? 

Reflect on your preferred time management style.

  • Do you prefer to work to a deadline or work best when under pressure?
  • Do you prefer spontaneity or planning your work ahead of time?
  • Do you prefer to work on many tasks simultaneously or complete one task at a time?
  • Do you like to constantly keep perfecting your work or do you prefer to complete tasks and move on? 

Use your responses to help raise your self-awareness of your time management style. Recognise the advantages and disadvantages of your style of working. Use the information to adapt your style to university requirements for learning and assessments.  

For example, make a list of all your tasks according to due dates or value to you if you have difficulty prioritising tasks. Or, set yourself a series of mini-deadlines in a course with one large assessment if deadlines help keep you on track.

Adapted from Clark (2021).

Goal setting

Set yourself specific and realistic goals. Remember to prioritise assessments according to their percentage of your grade. For example, an assessment worth 30% should be prioritised over an assessment worth 10%.  

Semester planner

Use a semester planner (scroll down to Further resources) to mark all your activities over the entire semester. Note all important dates for each assessment on the semester planner. Include other commitments relating to paid work, family and friends. This gives you the ‘big picture’ of all your commitments. Identify the busy periods so that you can spread out your workload across the semester. 

Weekly planner

Use the weekly planner (scroll down to Further resources) to mark all your activities over each week of the semester. This will identify time available for planning outside class study or any group work that is required.

Daily planner

Use a daily planner or ‘To-do’ list to identify and keep track of what you must do each day. Write the tasks as a list of dot points and rank them in order of importance. Cross them off as you complete each task and reward yourself at the end of the day.

Assessment planner

Use the Assessment Planner to create a schedule for completing your assignment on time.         

Hint: use an end date that is at least 3 days prior to the actual due date to allow time for the unexpected or interruptions outside your control.  

Procrastination

There are many reasons for procrastination. Negative effects of procrastination are wide-ranging and may affect your academic progress and success. Recognise episodes of procrastination and your reasons for it to avoid repetition in the future.  

To defeat procrastination, you must:

  • Remove distractions
  • Be more organised
  • Be realistic with your goals
  • Clarify your tasks and expectations
  • Acknowledge and reward your past successes
  • Share your goals with others to accept responsibility
  • Apply time management strategies given in the next section. 

Time management strategies

Pomodoro technique

Use the Pomodoro technique (Cirillo, n.d.) to ‘get in the zone', focus on a task and be productive. The Pomodoro encourages you to do intense work in blocks of time with regular breaks in-between.    

  • Choose a task.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work on the task until the timer rings.
  • Note where you are with the task.
  • Take a 5 min break, reward yourself.
  • Take a longer break of 30 minutes after every four Pomodoro sessions.

Daily top three

Use this simple yet effective technique if you prefer to focus on a set number of tasks. 

  • Note the three most important tasks on your daily ‘To-do’ list. 
  • Make these the ‘daily top three’ tasks to complete that day.  
  • You may modify the technique if required to fit in with other commitments. 
  • Do the ‘daily top two’ or ‘daily task’, depending on the time you have on a specific day (Clark, 2021).

Break down tasks

Use this technique for large and complex tasks.

  • Break down the large task into smaller parts that are easier to complete.
  • Use SMART thinking to describe each smaller part
    • Specific – you know what it is
    • Measurable - you can measure it
    • Achievable - you can complete it
    • Relevant – you know it must be done
    • Time-bound - you know when to complete it.
  • Complete either the easiest part first or the most difficult part first – the latter will give you a greater sense of satisfaction and more incentive to complete the other parts. 

More tips

  • Manage your environment - find a physical environment that helps you to concentrate.
  • Manage stress effectively don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family.
  • Consult with an Academic Skills and Language Advisor or drop in to see a Peer Learning Advisor (PLA) for guidance.
  • Speak with a counsellor.  
  • Set limits on phone and social media usage. Set aside a regular time for social media. Move apps to a folder outside the home screen. Try an app that helps you manage social media.
  • Boost your confidence by thinking of the successes and accomplishments you’ve had so far.
  • Don’t give yourself a hard time if things don’t work out as planned.
  • Persist with your plan.
  • Be kind to yourself. Self-compassion is important!

Still have questions? Talk one-on-one with a Peer Learning Advisor or Academic Skills and Language Advisor.

References

Cirillo, F. (n.d). The Pomodoro technique. Cirillo Consulting. https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique/

Clark, L. (2021). Time management. In C. Bartlett, T. Cawthray, L. Clark, S. Conway, K. Derrington, A. Devi, A. Frederiks, L. Gunton, W. Hargreaves, D. Howarth, S. Irvine, M. Jeffers, K. Lovric, R. McGregor, E. Peters, L. Pickstone, B. Retallick, Y. Rose, A. Sahay, ... R. Tweedale (Eds.), Academic success (Australian ed., pp. 51-75). University of Southern Queensland. https://usq.pressbooks.pub/academicsuccess/ Used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.