It’s all very well for someone like Albert Einstein to write that “Time is an illusion”, but when you’re a postgraduate student, time – or rather the lack of it – can feel very real.
After all, there’s everything else to be done, as well as your studies. Most postgrads work while they study so, you know, there’s the small matter of earning a living, which takes time. Then there’s the family stuff that needs taking care of. Not to mention, luxury of luxuries, a social life.
So when time is very much of the essence, making the most of it becomes paramount. It’s the only way to ensure that everything you need to get done – in terms of your degree and otherwise – actually gets done.
So how do you do that?
Create a study space
The subtitle of this section could easily be ‘set boundaries’, and the two notions are linked. Delineating a space that is dedicated to study can be a great way to focus the mind: ‘when I am there, I am studying’. Combining that with setting boundaries – from ‘when I am there, I am studying so I will turn my phone off’ to ‘when I am there, I am studying so please don’t bother me’ – makes it easier to get into the headspace for study, which in turn will make your time spent in your study space more effective. It’s much better to have a shorter period of time during which you are fully engaged with your study then a longer period where your mind is only half on it.
Start early and plan
It’s rare that doing something last minute results in something extraordinary. Aside, perhaps, from doing something crazy on a whim like booking a flight to ‘who-knows-where’ that leaves in the next hour (which, let’s face it, could really go either way). Generally, a last-minute fix doesn’t often result in the best outcome. That’s why you don’t really hear phrases like ‘last-minute wedding’ or ‘last-minute navel piercing’ and think that sounds like a good idea.
Starting early and planning out your studies is a very effective way to maximise your time. It enables you to break your study up into manageable sections (more on this later) and avoids everything piling up at the end. Because if you’re rushing something, you’re unlikely to reach the desired outcome (see navel piercings again).
As soon as you have your course schedule, use calendars, diaries and other tools to plan your studies. Choose a system that works best for you, be it pen and paper, digital schedules and reminders, or a combination of both. Note key dates for assignment submissions and work backwards, allowing plenty of time for researching, writing, reviewing and so on. And make the day you start the day after you make the schedule.
Break it up
When you’re making your study schedule, break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Rather than, say, blocking out six weeks with the label ‘assignment’, schedule time for:
You could even get more granular and break those sections up into ‘bite-size’ chunks. Perhaps set yourself deadlines for completing different drafts of a piece of writing. Focusing on smaller, achievable tasks makes it a lot easier to stay focused during your study periods and, you know, actually get things done. Managing workload is a key component of time management.
Take time off
Within your schedule, make sure you also plan some time off. Sure, time is precious and you can start to feel that any spare minutes in the day should be spent studying. After all, you don’t want to waste any time, do you?
But taking time off from your studies is not wasting time. Giving yourself a break can reinvigorate you and make the time you are studying much more effective. So schedule in exercise, days out, time with the kids… whatever it is. Don’t try to study every waking moment.
Organise your materials
To a large degree, effective time management comes down to effective resource management. Tidy desk, tidy mind and all that. These days it’s more about a digital declutter, but taking the time to set up a logical and easily navigable folder system will mean much less wasted time further down the track. ‘Resources’, ‘Drafts’, ‘Feedback’ – these are all good places to start for your desktop classifications, but whatever works for you… do.
So, if you want use your time effectively, utilise these time management hacks… and forget what Einstein said (unless his theories are part of your course, naturally).
We’re here to help
Once you’ve created your ultimate study shrine and you’re ready to get stuck into your first subject, why not check out CSU’s wide range of support services? You could even ease into your study and test your new-found time management skills by taking on a Study Link subject.