Time discovers truth
Annaeus Lucius Seneca
4 BCE - 65 AD
Roman Stoic philosopher/dramatist
Time management series
Developing time management skills is a journey
that may begin with this Guide, but needs practice and other guidance along
One goal is to help yourself become aware of how you use your time
as one resource in organizing, prioritizing, and succeeding in your studies
in the context of competing activities of friends, work, family, etc.
First: try our exercise in time
How do you spend your time each day?
Strategies on using time:
These applications of time management have proven to be effective as
good study habits.
As we go through each strategy, jot down an idea of what each will look like
- Blocks of study time and breaks
As your school term
begins and your course schedule is set, develop and plan for, blocks of study
time in a typical week. Blocks ideally are around 50 minutes, but perhaps you
become restless after only 30 minutes? Some difficult material may require
more frequent breaks. Shorten your study blocks if necessary-but don't forget
to return to the task at hand! What you do during your break should give you
an opportunity to have a snack, relax, or otherwise refresh or re-energize
yourself. For example, place blocks of time when you are most productive: are
you a morning person or a night owl?
Jot down one best time block you can study. How long is it? What
makes for a good break for you? Can you control the activity and return to
- Dedicated study spaces
Determine a place free from distraction (no cell phone or text messaging!)
where you can maximize your concentration and be free of the distractions that
friends or hobbies can bring! You should also have a back-up space that you
can escape to, like the library, departmental study center, even a coffee shop
where you can be anonymous. A change of venue may also bring extra resources.
What is the best study space you can think of? What is another?
- Weekly reviews
Weekly reviews and updates are also an important strategy. Each week, like a
Sunday night, review your assignments, your notes, your calendar. Be mindful
that as deadlines and exams approach, your weekly routine must adapt to
What is the best time in a week you can review?
- Prioritize your assignments
When studying, get in the habit of beginning with the most difficult subject
or task. You'll be fresh, and have more energy to take them on when you are
at your best. For more difficult courses of study, try to be flexible: for
example, build in reaction time when you can get feedback on assignments
before they are due.
What subject has always caused you problems?
- Achieve "stage one"--get something done!
The Chinese adage of the longest journey starting with a single step has a
couple of meanings: First, you launch the project! Second, by starting, you may
realize that there are some things you have not planned for in your process.
Details of an assignment are not always evident until you begin the assignment.
Another adage is that "perfection is the enemy of good", especially when it
prevents you from starting! Given that you build in review, roughly draft your
idea and get going! You will have time to edit and develop later.
What is a first step you can identify for an assignment to get
- Postpone unnecessary activities until the work is done!
Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until your school work is
This can be the most difficult challenge of time management. As learners we
always meet unexpected opportunities that look appealing, then result in poor
performance on a test, on a paper, or in preparation for a task. Distracting
activities will be more enjoyable later without the pressure of the test,
assignment, etc. hanging over your head. Think in terms of pride of
accomplishment. Instead of saying "no" learn to say "later".
What is one distraction that causes you to stop studying?
- Identify resources to help you
Are there tutors? An expert friend? Have you tried a keyword search on the
Internet to get better explanations? Are there specialists in the library that
can point you to resources? What about professionals and professional
organizations. Using outside resources can save you time and energy, and solve
Write down three examples for that difficult subject above?
Be as specific as possible.
- Use your free time wisely
Think of times when you can study "bits" as when walking, riding the bus, etc.
Perhaps you've got music to listen to for your course in music appreciation, or
drills in language learning? If you are walking or biking to school, when best
to listen? Perhaps you are in a line waiting? Perfect for routine tasks like
flash cards, or if you can concentrate, to read or review a chapter. The bottom
line is to put your time to good use.
What is one example of applying free time to your studies?
- Review notes and readings just before class
This may prompt a question or two about something you don't quite understand,
to ask about in class, or after. It also demonstrates to your teacher that you
are interested and have prepared.
How would you make time to review?
Is there free time you can use?
- Review lecture notes just after class
Then review lecture
material immediately after class.
The first 24 hours are critical.
Forgetting is greatest within 24 hours without review!
How would you do this?
Is there free time you can use?
Select one of the ten applications above.
and develop a new study
Try something you have a good chance of following through and accomplishing.
Nothing succeeds like a first successful try!
Try the University of Minnesota's
Develop criteria for adjusting your schedule
to meet both your academic
and non-academic needs
- Create a simple "To Do" list
simple program will help you identify a few items, the reason for doing them,
a timeline for getting them done, and then printing this simple list and
posting it for reminders.
- Daily/weekly planner
Write down appointments, classes, and meetings on a chronological log book
If you are more visual, sketch out your schedule
in the morning, check what's ahead for the day
always go to sleep knowing
you're prepared for tomorrow
- Long term planner
Use a monthly chart so that you can plan ahead.
Long term planners will also serve as a reminder to constructively plan time
Time management series