Study Skills

Study Skills

Managing your time

Getting used to studying at uni can take time, and one of the biggest adjustments for many of you is likely to be having to manage your own time outside your uni contact hours.

One of the most helpful things you can do to get on top of your work is to create a weekly schedule. Being a university student is your full-time occupation so it’s important to - treat studying for your degree like a job, giving yourself set hours when you’re committed to studying and scheduling your time-off. If you’re feeling on top of things, you’ll be able to relax a lot more when you’re not studying. Enjoying a proper break from the books will, in turn, benefit your studies.

Planning your weekly routine will look different for each of you, but here are some suggestions:

• Get yourself a planner - here are a couple of options:

  • Study timetable: A4 one-pager per week to print off
  • MyStudyLife: create daily and weekly schedules, with reminders, task lists, etc.
  • The Calendar function in Outlook is also a great tool.

Enter into the planner your fixed commitments (eg your uni classes, work shifts, sports training, events), and also any deadlines.

• Most of you will have the option online lectures this year. We always recommend that, wherever possible, you attend classes in person and get to know your teachers; but if you choose or need to watch them online, it is important that you is don’t let them pile up until the end of term! Add them to your schedule as fixed commitments and watch them during the week that you are expected to watch them.

Block in time for independent study: If you think about each day as having three ‘blocks’ (morning, afternoon, and evening), you’ll want to put in ten decent ‘blocks’ of work over a given week. This could be Monday-Friday, or you could mix it up a bit.

If (like most of us) you struggle with motivation to watch an online lecture, then find ways to be accountable to others, such as agreeing to watch a lecture at the same time as a friend (even if your friend is watching a different lecture). 

Work backwards from your assignment deadlines, quizzes, presentations, etc. Figure out how long you realistically need to put aside to complete that task, and then decide which blocks of time you’ll allocate to working on it. Allow yourself some ‘buffer’ time in case things take longer than you expect! And review your plans every few days, to make sure that you’re still on track to meet your deadlines.

• Think about when you study most effectively, and plan the work that involves more concentration for those periods.

• Think about where you study most effectively: you may want to have a regular study space (in the Academic Centre or Learning Commons, for example), or you may like to mix it up.

Avoid working on your bed: the association between your bed and study may make it harder for you to switch off when you want to rest. 

Wherever you’re working, ensure that you eliminate distractions - in particular, keep your phone off, and out of sight! Use web blockers such as (there are many others) to restrict your access to social media sites while studying. 

Think about who you study with most effectively.

It’s great to study with friends and this can help to keep you motivated and accountable; but it might also distract you. You might be better off buddying up with a study partner outside your social group who shares your study goals and habits or whose study habits you want to emulate; or you might find that you are more productive when you are on your own.

Break it up! Try the Pomodoro technique. (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato; the technique is named after the classic tomato-shaped kitchen timers.) It recommends working for 25 mins at a time before taking a 5-minute break. Use a timer to remind you when to stop and when to start working again and take a longer break (20-30 mins) after every four tomatoes. Use your breaks to move, refuel or grab some air.  

Why it works: 

Concentrating for 25 mins at a time is a much less daunting task than setting yourself the goal of doing hours of focused study. Having a limit on the time you can work for before taking a break can make you more productive in that time. Keeping track of your tomatoes can give you a sense of accomplishment and challenge you to do more.