5 tips for better time management

If you’re finding it tough keeping up with the demands of uni – join the club.

We tend to start the semester with good intentions. Keep up with the readings, go to lectures, don’t miss tutes etc. But sometimes life gets in the way, and things don’t go to plan.

Here’s the good news – help is here.

We’ve collaborated with Academic Skills to bring you these 5 time management tips to help you get back on the study bandwagon.

1. Use a semester planner

Semester planners are helpful as they give you a bird’s eye view of what deadlines are coming up and they give you a heads up on your workload over time.

They may look intimidating and complicated, but they’re actually really easy to use. Here’s what a standard semester planner looks like:

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Image: Academic Skills

You can download this template off Academic Skills’ website, and you can also modify the template to suit your needs.

Here’s a planner I’ve roughly put together for the rest of semester:


You first put your subjects and the assessments on the left side of the planner. Then for each assessment, you sketch out the week that it’s due, and the weeks leading up to the deadline.

Say, you’ve got a 1,000 word essay due in Week 10 and it will take you 2 weeks to do your research and writing. So you sketch out Week 9 and 10.

After you do this for each assessment, you have an overview of everything. It gives you a rough idea of when you need to start working on assignments and when things are due.

Another neat thing about semester planners is that you can identify when your busy periods are. If you have too many assessments to work on during one week, you can plan ahead and move some deadlines earlier to make your work load more manageable.

2. Use a weekly planner

I swear by weekly planners. I love them because you can visualise what your week looks like so you can plan ahead.

I first block out my classes and other events for the week (like below), then you block out the times when you’re going to study, work on your assessments, when you’re having coffee with your friends etc.


When you’re blocking out your study times, be specific. Say you’ve got a study block on Tuesday from 9-10.30am. Don’t just write down that you’re going to study for x subject. Think of a specific task that needs to be done – say, review Lecture 10 for x subject.

Being specific saves you from being indecisive about the task you’re going to do, and you spend less time procrastinating too.

The thing with weekly planners is that you may not be able to stick to it 100%, and that’s okay. You need a degree of flexibility because unexpected things will come up. But from your weekly planner, you can then identify the free times you have later in the week – and you can reschedule your study session etc.

Side note – don’t forget to schedule in some guilt-free ‘me’ time. You are not a robot, you need time to unwind and rest.

3. Break your assessments up

Have you ever faced an assignment where you don’t even know where to begin? I know I’ve been in this situation many times.

A good place to start is by breaking the assignment down in smaller tasks with their own mini deadlines. Academic Skills recommend an assignment planner to help you with this endeavour.

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Example of an assignment planner. Image: Academic Skills

Breaking your assignment down into bite-sizes tasks with their own deadlines will make things feel more manageable and achievable, compared to having one mammoth task and one big deadline.

You can download an assignment planner here.

4. Write up to-do lists

Writing out to-do lists is another great way to manage the tasks you need to complete.

I live by to-do lists (it’s sad, I know). If you haven’t gathered from this post so far, I love visualising the tasks I need to do. I like having everything written out because it declutters my mind.

There are also lots of handy to-do list phone apps out there (Trello is a great one!), but I prefer to stick to paper. It’s rather satisfying to physically tick things off a list.

I carry around a small notebook and jot down things like – respond to x person’s email, call x person, follow x up with student centre etc. I usually block out in my weekly planner a ‘miscellaneous’ section to do most of these tasks too, and I’d highlight the tasks of high priority/urgency so I know I need to work on them first.

5. Focus on quality over quantity

There is a common thinking that the longer you studying, the more you will learn.

Well, that isn’t always true.

I know I’ve spent hours on end studying, but didn’t get anything out of it because I spent most of my time youtubing cat videos and playing on facebook in between paragraphs of my readings. This was not a smart use of time.

Instead of focusing on the quantity of study, focus on the quality of study.

A better way to use your time would be to set short, intense study sessions (my study blocks tend to be around 1-1.5hrs) where you’re solely focused on your work. Strictly no facebook, no distractions.

Not going to lie – staying away from social media is ridiculously hard but you need to conjure up every bit of self-discipline in you to fight the temptation (easier said than done).

One thing I’m also trying to do is to phase out studying with music. Thinking back to my exams last semester, I couldn’t believe how much I struggled to sit there in silence and do the exam. The silence was unbearable, so I’m starting to train myself to work in silence in time for my next exams. Not only that, but I found myself procrastinating a lot by being picky with what song to play next etc.

Then after you survive your study without Facebook, give yourself a guilt-free break and reward yourself with all the Facebook for 15-or-so minutes, then back to study again.

I find that doing short, intense study blocks with breaks in between is more productive than studying for hours on end. And this also frees up more time in your day to do other fun things.

Also – don’t underestimate the power of studying with a timer next to you. This is another great way to keep track of time, and help you stay within your break times.

If you need additional help to get back on track

Do pay Academic Skills a visit.

You can book a one-on-one appointment with an advisor to chat about things from how to improving your writing, to things like time management. These appointments are called Individual Tutorials or iTutes for short, and you can book them here. These iTutes are in high demand, so you need to book ahead (just a heads up).

You can also find Academic Skills on their website, Facebook and on Twitter.

Hope this post has been helpful and big thanks to Academic Skills for helping out with this post!

– Daphane

4 thoughts on “5 tips for better time management

  1. Thanks for the tips, Daphane! Been really stressed out and completely unorganised up until now. The semester planner has already given me a better idea of what I need to do. :)

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