Time management

Time management at university involves looking ahead more than a week at a time to anticipate the bigger picture, such as deadlines clustering at the end of semester, or weeks when you’ll be busy with other commitments. You might not be able to make your life less busy, but you will be able to prepare for what is coming.

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources.

Good principles

If you find that time just happens or deadlines creep up on you, it is probably a sign that you need to take more active control of your time. Look at the sections of this guide for good principles of meeting your deadlines, making more hours in the day, and avoiding distractions:

Have daily, weekly and semester plans

Good time management involves keeping track of your time in both the short term and longer term. A daily to-do list is useful for your immediate tasks, but just looking at the next day or week ahead means you might be surprised by deadlines that stack up at the end of the semester. The downloadable grids below provide structure for short-term and longer-term plans.

The daily planner is for short term planning. It helps you break down your tasks and tick them off to stay motivated.

The weekly planner is for regular planning. It enables you to form a routine and book time in your schedule for studying.

The semester planner is for longer term planning. It allows you to see your busy periods and plan ahead to meet your deadlines. 

Visualise your time

Making your time visual in some way, whether that is on paper or online, is a good strategy as you can break it up and see how it is used more easily. Look at these planner grids and apps for some ideas to try:

Break it down

A key part of time management is splitting tasks up into stages and allocating time for them, plus setting mini-deadlines to keep on track. Enter your deadline into the Assignment Survival Kit for a rough schedule to adapt:

Organisation and efficiency

Reflect on what is taking you a lot of time and see if there are ways you can make these things more efficient. Look at our pages for advice on specific study tasks, and also see our resources on getting organised:

Procrastination

You have made excellent plans, but you don’t follow them. Putting things off may not just be a matter of will-power, it may be a more emotional response to the thought of doing the task. See our page on Procrastination to understand why you do it, and how you can work with yourself, not against yourself:

Progress not perfection

Time management strategies need to be personal and adapted to suit your circumstances and life. Adopt a reflective approach and observe what tends to work for you, and what doesn’t. No strategies will work all of the time, so it is more about persevering and making regular forward progress than aiming for perfection. See the page below for a list of strategies - select a few to try and see if they work for you: 

Further resources

If you would like to explore more strategies for managing your time, look at the resources and booklist created by Brookes Library: