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Ever heard of the phrase ‘Time Management’?  Of course you have, your school teachers, parents and heads of Sixth Form have been drilling that into you for years now.  Well people, I have good news and bad news – I’ll start with the bad first… When you get to Uni, you’ll have someone else bleating about on about it in your earhole.

The good news?  It’ll be up to you to get yourself organised and get it right.  Doesn’t sound such a good thing, but when you structure your day how you want to, believe me – it’s definitely a good thing.

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Remember the days of Sixth Form, where you were in classrooms for nearly 30 hours a week?  Me too.  Sadly, unless you’re doing a massively intensive course, those days are over.  At university, you’ll find yourself with about 12-15 hours a week contact time (the time you spend under the guidance of a tutor.)  So rather than 6 hours a day, every day, you might yourself with an average of 3 hours a day, with gaps in between and even days when there’s nothing to do at all.

I had a flatmate in my second year studying Politics for eight hours a week (I know, there are genuinely Unis out there who think 8 hours a week constitutes a full-time education representing good value for money.) who was lucky enough for the first term to have all of his weekly hours on one day.  In this case, time management is so important because it would be so easy to not do anything all week.

I can already hear the protests, the cries of “why do I have to do it?”  Well, there are several very good reasons why you should get your act together:

  • Ensuring your time is managed properly means that you’ll get your work done in a timely and proper way.  Sounds so simple, but the number of people who don’t get their time structured and then complain that they haven’t got enough time to get their work done is unreal.  Starting early with assignments and revision will mean that you don’t have to rush and will be able to be far more thoughtful and considered.

  • Knowing exactly what you’re going to be doing and when is going to help so much.  You’ll be at places on time and still have time to get your work done, relax and anything else that you want to do in between!

  • Speaking of ‘everything else,’ you’ll find that it won’t just be your studies that take a giant leap for the better.  Things like planning to go to the gym, attend sports practice and the like doesn’t just mean knowing where you have to be when… you’ll remember to bring your kit along with you to your last seminar so that afterwards you can run to the pitch, get kitted up and into a warm up – no running back home and realising you hadn’t packed any of it.

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Of course, you can think about the benefits of being organised but nothing’s going to change if you don’t take some positive steps!  Handily, if you’re struggling for some guidance I have a few suggestions that can help you get going:

  • Get a paper diary… And make a habit of using it. - In this world of digital calendars, notepads and storage devices, I’m afraid to say there is no substitute for a simple paper diary that you carry with you in your bag.  Firstly, by opening it up every hour or so you’ll spot if anything is coming up.  With the calendar and reminders on your phone, more often than not the only way you’ll remember is if you set a reminder (which sometimes you forget to do) and even then it might not go off until that meeting is two minutes away and you are half a mile off campus…
    If nothing else, removing the digital copy means there’s less distractions in your life.  Adding a reminder on your phone turns into checking your emails, which turns into checking Facebook and Twitter and then eventually wondering why that essay hasn’t progressed any further…

  • Get an alarm clock - Oversleeping is a staple excuse of the average student for being late or absent from lectures and seminars.  Ultimately you’ll need to copy those notes up… or better still, get an alarm clock and don’t miss anything.  Trying to copy those lecture notes up without a lecturer explaining them is infinitely harder.  If nothing else, wiring your alarm up to some speakers will get your flatmates up and moving in the morning too.
    Any complaints?  You’re doing a public service – you should be rewarded.
  • Structure your day – and stick to it! – If you’re in Uni at 9am for that lecture or seminar, you’re going to want to get back into bed afterwards.  Let’s face it, we all do.  However, hanging around campus to do other important things after will probably wake you up.  A quick trip to the library to get that book out you want for the afternoon, even a trip to the gym if you’ve got a bit longer…. All of it means that you’ll feel more productive and you’ll be fitting more useful things in the middle of the day.  Even if there’s a repeat of Jeremy Kyle on TV.
    Of course, do plan in relaxation time.  During the summer my girlfriend and I would take a trip to sit on the field next to one of the faculty buildings for a catch-up in between various bits and pieces we were up to.  A nice little break will provide your brain with some welcome relief.

  • Print your student timetable – More often than not, departments will save themselves the trouble of printing out timetables for people and will simply post them up online for you.  If your university has got a portal or Online Blackboard where they post course materials and lecture notes, that’s probably the best place to look.  It’ so good to have a paper copy of it printed out – heck, even stick it inside the front cover of your new paper diary… That way, you’ll be able to easily flick back and see what you have to fit things around.
    Beware though – if you have units or modules that last one term (i.e. up to Christmas or start in the new year) your timetable will change!  Sounds simple, but I’ve seen enough people coming back in January with a fresh attitude, new motivation, bundles of enthusiasm… oh, and last semester’s timetable.

  • Get motivated! – No-one’s going to do it for you.  As nice as it is to lie in bed all morning with the TV or or spend the afternoons in the pub when there’s work to be doing you need to remember why you’re there.  If you need me to tell you, perhaps you need to motivate yourself more than you think.

Motivation gets you started, determination keeps you going.

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