Leeds University Library

Time management


The sections below contain detailed information on how to manage your time more effectively.

Time management icon

Taking control

What do you need to do?

The first step towards taking control of your time is to brainstorm all your incomplete projects. Don't start doing things at this stage; just make sure you capture everything. The exception is when something will take less than two minutes: do it straight away. Also, don't start planning when you will do things, just focus on getting a complete inventory of what you need to do.

Writing "to-do" lists

A "to-do" list is an effective way of increasing your daily productivity. Spending five or ten minutes writing a list at the beginning of a day means that you won't waste time in between tasks considering what you need to do next. You can also use to-do lists to break down large, complex tasks into more manageable goals.

  1. List your tasks: write down all the things you intend to do that day.
  2. Prioritise: decide what to do first. Assign each task high, medium or low priority - high priority tasks are those that absolutely must be done on that day; medium priority tasks are those which ought to be done that day; low priority tasks are nice-to-haves, which you can do if you have time after completing the 'high' and 'medium' tasks.
  3. Stick to it: don't immediately start anything new that comes up. If a new task does crop up, add it to the list and give it a priority.

Organising time and tasks

The official calendar of the University of Leeds includes term dates, exam periods and holidays for the next two years.

Creating a planner

  • PocketMod
    Design, download and print a personal planner. Suitable if you like a minimal approach or want to always have something with you
  • DIY Planner
    Build your own planner from the many templates available. This site also has a wealth of tips and tricks.

Prioritising: urgency/importance

Recognising the difference between urgency and importance can help you spend your time more effectively.

Scheduling your time for specific tasks

These demonstrations and tools will help you to effectively plan your schedule before you begin an assignment or exam revision.

Staying focused and motivated

  • Dealing with distractions
    A list from students of the top ten distractions they face, and advice on how to deal with them.
  • The Pomodoro Technique
    This technique involves using a timer to work in 25-minute blocks of time, eliminating distractions and enhancing your focus and concentration.
  • How to beat technology addiction
    An article from The Guardian outlining research into how "information overload" from technology makes tasks take longer.

Reviewing how you use your time

Tracking time

Keeping a record of how you spend your time is a good way to identify the changes you can make to become more productive.

Review

Time savers and time wasters

Managing email

Email can be a time waster unless you manage it effectively. Some tips:

  1. Only check email at certain times. You don't need to read and respond to every email the second it comes in, so turn off email notifications while you're working. Set aside specific blocks of time throughout the day (between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on the volume you receive) to check and deal with your emails.
  2. Take action. If you can deal with an email in under two minutes, do it immediately. Otherwise, add the task to your ongoing to-do list.
  3. Filter. If you subscribe to mailing lists, you might want to set up email filters to direct these emails into a specific folder. You can then set aside some time to review these messages every few days or so.

These articles contain further advice on how to effectively manage your email:

Organising your workspace

Having everything you need readily available when studying can save you a lot of time.

Further reading: books and websites on time management

Books

WILLIAMS, K. and M. REID. 2011. Time management. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
A short but very useful guide with excellent strategies for students.

ALLEN, D. 2001. Getting things done: how to achieve stress-free productivity. London: Piatkus.
The essential guide to David Allen's approach. Very practical, with ideas you can try out immediately.

Websites

Simon Fraser University
This has a range of time management guides for students, including a list of top 50 strategies.

Mind Tools
Although aimed at business users, this site has a number of useful quizzes, activities and tools.