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 if something will take less than two minutes, do it straight away. Also, don't start planning when you'll do things, just focus on getting a complete inventory of what you need to do.
- Mind sweep checklist (PDF)
Use this as a prompt to capture everything you need to get done.
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.
- List your tasks: write down all the things you intend to do that day.
- 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 As and Bs.
- 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.
- Remember the milk - a free online tool for recording to-do lists
This can be linked with your Google account, and there are also smartphone apps available.
The official calendar of the University of Leeds includes term dates, exam periods and holidays for the next two years.
Creating a planner
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.
Recognising the difference between urgency and importance can help you spend your time more effectively.
- The urgent/important matrix
This article gives further information and advice on using this technique to prioritise your tasks.
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.
- Time management tutorial
This tutorial takes about 30 minutes to complete, and takes you through all of the stages of creating a schedule for a two-week period. Use it if you have a close deadline to work to, or to learn the process of planning a schedule
- Creating a project plan and using your time effectively (video)
A seven-minute video which will show you how to break down your assignment into time-bound objectives
- Planning your revision timetable (video)
A demonstration of how to create your timetable, taking into account the time you have left and your subject strengths and weaknesses
- Assignment Survival Kit (ASK)
Create your own tailor-made assignment schedule.
- 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.
Keeping a record of how you spend your time is a good way to identify the changes you can make to become more productive.
- Paper time audit (PDF)
Record and assess how you spend your time on a weekly basis. From the City College of San Francisco
- RescueTime - automated time tracking and management
Log how you spend your time, and find out how much of it you've been spending productively. It tracks your use of websites, applications and time away from the computer. The basic version is free.
- Use a weekly review list to stay a step ahead this semester
This article outlines how to do a weekly review for students. It is based on the "Getting things done" approach, but has useful tips even if you don't want to try GTD
- Mind sweep checklist (PDF)
Use this version of a trigger list to help with your weekly review.
Email can be a time waster unless you manage it effectively. Some tips:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Getting organised
Advice on managing your workspace and filing system.
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.
Simon Fraser University
This has a range of time management guides for students, including a list of top 50 strategies.
Although aimed at business users, this site has a number of useful quizzes, activities and tools.