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Structure your time 

Structuring your time is first of all a matter of learning how to plan and prioritise. 


When planning your time, it is important to be realistic and to ask yourself which goals are most important within the available time. Sometimes, you have to make trade-offs between your activities or appointments, or put more or less energy into different academic activities.  

Allocate time for your academic activities 

It is a good idea to consider where and when you work best and most efficiently. For example, you may want to study as if you were in a job as this could make it easier to allocate specific time slots for studying. This will also allow more room for non-study activities, which can boost your Academic motivation. The advantages include that: 

  • You always know what to do, and you can focus on the activities planned for the day when you wake up in the morning. 

  • You will not be as easily distracted. 

  • You will feel that you have fully completed something before you go on. 


Academic activities

Academic activities are more than just reading and going to class 

Studying at a university involves many different academic activities, including activities in class, exams and preparation time. When planning the time you spend on your studies, you should not just think about reading and attending classes. 


Study activity model 

The study activity model below shows four different study-related activities that you are expected to participate in as a student, and that you need to take into account when structuring of your time. 

The horizontal line in the model shows a distinction between teacher-initiated activities (above the line) and student-initiated activities (below the line). 

The vertical line in the model distinguishes between participants in the activities, with the left-hand side representing both student and teacher participation, and the right-hand side representing only student participation. 



In teaching and exam, you are expected to attend and participate actively. 

In compulsory academic activities you are expected to perform the activities required by your teacher as preparation for class, or as activities to be performed after class or for the exam. 

In independent academic activities, you are expected to prepare yourself, for example by engaging in further reading, using your study groups to prepare for class or giving feedback on assignments from fellow students during exam periods. 

In student-initiated teaching situations you and your fellow students are expected to organise debates about academic topics or plan voluntary academic activities or excursions, etc. with the teacher present.   

Regardless of the form of the study activity, your involvement helps to improve the quality of your learning. Read more about engagement and academic motivation here


The sections about the study activity model have been prepared on the basis of the book  "Studieaktivitetsmodellen - erfaringer og refleksioner" by Mine Susanne Rasmussen, Grete Dolmer, Pia Rauff Krøyer, Janne Klok, Hanna Mølgaard, Tina Bering Keiding, Ane Qvortrup, and Chung Kim. 

Prioritise your time

Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time available 

It is important to be able to prioritise your academic work. You may have to prioritise some activities or appointments at the expense of others, or put more or less energy into different types of academic work, because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. 


What is most urgent and what is most important? 

When prioritising your time, focus on what is urgent and what is important. Some activities may be important, but not urgent, so it is a good idea first to make time for urgent activities, even though they seem less important. For example, prioritise your activities by arranging them as follows: 


Not urgent 



e.g. preparation for tomorrow’s class


e.g. preparation for next week’s class 

Not important  


e.g. make an attractive front page for your written assignment 


e.g. re-read notes from the last lecture 

 This video has advice on how to prioritise your appointments and activities and structure them appropriately in your diary. 


Learn to say no 

Of course, you have a long list of specific appointments, tasks, and activities that you need to allocate time for in your diary. But you probably also spend a lot of unproductive time on checking your Facebook, watching cat videos on YouTube or an episode of your favourite series. Spending time on something unproductive when taking a break can be a pleasant escape, and it’s not something you should avoid completely. The aim is to be able to prioritise the most important things first, and then do unproductive stuff when the time allows. 

It is up to you to weigh the different activities against each other – both the academic activities and your personal activities. Sometimes you have to skip academic activities in favour of something important in your private life. Sometimes it is the other way around. You may have to say no to going to the cinema because you have to proofread a written assignment. It is difficult to say no, but it may be necessary. 

Plan your week

Making a weekly plan will give you a better overview of your time 

A weekly plan allows you to allocate time for teaching, preparation, group work, your student job and leisure activities. This will make it easier to manage your time and to organise your reading and preparation. Also, a weekly plan is a way to avoid blurring the boundaries between work and leisure; something that can otherwise make you feel that you never really have time to relax. 

You can make a weekly plan for a full semester or you can make separate plans for periods when you are preparing for an exam. 


Example of weekly plan 

Below is an example of a weekly plan that you can download and fill in: 

Examples of weekly schedules filled out by students at AU


Work with time intervals

Use time intervals

To use the time you have set aside for study work efficiently, you can also try the Pomodoro method, where you work in intervals.


Get an overview

Get an overview of what you are working through. Take a few minutes to think about it. It could be, for example: What should I be able to understand about the material? Is it a difficult subject or do I already know about it? What should the project contain?

Make a decision

Based on your thoughts, decide what you want to spend the next 25 minutes on. Maybe you can go straight to work, maybe you need to do some additional preparation.

Work concentrated for 25 minutes

Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on what you have decided. If you think of other things you need to do along the way, write them down on a piece of paper. Wait for it until you pause

Take a break

After 25 minutes you take a break of 5 minutes. Put a line on a piece of paper (so you can keep track of the total number of pomodoros). Try to find ways to take breaks that provide a mental break. Get moving or do something practical.


Think about what you got out of those 25 minutes. Fx Are you beginning to understand the material? Did you narrow down your topic? If not, is there anything you lack knowledge about or can do differently to move forward?

Repeat - and take a longer break

Repeat steps 2-5 four times. Then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes where you move around or do something practical

Download the form with the Pomodoro method below.

See also

Be present and stay focussed

Do you find it difficult to put your phone away and get off social media when studying? 

  • Try the Forest app to stay focussed on your work. With the app, you will grow a forest on your screen that will become lusher the longer you work. 

  • The Noisli  app creates atmospheric background sound or static noise to help you stay focussed.