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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
e.g. preparation for tomorrow’s class
e.g. preparation for next week’s class
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.
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.
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.
Below is an example of a weekly plan that you can download and fill in:
USEFUL TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR WEEKLY PLAN
Follow a specific pattern
Following a specific pattern for your weekly activities enables you to build up a set of habits and routines that will become a natural part of your daily life. For example, this could be reading before or after class or a fixed number of working hours every day during the exam period.
Don’t forget to allow time for meal breaks, your student job and your social life.
Coordinate with others
Can you collaborate with your study group on preparation for class, reading texts or other tasks? Dividing some of the preparation work between you in your group and discussing it afterwards to make sure everyone is well-prepared can save time.
When planning your daily and weekly activities, show consideration for the people around you, e.g. your study group, your roommate, your partner and your family. Taking other people and their daily routines into consideration will help you stick to your own pattern, without having to adjust your planning too much.
Don’t be over-optimistic when planning your time. Plan your week to make sure you have time for the most important things. Make room for changes during the week so you don’t drown if something goes wrong, or if you fall behind your schedule. Also, be realistic about your own preferences. For example, if you are an early bird, it is a good idea to work in the morning.
Prioritise and set goals
Plan the most important activities early in the day, and go straight to work. Then you are off to a good start and will get something done, instead of spending all day trying to pull yourself together. This can motivate you for the rest of your day’s work. If you are not very self-disciplined, it can be helpful to make specific deadlines for each activity to make sure you complete one task before moving on to the next.
These sections are inspired by the book "Lær dig selv at lære. Opnå bedre koncentration, forståelse og hukommelse." by Bjørn Ringom.
Perhaps you work best in the morning, in the afternoon or in the evening. And maybe you work best on certain types of academic activities at different times during the day. Therefore, consider which tasks you can best focus on, and at what times. If you know this, you can plan your activities accordingly with regard to teaching, student job, etc. This will help you utilise your most productive hours on the right activities, and it will free up space in your diary.
Use an activity tracker to find out when you work most efficiently and on what activities. Insert activities in the activity tracker below, for example for each day of the week, and then compare your daily activities and your degree of productivity and structure your time accordingly.
You can use the activity tracker during the semester, but it is particularly useful during exam periods and when you write major assignments, because you are only accountable to yourself during these periods.
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|
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.
The Focus-to-do app combines to-do lists and the Pomodoro technique to optimise your productivity.