Supporting Taught Postgraduates

Academic time management

Guidance on managing your time effectively in an academic context

Time management tips and tools for organising your postgraduate studies

A postgraduate programme can be an intense year if you are studying full time. If you are studying part time you may be equally busy, as you will need to organise your study time around work or other commitments. Either way, you will need to make efficient and effective use of your time – and particularly your independent study time.

Putting some thought into how to organise your time to accommodate your studies, your work and your personal life will help you to keep your life balanced, reach achievable goals and stay motivated, reminding you of where you want your studies to take you.

Do you use your time effectively?

Good time management is not just about organising your time, but also about using it effectively and efficiently. If you ever feel like the whole day has passed by and you have achieved nothing, perhaps you have a tendency to procrastinate (put off doing work by doing other tasks instead) or become distracted. This is very common, and becoming aware of it can be a good first step in managing your time.

To check your actual use of time, record your daily activities by time-logging them. This will only be useful if you are completely honest.  Keeping track of what you spend your time on and how much time particular activities take can be an eye-opener. It will help you identify how you can use your time more effectively.

The sheets below will help you assess how you spend your time and how you can tackle issues like procrastination.

Self assess how you use your time:

Ways to avoid procrastination

Start early. Plan ahead. Prioritise

Consider the way in which you typically approach a task. Do you plan ahead and map out practicalities and time allocation, or do you just dive in when it feels right?  Is your approach effective? Does it allow you to prioritise? Planning sheets (like the ones below) can be useful tools to manage time, schedule tasks and prioritise.

Plan your week

Plan your time on an hourly basis

View your time as a whole

Try to view your time as a postgraduate as a whole rather than viewing it as a series of semesters.  This will allow you to balance the competing demands on your time. Be clear about what you have to achieve in the time available, so that you can allocate sufficient time to each piece of work.

Dissertation planning

Managing the time-consuming process of writing a dissertation will be even more challenging if you have other time commitments as well. How much time can you devote to your dissertation? What are the different stages and tasks involved? How much time can you realistically commit to each of them?

Dissertations / work-based projects

Dissertation planner

Time out

Time to relax and do something completely different needs to be part of your planning – it will make you more effective during your studies.