Counselling and Career Development

Time management

One of the most alarming factors of enrolling at Unisa must surely be the mountain of paper you receive in the form of tutorial letters and study guides. Panic strikes if you do not know where or how to start. The first step in managing your time effectively is to plan ahead and to set specific objectives in terms of your long- and short-term planning.

Long-term planning

The basic objective of long-term planning is to gain an overview of the academic activities over the whole year and to make sure that you keep track of all important dates, such as:

  • submitting assignments
  • preparing for group discussions
  • preparing for examinations
  • writing examinations
  • ensuring that you meet all your commitments on time.

How should you execute long-term planning?

Set long-term objectives:

  • Get a year planner or a diary
  • Mark all the important dates on your calendar (refer to your study guides and tutorial letters)

These are your long-term objectives. You should now plan more specifically in preparation for the examinations.

Preparation for examinations

Your main objective is to pass the examination in a specific subject. The 60:30:10 principle can be applied here. Look at some basic guidelines to help you reach your goals:

  • Use 60% of your time on general preparation to complete and submit all the assignments to enable you to give your full attention to studying.
  • Use 30% of your time, for intensive study, and to grasp the basic concepts included in the course content.
  • Use 10% of your time for exam preparation:
    • answering questions;
    • going over exam papers from previous years; and
    • discussing questions with other students and your lecturers.

The benefits of long-term planning

By consulting your year planner, you can clearly see the following:

  • Provision has been made for each day of your academic schedule.
  • You will know what type of activity and which subject you will spend time on each day.
  • You can regularly refer to your year planner to check your progress. This should really motivate you.

You will not have to worry about the future because you have planned your time so that you can meet all your commitments. Knowing that you've done this will give you more peace of mind, which is important in keeping you motivated.

Short-term planning

Short-term planning is something you do weekly and daily. To do this you should work out how much study time you have at your disposal. You need to draft a master schedule which you can use as a basis for weekly and daily planning.

Example of a master schedule

HoursMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
06:00-07:00 Breakfast; commuting; office Relax Family & Relaxation
07:00-08:00 x
08:00-09:00 x
09:00-10:00 x
10:00-11:00 x
19:00-20:00 Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Relax x
20:00-21:00 x Meeting x Meeting x x
21:00-22:00 x x x x x x
22:00-23:00 x x x x x Relax
23:00-24:00 x x x x x

A weekly schedule will indicate the following:

  • fixed times (normally non-negotiable) for getting up, having breakfast, travelling etc.
  • study times marked with an "x".

A master schedule clearly shows when you can do the work you've planned in your year planner. Your master schedule will not change very much from week to week, so you can make a few copies and just update them each week.

How should you plan your weekly study schedule?

Planning your weekly schedule could be done as follows:

  • Use about 15 to 30 minutes every Sunday evening to plan your weekly study schedule.
  • Take a copy of your master schedule and write down everything you have to do during the following week (eg meetings, urgent visits, important social gatherings).
  • Now consult your year planner to see what study activity you should deal with during the week, and which section of the work you should master every day.
  • You don't have to do your weekly planning in any more detail than this.

Daily planning

It is very important that you decide how you're going to use each day's time. This will take only a few minutes before you start with your work. The benefit of planning your daily study schedule is that you have some definite objectives to pursue. Let’s look at an example of such a schedule:

60 minutes

Quick skimming for superficial understanding; identification of major points; asking questions; study reading for clearer understanding

10 minutes

Break

60 minutes

Making summaries and gaining more understanding by formulating questions and noting correlations

30 minutes

Break

60 minutes

Testing your knowledge by asking and answering questions

Some tips to deal with procrastination

All of us struggle at some time with avoiding tasks. In order to manage a habit of procrastination, make sure you have clear SMART goals - try to keep it specific when setting goals (for example, I need to study tonight versus I need to study Chapter 6 of Psychology 101 textbook tonight from 9:00-11:00).

  • Focus on the one thing you have to do now and not what you still need to do.
  • Remind yourself of your long-term goals: why did you register for this qualification and what do you hope will change once you have completed it?
  • Plan your study tasks ahead of time (preferably at the beginning of a semester) and prioritise what is important.
  • Keep track of what you have completed (for example, a check list). This serves as a visual reminder for what you have accomplished so far and reinforces the idea that you are a type of person who can get things done.
  • Break a big task into smaller tasks. For example, plan how you will complete a module over 12 weeks at the beginning of a semester.
  • Don't make excuses, make progress - everyone has interruptions and crises that prevent them from completing something. If your plans for studying were sabotaged, devise a new plan to start studying again.
  • Find others to study with – talking to others about your studies helps you to gain perspective.
  • Find an accountability partner – someone you can have conversations with about progress with your studies and how you are meeting your study goals.
  • Think about the positive and negative aspects related to completing or not completing a task.
  • Don’t think too much about the task you need to do – try it and see how you can manage.

Listen to podcasts

Listening to the following podcasts will help you to think about the things you need to have in place in order to have a successful study semester or year:

How to manage your time (MP3)
Planning your time (MP3)
Balancing your different life roles with your studies is challenging if you are not able to make effective use of the time you have available for your studies. Learn more about how you can manage your time effectively.

Read my Studies @ Unisa

my Studies @ Unisa is your study survival kit. Use the information in this guide to help you get started with your studies. In addition, the guide provides quick links to all the support offered by Unisa, as well as information regarding important processes such as submitting assignments. Visit the page here and remember to bookmark so that you can regularly return to it.

Attend workshops

Contact the Unisa centre closest to you to enquire about possible study skills workshops that will be offered. If you cannot attend a workshop in person, download the time management workshop presentation.