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“Despite your best intentions …”: Flexible time management

By Vicky Chan, 4th-year Commerce student

For some students, term calendars with multiple dates and commitments provide strategic planning for weeks that are packed with assignments, due dates, and tests. But one cannot rely solely on this term calendar for planning purposes, especially since weekly plans and daily plans can change. So how does one adjust accordingly and still come out intact (i.e. not succumb to immense stress)?

For me, three Learning Strategies tip stick out to me in particular:

1. Set goals and priorities. Not all assignments are “equal” and some courses will be more important or more difficult for you.

The notion of setting priorities extends to other aspects of academic life as well (for instance, deciding which questions to answer first on an exam), but when it comes to assignments, it is about managing your interests. You might notice after you’ve written down on your term calendar that certain assignments carry more weight, and they might be the “not so fun, yet have to put more effort in” assignments from your mandatory courses. If it happens that two assignments are due in close proximity, as they often will, choose the one that is worth more to do first, even if it could mean “eating a frog for breakfast” (doing your least favourite task first thing in the day or week). You’ll thank yourself later after you’ve crossed over the tough hurdle and can finish the race with a more “enjoyable” assignment.

2. Estimate your time realistically (i.e. pay attention to how quickly you actually read that Physics chapter).

This tip was and still is a toughie for me. As someone who likes to take notes by hand as I read through a chapter, the challenge arises near the end when there seems to be not enough time to fit in that last one or two chapters before an exam. To judge how much time to set aside for note-taking, time yourself! Realistically, it might not be possible to read a chapter twice (unless you’re referencing from it later on), so making good notes during the first reading is important. Writing/typing notes almost verbatim is not helpful if you don’t understand what it is you’re reading. For suggestions on how to tackle long and course specific readings, please refer to our module on Reading and Notemaking.

3. Create and revise a study schedule. Include classes, homework, eating, sleeping, exercise, sleeping, socializing, sleeping, clubs, down time. Each week has 168 hours.

Notice the importance of sleeping there! When awake, though, recognize that as new commitments emerge, one needs to adjust pre-established schedules to accommodate changes. For instance, making time to catch up with a friend could be a healthy change to your schedule if you are feeling socially isolated. In order to accommodate for changes, it is a good idea to build into your schedule flex time, time you could choose to do whatever you want: catch up, people watch, sleep, you name it. Building flex time into your schedule enables you to have freedom to deviate a little from an otherwise strict plan as the situation requires it.

Consider filling out our Weekly Time Use form to check how you spend your time every week. Will you meet your long-term goals with your current time use?

At the end of the day, we all have our own priorities to meet so sometimes time management is just a matter of getting to know ourselves a little better. At Learning Strategies, our role is to help you along in that journey by providing you with some resources to achieve those academic goals with a little more creativity.