Time management

Key words: timetable, time audit, priority organiser, daily/weekly/trimester planners

Managing your time while studying at university is a challenge. If you are studying externally, then you may also need to juggle work, family and friends. There are a number of really effective time management resources that can help you to organise your time. 

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Exercise 1: How well do you manage your time now?

Read each statement and click those that seem to describe you and your habits.

I usually turn up on time
I usually leave things until the last minute
I have trouble meeting deadlines
I write 'to do' lists
I keep most appointments
I tend to procrastinate
I allow time for myself and time to relax

What did the above exercise tell you about your current time management skills? In order to manage your study time well, you may need to change some of your attitudes and habits.

Strategies for managing your study time

Studying harder is less important than studying smarter! Get to know what works for you and keep doing it. Here are some suggestions to consider or adapt.

Click each suggestion for more information.

Know your 'time patterns'

Know when you study best. For example, if you are a ‘night owl’, planning to study in the early morning may not be the best use of your time.


Do the most important tasks first or the most difficult—while you are feeling fresh.

Set study blocks that suit you

What is your optimum study duration? About 60 minutes with a 10 minute break?

Break up your study blocks

Break your study blocks into, say, TWO 30-minute sessions:

  • 3 minutes—decide what you will do
  • 25 minutes—do it
  • 2 minutes—review it
  • Repeat this twice, then take a break.
Be clear about what you want to achieve in each study block

Don’t stop until you’ve completed it.

Begin major projects ahead of time

Break the task into a number of sub-tasks; set a time frame for each; and tick them off as you complete them.

Reward yourself when you complete tasks on time

This will reinforce your good time management skills. Remember, success breeds success!

Use 'down time' for study

For example, when sitting in a car, bus or train, read a chapter; revise study notes; test yourself with flash cards; listen to podcasts.

Analyse how you spend your time

You need to know how you are currently organising your time so that you can make some spaces for study time. A time audit will show you how you currently spend your time.

Exercise 2: Time audit

1. Complete a time audit to find out how you currently use your time each day for a week.

Choose any combination from the following activities to do your time audit:

2. Consider your weekly time audit and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many hours do I have left for study?
  • Is this enough time?
    Which tasks are the most important?
  • Could I set aside some tasks?
  • Could I spend less time on some tasks?

3. It is likely that you will not have enough time for study, so you will need to prioritise your tasks. Based on your answers to the above questions, complete this priority organiser. This will give you a clear picture of what’s most important or urgent, and what’s neither important nor urgent!

Planning templates

If you structure your study time on trimester, weekly and daily planners, you should get better control of your time. Study planners help to keep you focused and prevent you from being distracted by other, less important activities.

Exercise 3: Study Planners

Print and complete the following study planners:

1. Trimester planner

The trimester planner is used to organise your study commitments and personal activities for the university trimester. Download a trimester planner from the ASO site.

  • You may find you have several assessments due around the same time. You will need to plan carefully to ensure all assessments are completed on time.
  • At this point, you may like to plan how you will break up your assessment tasks and write these into your planner. For example, the assignment for Unit AAA101 is a 1200 word essay, due 19 March and is worth 20% of your final mark. Identify the stages required for your assessment and, working backwards from the due date, allocate appropriate time to each stage. Here is an example.

2. Weekly planner

The weekly planner is used to organise your activities on a daily basis. You can record regular activities such as lectures, work commitments, family and leisure activities. Download a weekly planner from the ASO site.

  • Evaluate your weekly commitments – refer back to your Time Audit, Daily Routines and Priority Organiser.
  • Consider all your study commitments
    • What preparation is required for each unit?
    • How much reading is there?
    • How much time is required to participate in the discussion board?
    • When are lectures/tutorials?
  • Now, plot your commitments for the week onto your Weekly Planner. Where there are competing activities, consider which is more important. What needs to have priority?

Following are two examples of weekly planners:

EXAMPLE for an early riser
EXAMPLE for a night owl