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Tips for Non-School Leavers

Time Management for Adult Learners

When trying to organise your time there are two issues: finding the time in the first place and then using it properly (Chamber and Northedge, 1997:9). If you don't do the second, there is little point in doing the first.

Luckily, your life and work experiences often mean that you are usually already a better manager of time than most school-leavers. You are used to having too many things to do in too little time.

What can you do to manage your time?

Make Schedules

You need schedules for each week of the university Semester and for the Semester as a whole. The weekly plan is where you set short term goals: what needs to be done this week and so on. The Semester planner is where you plan your work over the entire Semester.

Download a yearly planner (pdf)

Download a weekly planner (pdf)

Real Time

Calculate how much time you have, or could find, for your work. Although there are 24 hours in a day, not all of those hours can be used to study. After removing time for sleeping, eating, shopping and so on, you'll arrive at a number that represents the 'real time' that can be devoted to study.

More about filling in a study planner

Make the most of the time you do have

The idea that it's only effective to study if you have large chunks of time is a common misconception. In fact, studying uninterrupted for hours on end can be counter-productive in terms of concentration.

Work out your optimum study method

Find out when, and under what circumstances, you work most efficiently.

Working out your preferences will make you a more efficient and effective student. Be honest with yourself about your preferences. Don't plan to get up and study at 5 am if you're not a morning person, and don't plan to study after dinner if you always fall asleep by 8.30 pm.

Be realistic

Be realistic about how much time is required to complete particular tasks. Generally, academic work takes longer than you think, especially if you want to do your best.

Avoid perfectionism—you don't have time to make every single assignment perfect. Also, if you spend all your time making one assignment perfect, then it uses up the time that you need to complete all your other work.

Thinking time

Allow yourself adequate 'thinking time' when doing assignments. Students are often aware of the time it takes to find research material, to make notes, and to actually write the assignment; what they don't always consider is the time it takes to do the necessary thinking.

Prioritise your work

Start work on assignments well before they are due. Sometimes you may have two or more assignments due on the same day, so leaving things until the last moment is not recommended. Not only will this make university a real chore, but you will not do as well as you are able.

If you have a Semester-long assignment that requires a short weekly activity or entry (such as a reflective journal), select a fixed time each week to devote to it. Completing each activity weekly will prevent a 'log jam' of work at the end of Semester when you will have other assignments due.

Also: while an extension will help you cope with a single assignment, the duration of the extension eats into time that needs to be spent on others. So, an extension is not a ‘get out of jail free card …'!

Creating Time

Time is always a limited commodity for non-school leavers, so make the most of it, and try creating some!

A few tips to create time

Combining Life and Study

Studying around the demands of a family will challenge your time management, but won't make it impossible. Planning ahead is the key. Here are some strategies:

Undertaking tertiary study can sometimes be a source of tension between you and your loved ones. Partners and children may not always be entirely happy with the time you spend on study, especially if you have put family first in the past. Your friends might find it difficult when you are suddenly less available.

Your studies are important. Try not to feel guilty about the time you spend on them—your family will survive. Be assertive with family and friends until they get used to your student role.

The Learning Centre,UNSW Australia 2052 • Telephone: +61 2 9385 2060
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Authorised by The Director, The Learning Centre, UNSW • Last updated 4 June, 2013
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