Good time management skills are at the heart of being an effective student so being able to manage your time well is just as important when working remotely as when working on campus. Whilst time management is very personal, with different approaches working for different people, there are some basic principles that are common to all: organisation, prioritisation, focus and self-discipline. These principles still apply if you are working remotely. We're going to start by looking at study space; an important consideration when trying to study productively.
Top Tip: schedule asynchronous lectures and workshops on your weekly timetable, alongside pre-scheduled synchronous ones. This will stop them building-up and give you adequate time to prepare.
Putting something off to do something else.
Putting effort in low priority tasks/ short-term reward.
Reading emails, losing hours scrolling through news feeds and social media.
Seeing tasks as ‘overwhelming’.
What are the most common things to distract you from studying? Here are a few things that you might relate to: Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, TikTok, YouTube, Xbox, Twitter, friends, sleep (studying in bedroom) etc. etc. etc.
Ways to overcome procrastination:
Identify smaller goals and do one task at a time.
It can be helpful to start with the least pleasant task to get it over with and to feel like you've accomplished something.
Give rewards when goals are reached.
Plan your day with breaks included
Ask someone to check up on you (accountability partner).
Place obstacles in your way e.g. leave phone in another room or delete apps from phone/laptop.
Adopt a study position that encourages wakefulness. Try not to study in bed!
To be productive and effective at studying, it is a good idea to plan ahead and be aware of what needs doing when. Right at the beginning of term, give yourself an overview of the work that will need completing. Be aware of deadlines - it is almost guaranteed that you will have conflicting deadlines - so you need to be prepared to work on assignments in advance and concurrently.
A six-step time management strategy
1. Establish the scope of your study
2. Prioritise conflicting tasks
3. Divide tasks into smaller units of activity
4. Arrange activities using a timetable
5. Complete tasks according to timetable
6. Review and repeat
Ways of studying
Effective study happens when you move between focused and diffused (relaxed) mode of thinking. Focused mode is thinking directly about a task e.g. reading, revising, problem solving. The diffused mode is the moment where you switch from a direct focus. You take a break, exercise, wash the dishes, walk the dog etc. You need these moments for the focused work to settle in.
If you struggle to sit and concentrate on work, try the Pomodoro technique – this involves bursts (25 mins) of focused work followed by 2-3 mins of relaxation/ break. Repeat as many times as you like.
When researching a topics or organizing your lecture notes, make sure you try and recall the information. Don't just read and highlight. What can you remember? Can you summarise what you’ve just read?
Don't just do a task or solve a problem once but go over it until the method sinks in. Understanding + recall = mastery of material
For example, try the Feynman Technique: Step 1: Write the name of the concept at the top of a piece of paper. Step 2: Explain the concept in your own words – as if you were teaching it to someone else. Step 3: Review the explanation and highlight any gaps in your communication of the knowledge. Where is your explanation shakiest? Review the source material and repeat step 2 if necessary. Step 4: Edit the finished explanation and filter out any overly-complicated language or jargon that impedes communication.
Top Tip: Don’t get distracted
One of the distinctive features of the online learning environment is the number of constant distractions.
It is very easy to follow embedded links to fascinating information which may or may not be relevant. It is very easy to read all the emails that keeping appearing in your inbox. You may decide to relax by watching YouTube for a few minutes and discover that the whole afternoon has gone by with nothing constructive to show for it.
Try to keep distractions to a minimum, for example if you read an online journal you may be distracted by articles that are not directly relevant to your topic, but at least they will be related to your studies.