“Time management” is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. Good time management enables you to work smarter – not harder – so that you get more done in less time, even when time is tight and pressures are high. Failing to manage your time damages your effectiveness and causes stress.
Do not blame yourself if this is a problem. Time is a linear concept, and many dyslexic people do not enjoy linear thinking. However, it has got to be dealt with when other people are involved. The first thing to do is to get some equipment:
- A notice-board on the wall.
- A year planner on the notice-board. Mark things like hand-in dates and exams in a bright colour. (see deadline planner at the end)
- A diary with a large page for each day and lots of blank pages for notes.
- A kitchen timer, so that you can remind yourself when to take a break or when you’re due to go somewhere.
- Have a look at your mobile phone if you have one. You may be able to set an alarm when an appointment is due, or add little reminder notes for yourself
- An A4 sheet with columns for each day and boxes for each hour, so that you can plan timings for all the things you want to do in a week. (see documents at the end of this file)
- Post it notes can be useful, for example to place on your door to remind you what you need to take to university that day.
Time management is not very difficult as a concept, but it’s surprisingly hard to do in practice. It requires the investment of a little time upfront to prioritise and organise yourself. But once done, you will find that with minor tweaks, your day, and indeed your week and month, fall into place in an orderly fashion, with time for everything you need to do. Time management is linked to ‘personal organisation’, so some more equipment might include:
- A set of stacking trays for papers.
- A concertina filing system.
- Colour-coded ring binders for each section of your course.
Just as a diary is only any use if you remember to look in it, a filing system is only useful if you actually put your papers in it. When you get in from a day’s lectures etc, write the date on your notes and file them, before a big pile builds up. If you’re using a weekly time planning sheet, put in some times for things like this:
- Thinking about the subject.
- Preparing for seminars.
- Preparing for tutorials.
- Planning your work.
- Organising and filing your papers.
- Reflecting on your learning.
- Talking about your subject with someone.
- Researching for an assignment.
- Writing a draft of an essay.
- Editing your writing.
If you’re the sort of person who forgets other key things in your life, add things like this to your time planning sheet:
- Sport or the gym.
- Your job.
- Seeing friends.
It is important to relax and unwind as well. Good time management can include knowing which times of day are the best for you to study, but even during those you can’t work effectively for hours on end. Set yourself a time for study and have a reward at the end. So after 50 minutes of work you could have a chocolate bar or a cup of coffee in a 10 minute break.
Tips for saving time.
- Write on file paper with holes in, so that you can file your notes. This saves time copying stuff out again from a notebook.
- Don’t write full sentences – use short things like imp for ‘important’.
- Leave lots of space so that you can add more later, and also to make notes easier to read.
- File your notes as you go.
- Write down where you found things.
- Use colours, numbers and highlighter pens to group information.
- Check which bits of a book or article are relevant.
- Only read what seems to be relevant to the essay you’re doing.
- Write down the page number where you saw a good point.
- Don’t take a book back without noting the title, author and publisher – this saves time in doing your reference list.
- Talk to someone else about your ideas – it helps you to clarify them and saves time re-inventing the wheel.
- Use the notes pages in your diary to jot down ideas as they occur to you (say, on the bus).
- Make concept maps to get your mind working.
The deadline one can be printed or copied onto A3 paper. It can be adapted to suit your own needs. You can plot actual dates in the corners of cells, for example: