Welcome to the final part of the “Make Time For Time” series of posts.
It’s not always possible to get a lot of help from study advice. There’s no magic answer, because everyone works differently. Making time for time involves finding your way. That, in itself, does take some time. Allow yourself different trials in your quest to find the perfect study setup, otherwise you may never find what works for you.
Some trials to consider:
- Place of study – Are you better off at your personal desk, at the library, in an outside space? Location is an important factor in effective work. Everything else may be right, but if the space doesn’t feel right, it’s hard to work well.
- Belongings – This is an extension of your study space. If you’re working in a field in the middle of nowhere, you won’t have much to think about. A desk in your own room, however, is a different matter. You’ll have loads of distractions in front of you and there may be a messy desk cramping your style. You may work wonderfully in your current location, but the stuff around you can get in the way instead, without you realising. If you have an ‘off’ day, check the junk and distractions putting you off and get them out of your sight.
- Time of day – Night owl or morning lark? The time of day you do your work makes a huge difference. What works best for you?
- Your general health – Do you have a 30 minute study session planned just before you eat dinner? If you’re already hungry, it’s probably a bad time to start working. Get the food out of the way before you start working the brain. And what about exercising physically before you exercise mentally? A quick walk can do wonders for the mind. Just a 10 minute walk about campus, or around your local area can be enough to give you a jolt in the right direction. You may even get some ideas on the walk. Carry a notepad and pen…just in case!
- Headbanger, or silent wonder? – Music helps some of us and hinders others. Even the type of music can make a difference. I’ve known some people who don’t like classical music who swear by it when they study. They don’t even notice the music, but it helps them zone out. So think about the sounds around you and use music wisely to work effectively. Try listening to different random white/pink/brown noise if you like, or choose a soundscape with birds and rainfall, or just listen to your favourite song. There’s bound to be something out there to get you in the mood, even if it’s total silence. Earplugs, here we come!
From this series of articles, I hope it’s clear that time is something you have a lot of control over. It may not feel that way much of the time, but there really is a lot we can do to manage time more effectively.
Even the most brilliant planners don’t have a perfect time-management technique. Lives change, as do priorities. I called this series ‘Make Time For Time’, because we should never stop thinking about the time available to us. The moment you drop your guard and think you can’t manage your time any better is the moment you’ll slip up.
In my early teens I was awful at time-management. It was only after my A-Levels, just before I went to uni, that I realised how much better I could do.
I went from being rubbish at time-management to being okay. Yes, just okay. Because it’s hard to be better than okay. I’m happy to call my time-management a strength, just so long as I’m clear to myself that the real strength is to have a constant awareness that my time can always be managed better and that I will always strive to improve.
If that sounds like your attitude towards time-management, you should be happy to call it a strength too.