Juggling study and life: How to manage your workload

This will be the semester you stay on top of your study, you promise yourself in Week One. Next thing you know it’s the middle of semester and assignments and tests have crept up ready to pounce. How can you take back control? Get back on track with these steps.

Create a realistic study plan – and stick to it

Feel like you’re wandering aimlessly through your study without a map? It’s time to make a plan. The key to getting through big tasks without becoming overwhelmed is to break them down into clearly defined small tasks. Target the key tasks you can tackle one-at-a-time to avoid being overwhelmed by some huge, intimidating challenge.

Set goals that are realistic, and break them down into small, concrete steps. Make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant, and
  • Time sensitive.
Break your study goals down into smaller tasks and tackle each one individually.

Try not to over-commit yourself when making your plan. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a set time-frame, or procrastination will creep in.

I think at a minimum it’s really important to think about the times when you can study. Fit in things like work and other commitments around that, and at least having some clear vacant spaces where you can spend that time studying, otherwise time just runs away.”

Emily, Peer Learning Adviser

Prioritise and find a balance

Identify your regular commitments such as work, sport and plans with friends and try to find a balance. Make sure you allow plenty of time for sleep and relaxation, too.

I think one thing that’s really important that a lot of us students tend to forget is actually sleep. If you were to stay up really late finishing an assignment, you’re actually really putting yourself behind the rest of your cohort. If you’re really fatigued, it will catch up with you. It’s so important to get all the sleep that you can.

Emily, Peer Learning Adviser
Prioritise looking after yourself – it’s all about balance.

Talk to your employers about your hours and try to limit your shifts while studying – make sure your commitment is manageable!

Tackle the tough tasks first when studying or undertaking ‘life admin’ and chores. Once they’re out of the way, the next items on the list won’t seem so hard. This approach doesn’t work for everyone, however.

Prioritise and think, right, you’ve only got two weeks. Which parts of the course content are you least confident with and focus on them.”

Melissa, Peer Learning Adviser

If you find yourself procrastinating due to an important looming task, there’s a mental trick you can use to get back on track.

Make a ‘To Do’ list, placing chores and projects with flexible deadlines at the top. Then, place your study task somewhere near the middle. Once you’ve ticked off a few ‘top priority’ tasks, your study or assignment will seem much more achievable. It’s call Productive Procrastination, and it sure is weird, but apparently it works.

Learn the fine art of saying no

Your friend asks you to help them move, your mum wants you to fix her computer, you’re asked to take on an extra shift at work. We all want to help out as much as we can, but if it impinges on your much-needed ‘me time’ and ends up stressing you out, you need to learn to say: no. Understand your boundaries, and what is humanly possible to do in a week while staying balanced and sane. Then, stick to it – and explain your situation politely. Friends and family will understand.

Don’t multitask

Yes, you read that right. While multitasking can make us feel pretty productive, it actually has the opposite effect.

Research increasingly shows that multitasking negatively affects and reduces productivity, and instead mindfulness is the key.

Multitasking involves switching from one task to another and back again. The time it takes to switch from one thought process to another is time wasted. Time blocking could be the answer for you, rather than jumping all over the place.

Plan your time in blocks – you’ll be a lot more productive.

Harness the tricks and tools that work for you

Do you have a few organisation tricks up your sleeve from previous years you could roll-out once more? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a planner – start penciling in key dates for assignments, career fairs, and social events.
  • Get back into your regular morning routine with a coffee or a walk – whatever gives you a buzz.
  • Prep your meals to save time during the week. Plan a few dishes for the freezer so you’ve always got ready-made meals on hand for when you don’t feel like cooking.

Need more tips on time management?

Speak to a Peer Learning Adviser or Librarian at your campus’ Learning Hub to learn about time management and study tips.