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So many deadlines: Six tips for time management

So many deadlines: Six tips for time management

Do you plan your time effectively or are you often unsure where to start? Now in her third year at the University of Edinburgh, Donna is here to offer you her tips for effective time management.

Blog by Donna, Social Work

Weekly planner
From Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash


There is nothing more likely to cause me to experience the feelings of panic or dread quite like an upcoming deadline. Adding in the fact that I can put the ‘pro’ in ‘procrastination’ more than anyone I’ve ever met, I can be extremely difficult to be around when assessment time rolls around.

On entering my third year, I promised myself I would handle my time better and spent a small fortune on planners, academic diaries and other aids to help me plan my time better. Sadly, they have mostly sat on my desk, still in their pretty wrappers, providing false hope of being organised. I have found this semester has run away from me, and already the group work commitments, reading lists and upcoming assignments are weighing heavily on my shoulders.

As the deadlines keep coming and I can’t stop time, I’ve concluded I just need to bite the bullet and organise myself. I have made myself an action plan and thought I would share – I hope it’s useful for you too!

1. Prioritise

Whilst I can think of a hundred things more exciting than writing that essay plan I’ve been putting off; I know that when the deadline is approaching, I will thank myself for having dedicated the hour a few weeks previously to making a workable plan.

Spending some time each week having a think about everything I need to get done allows me to prioritise my obligations and identify what are the most important and time sensitive tasks that need to be completed. Once I’ve done that, I make a list, so I have no excuses, and mark each one off as I complete it. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than crossing off the last item each week!

Daily planner
From Martin Bjork on Unsplash


2. Dealing with the hardest task first

Sometimes, it’s just easier to get it over and done with. Whilst putting the assignment off and making a start on next week’s lecture prep might seem like the more appealing option, it’s just delaying the inevitable. Whilst it might require you to use all your willpower to get it done, you will feel so much better knowing it is out the way. That allows you to move on to the next task feeling a hundred times lighter.

3. Organise yourself

In order to be successful, you need to be organised! Rather than just setting yourself a deadline, or a momentous task, break it down into milestones. Read 25 pages a day for four days, instead of trying to force yourself to get through 100 pages in one sitting. Or aim to type 500 words, rather than a whole essay in a day. It is much more achievable and helps to reduce stress levels.

4. Be realistic

There is no way you are going to write that whole essay in one evening, or at least not one that is going to achieve you the mark you want. Be realistic about your abilities – as much as you want to get it finished in as little time as possible, it’s just not going to happen.

5. Concentrate

This is a hard one, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed. However, I can’t change my workload, so stressing about it isn’t going to help. Nothing is going to help me if I can’t focus, so ensuring I have somewhere calm and quiet to work is essential. I like to ensure that I have an organised working environment (even if it means just spending five minutes giving my desk a wee tidy), something nice to drink and no distractions. I set myself a realistic time, usually an hour, and focus myself completely on the task at hand. At the end of that hour, I will take a little break, clear my head, taking 10 minutes away from my screen, or book. I find I can concentrate for a longer period this way, rather than attempting to work continuously and end up feeling frazzled after a few hours.

Coffee break
From John Bogna on Unsplash


6. Find what works for you

We all work differently and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Take the time to find what works best for you and then apply it as best as you can to your studies. As long as you organise yourself and give it your best, there’s nothing to worry about.

(From Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash )

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