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Time Management: Time Management

Why Manage your Time?

At university you will have many competing deadlines and you will want to ensure you meet them all. As such, time management skills are fundamental in ensuring you complete all your assignments in time with minimal stress, and have time to enjoy all the other social aspects of university life! 

Poor time management is not an intrinsic personal quality, but it is just a bad habit that can be broken with the help of some effective time management strategies!

Top Tips for Time Management at Uni - Video

Let's Talk about Time Management Video

The below video explains how to create your independent study timetable and provides a few other top time management tips!

Organising your Independent Study Time

At university you will have a fixed timetable for your lectures, seminars, tutorials, and possibly other practical elements, depending on your course. Outside of these timetabled commitments you may also find you have a lot of spare time in the week, where you should be doing independent study.  







What is independent study?

Independent study is the time you should be using to

  1. Review your notes from your lectures and seminars

  2. Do extra reading to add to your notes each week

  3. Prepare for seminars and lectures

  4. Work on assignments related to that module.


The amount of spare time you have will depend on your course, personal circumstances and whether you have a paid job alongside your studies. However, you will need to do a certain amount of independent study for each module each week. Please see your module handbook for guidelines on how many hours per week you should be doing.  

Managing your independent study and making use of this time can be one of the most challenging areas of time management at university, As such, we recommend putting an independent study timetable in place for each term, so that you have a regular routine and are giving the right amount of time to in depth study for each module. This should reduce your stress and will ensure you are doing the right amount of extra study!

Creating an Independent Study Timetable

You can use and online planner or a paper one, similar to the image below.


  1. Firstly, add all your fixed commitments, for example your lecture and seminar slots to your weekly timetable template. Have a look at how much time you have left over in the week, you might be surprised!


  1. Now, decide how many hours of independent study you would like to give to each module each week? (check your module handbook for guidelines on this)
  2. Next think about when would be best for you to do independent study for each module. This is very individual and will depend on when you work best and the time you have.
  3. Decide how long each block should be 1, 2, 3 or even 4 hours? You can split up your independent study time and do it in several blocks, whatever works best for you.
  4. Now add this to your weekly timetable. It may look something like this. (IS = independent study)


However, this is a very individual process, so everyone’s timetable will look different.  You can even choose to do more independent hours if you have the time, but remember you do not need to fill in every hour on your timetable. Make sure there is plenty of time for breaks. 

It may help to think about your course as a 35 hour a week job!

You now have a rough academic schedule for the semester! Unfortunately, life is unpredictable, and things can change, and appointments come up, so be flexible. If you miss an independent study block, add it back in to your timetable that week so you are keeping up with your study hours.

This timetabling strategy can have a very positive impact on procrastination, but it will require some level of discipline! It may take time for you to get into a routine, so give it time and if you feel your timetable is not working you can always rethink it and make some changes to it. 

Setting goals for your Independent study Time

Creating a weekly study timetable is a great first step to managing your time, but you will also need to consider what you will do in each study block for maximum effectiveness. Creating SMART goals  can help with this.

Think SMART when setting your goals!

  • Specific – The more specific your goals the more likely you are to avoid procrastination.
  • Measurable and motivating – Will you know when you have completed your goals? If so, you can tick them off at the end of your study block!
  • Achievable – Are they attainable in the time you have set aside?
  • Realistic and relevant – Are the goals you have set relevant and can you realistically get them done in the time you have set aside?
  • Time bound – Have you set a time limit to complete it?


Before you sit down for a study block, think ‘what could I realistically complete in this session?’ (depending on how long your study block is) Then write these goals down.  An example might be as follows. You can even prioritise these goals by using a number system to show priority.  

Remember the goals you set should be related to that module’s study block!

Top Tip!

Set aside 5 minutes at the beginning of your block to write down some goals. Of course, if you don’t manage to complete them all, you can roll them over to the next study block for that module!

Types of Planners

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, so-called pomodoros (traditionally 25 minutes in length, but this can vary according to your concentration preferences), separated by short breaks. Focusing on tasks to be completed in a certain period of time helps you stay focussed and effective. The short breaks help you assimilate your learning, refresh, and provide an incentive to complete your tasks timely. After 3-4 pomodoros you earn a longer break (15-30 minutes).

Steps to use the pomodoro technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done. This should be SMART task: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic. It will be automatically Timed, in the pomodoro.
  2. Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task.
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

LinkedIn Learning Pomodoro technique video

The video below explains the Pomodoro technique and illustrates tools and apps to put it into practice.

Birmingham City University Pomodoro technique video

A shorter video on the Pomodoro technique by Birmingham City University

Overcoming Procrastination

Tips for avoiding distraction: 

  1. Choose an appropriate study space (e.g. free from noise and social distractions.
  2. Minimise possible interruptions. For instance, you could set your laptop to 'flight mode', turn-off or set-your phone to silent.
  3. Use a timer for intensive studying. For example you could set a timer for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break - repeat 4 times and then have a longer break. This is known as the Pomodoro technique. There are many free 'pomodoro' apps and online timers available e.g.
  4. Learn to say 'no'. Try to avoid taking on too many commitments.
  5. Prioritise your 'to do list'. You could use a matrix to identify important and urgent tasks: Covey Time Management Matrix.docx
  6. Set realistic goals for your study time.
  7. Give yourself a reward when a goal is achieved.

Time Management Apps

Do you like the help from technology? There are many more apps available to help you manage your studies. 

For example, Microsoft To Do is a to do list maker and task manager. It enable you to manage your to do list online and share your lists.

List of tasks in Microsoft To Do app

Find out more about study apps on the Digital accessibility: Study apps page

Managing your Time and Independent Study Video

This workshop will provide you with strategies to organise your independent study time effectively and provide tips on how to set SMART goals for your independent study blocks. 

Academic Learning Development

Our services aim to help you improve your academic skills, offering workshops, one-to-one appointments, and other initiatives. The services are open to all students. Book your sessions via Engage.