Better time management for students: our six top tips

Student life is BUSY. You’re working, doing activities, socialising, and remembering to feed and clean yourself… It makes sense that time management for students can go out the window. It also might be the first time you’ve been left to your own devices for a lot of the day. Gone is the structure of school, replaced with overlapping deadlines and long library hours.

One of the best reasons to use Proprep is to up your time management game. When I was a student, I always started the university term determined to stay on top of things. However, I would get more and more behind as the weeks went on. I was like a duck: calm on the surface, but paddling like crazy to stay afloat behind the scenes. If this sounds familiar, here’s how to work on changing your routine for the better.

The importance of time management for students

Good time management helps students to prioritise their tasks and submit assignments on time. Students can plan, set aside the time they need to complete work, and make better use of the rest of their time.

It might feel like some people are naturally good at using their time, but this isn’t the case. Time management is an organisational process that enables you to plan effectively, and anyone can learn to do it. Excellent time management skills will allow you to work more productively. You can then get more done with less stress, especially when pressure is high. Follow our top tips to start managing your time better today!

A female student, struggling with time management, checks her watch while working.
Photo credit: GaudiLab, Shutterstock

1. Prioritise your tasks

The key to time management for students is creating a to-do list. Identify what you need to do, then prioritise tasks based on the dates your assignments are due and the amount of time you’ll need. You can base your schedule for the day and week around what needs to get done first. If you’ve got some flexibility, start with what you most feel like doing. Hopefully the momentum will carry you through the rest of your list!

2. Break big tasks down

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by large tasks like ‘Start Chemistry revision’, and the anxiety can make you want to procrastinate. Start with shorter, simpler to-do items and then move on to larger projects or assignments. You can break these down into manageable chunks too. Rather than ‘Revise’, try and get through ‘Chapter 1 Notes’, ‘Chapter 1 Practice Exercises’, and so on.

3. Make a schedule that works for you

Some people like to divide their time and assign different tasks to each chunk; some people like to stay at one until it’s done. When I was at uni, I got bored if I spent too long on one thing, so I changed it up every hour. Even though overall assignments took me longer, I was able to be stay more productive all day. Try a few different ways until you figure out what kind of time management works for you.

Different people work better at different times of the day. If you know you’re a night owl, take it easy in the morning and get back to work after supper. I knew this would exhaust me though, so I preferred to get to the library early and try to leave by 6pm.

Whatever you choose, make sure you put enough breaks throughout the day to keep you sane and avoid burnout. Many people like the pomodoro technique, which consists of working for 25 minutes before breaking for five, with a longer break every four cycles. Once you’ve committed to a plan, stick to it!

4. Remove distractions

A University of London study showed that those who multitask see a drop in IQ similar to someone who didn’t sleep the night before. If you’re trying to juggle doing multiple things at once, you’ll almost always end up less productive. Get real with yourself about what might be distracting you. Are you spending too much time checking Instagram or TikTok? Even if you’re online for a productive purpose like Studygram, try and stay in the zone while you’re working. Can you turn social media breaks into rewards for crossing something off your list?

5. Treat yoself!

Speaking of rewards, positively reinforcing the work you do will help you keep working for longer. Use your breaks to check the apps you’ve been avoiding, catch up with a friend, or spend time outside to feel refreshed. Pick something you’re looking forward to each week to use as motivation to accomplish your goals. For example, when I’ve finished three practice papers, I’ll watch the new James Bond film.

If you’re struggling to relax during your downtime, give your mind a rest through meditation or yoga.

A young woman practises yoga online from her living room.
Photo credit: Luke SW, Shutterstock

6. Build a good routine

After a couple of weeks of sticking to your time management schedule, hopefully you’ll build up good momentum and feel more in routine. An important part of this is also taking care of yourself: getting enough sleep, nutritious food, fresh air, and movement. Try and give yourself early nights when you can. These are especially important if you know you have a busy few days ahead, or you’re always late for the same lecture.

Your thoughts on time management for students

Have you tried any of our tips and found them helpful? What’s your best time management advice? Let us know in the comments!

How #studygram enhances student motivation

Have you heard of studygram? No? Well, picture that one kid in school who had 700 fineliner pens and always made the prettiest mind maps. Now imagine if they could’ve used the internet to connect to thousands of different versions of themselves, all around the world.

We’re probably all used to admiring the beautiful notes of some of our friends and classmates. However, the social media age means that we can now do the same to people from around the globe: enter #studygram. With over 13 and a half million posts (!), the popular Instagram hashtag has launched a positive student community of proud studygrammers. These users connect and share diagrams, to-do lists, tips, notes and more, to inspire other learners around the world. 

Pretty notes for the win

Typical studygram posts show off vibrant, neat notes, usually handwritten but sometimes created on an iPad or other tablet. Colours affect neurological pathways in the brain and create biochemical responses, improving our memory, stimulating our emotions, and further motivating us to learn. Taking notes by hand has also been proven to be better than typing for both understanding and remembering conceptual information in the long term.

Of course, it’s important not to get lost in the aesthetic aspects of your work and compromise on quality. If you’re a visual learner, however, investing in the appearance of your notes will definitely pay off. 

A positive community

Social media often gets a bad rep for being a distraction from your studies. The studygram world shows that it can also be used for good, keeping you learning from others and motivating yourself even during your downtime. Studygram posts range from stationery tips to detailed notes, aiming to inspire other students to get more organised about their studies and daily routine. In addition, studygrammers help their peers to discover new learning resources.

On the flip side, have you ever been labelled a ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ for enjoying working hard? You can use the studygram community to take pride in being a diligent student. Instagram’s international reach means you can engage with like-minded people all over the world and of all ages. They’ll embrace you in all your highlighter shades.

The community is very positive, with studygrammers encouraging their fellows to share thoughts and tips in the comments. They’re also honest about the struggles of time management, staying motivated, and exam stress. Users have noted the culture of personal growth and accountability, feeling encouraged by seeing other studygrammers hard at work.

Photo credit: @studyrhi, Instagram

Our favourite STEM studygrammers

Emilystudying

Emily’s notes cover a range of topics in Biology and Maths, and always look beautiful! Check out the mix between her trademark rainbow-coloured pens and, more recently, some impressive iPad art.

Studykween

Aleksandra is a fourth-year medical student in London, and her page has it ALL. Using more muted pastel tones than the typical bright colours you might expect to see, check out her diagrams, study tips, and weekly newsletters!

Studywithara

Ara is a pharmacology and physiology major using her digital skills to promote good motivation and productivity habits. She even creates wallpapers available for download each month, with desktop, tablet, and mobile sizes.

Thewordygal

Don’t be put off by the name: Sarah is a nurse-to-be. For a girl who must spend so much time in the lab, her desk is AMAZING! Follow for workspace decor inspiration and tips for the best buys to help you study.

How to up your note-taking game, inspired by studygram

  1. Grab a blank page of a pretty notebook or planner.
  2. Make sure you have some coloured pens on hand, and use them as much as possible.
  3. Write a big, beautiful title at the top or in the middle of your page.
  4. Use numbered lists, bullet points, subtitles and boxes to divide your page into sections. These will break up the material and make it easier to learn.
  5. Try a hand-drawn graphic or doodled diagrams to add pretty detail.
  6. Most importantly: don’t panic if it doesn’t come out looking like how you intended. The studygram community is loving and supportive, and every page is a fresh start you can use to try again!

Struggling with poor mental health at university?

I remember looking at older friends’ pictures from university while I was in school with envy. I couldn’t wait to join in the fun. A month into my own time on campus, however, I realised hadn’t thought at all about managing my mental health at university.

I’d been misled by my friends’ ‘highlight reel’ of the student experience. Of course nobody uploads photos of them working late into the night, or struggling to connect with strangers, or just going through life without the support system they’d known at home. Another huge thing I hadn’t realised was simply how much time I’d spend on my own if I weren’t proactive about it.

Student mental health

The arrival on campus brings amazing new opportunities. However, the upheaval can also leave you vulnerable to struggles with your mental health at university, as you deal with the stresses of adult life for the first time. This situation has been compounded by two years of cancelled social activities and classes held behind a computer screen. In an NUS survey, over half of participants said that their mental health had been negatively affected by COVID-19. Less than a third of them had sought help. According to the Office for National Statistics, 26% of students reported feeling lonely often or always, compared with 8% of adults in general.

Students can experience struggles with all aspects of their mental and emotional health. Triggers that students report include study and work pressures, relationship trouble, homesickness and loneliness, financial worries, and bullying. Anxiety is one of the most commonly-diagnosed mental health problems among students, as well as depression and suicidal feelings.

Warning signs for these disorders include things like extreme highs and lows of emotion, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, lack of energy and motivation, or physical symptoms like headaches, digestive issues and body pain. However, this checklist isn’t exhaustive at all. If you’re struggling, seek help immediately, regardless of what symptoms you do or do not have.

Photo credit: SewCream, Shutter

Taking care of your mental health at university

Go easy on yourself

Mental health struggles can make simple tasks feel overwhelming, so don’t overload yourself. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to be productive all the time (especially during the pandemic!), so do what you can in manageable chunks. Good grades are important, but nowhere near as important as your wellbeing. Take care of yourself and seek help when you need it.

Joining a club or society can be a great way to do something you enjoy and boost your mood. If you meet nice people, it can create a community to fight loneliness or homesickness. However, don’t take too much on – you don’t have to say yes to every social activity or study group. Make sure to relax and spend time in your own space as well! It can be hard to focus when this living space is untidy, so try to de-clutter. Clean up mess, and open windows to let fresh air in.

Let’s get physical

Your mental health is strongly tied to your physical health, so try to eat as healthily as possible. There are lots of resources online for how to do this cheaply and easily. Exercising might be the last thing you feel like doing when your energy is low. Nonetheless, just 15 minutes of movement can make a huge impact on your mood, especially if you manage to spend the time outdoors. With impending deadlines and nights out, it’s unlikely you’ll be getting the recommended eight hours of sleep. However, try to establish a healthy pattern when you can. And when you do go out, remember to drink sensibly.

You know you best

Find outlets that work for you – this could be running, baking, arts and crafts or something else. Do whatever you know will lift your mood and calm you down. Keeping in touch with friends you had before you got to campus is a good way to maintain your social interactions. It can also be a helpful reminder that a world exists beyond your university (sometimes easy to forget!). There are lots of apps out there that can help with mental health struggles, like Headspace, Calm and Worrytree.

The most important advice is to seek support early if you’re ever struggling with your mental health at university. Don’t leave it until you’re at crisis point – there are lots of people and services out there that have your back.

Photo credit: fizkes, Shutterstock

What help is available?

It can be hard to open up to family and friends about how you’re feeling, but it can also be a huge relief. Don’t feel like a burden; your loved ones are there to help you and hear you out.

To find out what support is available through your university, contact student services or look on their website. Your university’s wellbeing service can provide a listening ear and signpost you towards more services. These might include appointments with dedicated mental health advisors, drop-in counselling or mindfulness sessions, and support groups. Some institutions have their own phone helpline, de-stressing sports activities, and animal therapy sessions!

If you’re seriously worried about your mental health, it’s essential that you visit a doctor. They can give you a medical diagnosis and a referral to appropriate services. If you think it’s affecting your work, have a chat with your personal tutor or somebody in charge of your pastoral care. You can express your concerns and make a plan for the future. Once when I was going through something hard as a student, I spoke to my tutor even though I hadn’t felt any negative impacts yet, just to flag it up. You can also apply for mitigating or extenuating circumstances for any exams or coursework you think could be affected.

Organisations such as the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Papyrus, Sane and Student Minds provide excellent advice and guidance. There are also multiple free support lines that you can call at any time to talk about anything that’s getting to you. Call the Samaritans at 116 123, or text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258.