At postgraduate level, because of the emphasis on self-directed learning and an often intense workload, you will need to develop effective strategies for managing your time. There is less formal teaching time than at undergraduate level and you will be responsible for scheduling your study and making sure you meet deadlines.
You will have experience of your own issues with time management as an undergraduate, or in your professional life prior to returning to higher education.
Managing time is vital to successful study, so do allow time for making schedules and timetables; also to consider your objectives and priorities. You cannot plan your time before having first planned what you want to achieve in the time available to you.
The Bigger Picture
- At the beginning of each academic year and term, take time to look at the course syllabus and timetables to identify important deadlines and start/finish dates for projects.
- Make a note of which projects have a large proportion of the overall grade, so that you can prioritise them when planning time for different activities.
- Use a year planner to plot out your deadlines and priorities, or make a list and regularly refer to this ‘big picture’ when drawing up weekly schedules and daily timetables.
- Highlight events outside of your normal routine, for example conference trips. Include important deadlines for things in your personal life too.
- Make lists and timetables of tasks for each week and each day, using a format that allows you flexibility to change plans.
- Build in routines for tasks you need to do every week – such as typing up notes after your weekly elective lecture, organising your studio, following up with networking contacts, and so on.
- Recognise the link between working and location. Your studio space is likely to be where you make your visual work (though some students prefer to work at home, and visit the studio only for group work, tutorials and crits). For reading, writing and doing visual research you might work best in the library, in cafes, in your room, or even in the park – the key is to establish where you are most able to concentrate and avoid distractions.
- Make sure you add in time to rest and do other activities – if you find you are unable to take at least one day a week as a day off, then there is a problem with your workload. Having time to relax and socialise is essential for your general health and wellbeing, as well as your ability to study and make work.
- You might be struggling to get everything done in 5-6 working days per week because you are not working effectively in the times when you are working – for example you are procrastinating by browsing the internet or getting distracted by the people around you. Taking short breaks every hour should help with this – you can schedule them in, or whenever you notice yourself getting distracted, stop and take a deliberate break for a few minutes.
- If it takes you a long time to read and process written information, develop strategies for scanning texts for the key points, rather than trying to understand every single word.
- You might find it helpful to make a very specific schedule, with particular tasks planned for each hour, or it might be better for you to have a more open and flexible approach, i.e. splitting the day into morning, afternoon and evening sessions with one task assigned to each. Whatever your approach to timetabling, make sure it is flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
- Review your time management regularly: note your reflections on how your plan worked out and be prepared to alter timescales or change the way you work. Self-awareness, along with the ability to adapt according to changing situations, will enable you to manage your workload.
- Set aside time for planning and scheduling, for example Sunday evening can be a good time to plan for the week ahead and to review how you managed your time during the previous week.