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Master Time Management

1. Get Help

  • Successful students get help when they need it. An hour or two getting help from an instructor, university staff member or a friend can have a huge payoff.
  • Make a free appointment in the Library to get assistance in creating a study plan for catching up.
  • Prepare questions about content or topics which you don’t understand well, and bring them to your instructor or TA during office hours.
  • There are many places to go for help on campus:
  • Seek advice from others who have been successful in the program.
  • Under certain circumstances, you might be able to get an extension on an assignment if you have a valid and documented reason for your request. Consult the course outline for your instructor’s policies.

2. Make a List and Prioritize

  • Take control by writing down everything you need to do.
  • Once you've completed the list, ask yourself, "If I only have time to finish 3 things on this list, what should they be?"
  • If you feel discouraged by the length of your task list, choose one small but high priority task and complete it. You might feel motivated by that sense of completion and ready to tackle the next thing on your list.
  • Spend time on the most important tasks, rather than the easiest or most interesting tasks. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to start each study period by focusing on one high priority item.
  • See Making a Task List for more details.

3. Use Time Effectively

  • Keep going to lectures. Even if you’re tempted to skip so that you can catch up on past material, attending lectures helps you learn the material that your instructor thinks is most important and usually makes your study time more efficient.
  • Use small pieces of time like waiting in line or riding the bus - even 10 minutes can be put to good use.
  • Set aside time that you usually don’t use for classwork, such as Friday afternoon, to have a catch-up study session.
  • Understand why, when, where and how you procrastinate and make changes to reduce procrastination. See Understanding Procrastination and 8 Ways to Get Started for more tips.  

4. Look After Your Brain and Your Body

  • Take breaks and give yourself small rewards for your efforts. These can help keep you motivated, particularly when you're feeling stressed. See Making the Most of Breaks and Rewards for more ideas.
  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time. Research suggests that less than six hours of sleep is bad for higher cognitive functions.
  • Exercise regularly, drink water, eat healthy snacks, and avoid excess caffeine to keep stress under control. Helping your body to maintain its peak performance will help your brain to do the same.
  • Set aside at least 20 minutes each day for yourself, even when you're very busy. Use this time to relax and unwind.

5. Seek Support from Friends and Family

  • Let friends and family know that you need support. If possible, ask for help with tasks like cooking or cleaning. 
  • If you need to devote a lot of time to catch up and won’t be able to participate in some of your other usual activities, let your friends and family know why you may not be able to spend time with them. 
  • If you can’t get home, request a care package from your family. Make it a reward to look forward to after a long hard week or weekend of catching up
  • Create a "catch‐up" contract or pact with a friend, roommate or significant other:
    • Plan times you'll both spend working and include a special reward together when the work gets done.
    • Your friend doesn't even have to be in the same city for this to work if the reward is an online chat or game together.

6. Study Strategically for Exams

  • Skim lecture notes, Courselink resources, and the course outline to make informed decisions about what to emphasize when studying.
  • Identify what you already know and what you still need to learn. Make sure you allow enough time to learn new material and don’t spend too much time reviewing concepts you already know.
  • Use study tools that will help you prepare the best you can in the time that you have. Some of our favourite study tools are:
    • Creating a concept map to understand the relationships between course concepts
    • Writing old exams or quizzes in exam-like conditions (closed book, with a timer)
    • Creating, and then answering possible exam questions
    • Using summary questions in the textbook to test your knowledge
    • Making cue cards to identify important information and test your knowledge. Select 2 or 3 cue cards at random to create possible exam questions.

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