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Time management

This book looks at time management; the importance of attending lectures; reading effectively; the art of taking notes.

Site: Solent Online Learning
Course: Succeed@Solent
Book: Time management
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Wednesday, 26 July 2017, 1:32 PM

Time management

Time managementYou will make more efficient use of your time if you plan ahead.

Get into good habits early on by:

  • Making long term plans;
  • Making weekly timetables;
  • Using effective study units;
  • Recognising the amount of study required;
  • Rewarding yourself.

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Study planners (PDF opens in a new window)

Use the Time Management Checklist later on in the book to encourage those good habits.

Make long term plans

It is very natural to concentrate on your next lecture or next assignment, but looking a bit further into the future will help you identify potential pressure points – times when deadlines come very close to each other.

Remember to always:

  • Pace yourself.
  • Avoid working up to the very last minute
  • Plan at least a term ahead but preferably by a year.

How to plan for each year/term/week:

  • List goals - allocate the appropriate resources to complete them on time
  • Set priorities - use a scale of: 'must', 'should' or ‘would be nice to complete'
  • Acquire a wall-chart yearly planner or poster of  the complete year ahead with spaces for you to write in notes (go to the SSU student union at the beginning of the year)
Find out more about how a Solent University student organises her time in this video:

Blank Academic Year Planner (PDF opens in new window)
Blank Monthly Planner (PDF opens in new window)

Make weekly timetables

How to draw up a detailed timetable:

  • Divide your study time into approx one-hour sessions with short breaks. Add longer breaks where you need them.
  • Aim to study when you work well (Mornings? Evenings?)
  • Plan to do difficult topics first to avoid putting them off and running out of time.
  • Leave time for recreation and relaxation. Plan  these as rewards at the end of a week of hard work.
  • Be realistic. It is better to under-estimate what you can do and achieve it than to be over-ambitious and then fail to meet your targets.
Blank Weekly Planner (PDF opens in new window)

Advantages of having a detailed schedule:

  • It provides a structure for your studies.
  • It provides short term goals.
  • By allocating time to topics in advance there is little risk of leaving out something vital.
  • You do not need to spend valuable study time deciding what to do.
  • You can enjoy your recreation time knowing that your studying is under control.
  • You will waste less time and study more purposefully than you would do otherwise.

Use effective study units

To be effective, studying should be an active process. It is ineffective to sit for long periods just reading as very little information is retained this way.

Timetable one hour study slots

Lectures and tutorials rarely exceed one hour, because few people  can concentrate for longer than an hour without taking a break.

How much time should I spend on a big assignment?

  • Allocate time to assemble materials in advance, your thoughts and to "warm-up" to the larger task.
  • Aim to complete an experiment report or essay at a single session.
  • Estimate how long your task might take eg/if it can be completed in 2 to 3 hours, do so.
  • If your task will take longer, aim to complete one section/chapter per session.

Plan your study units for each week using a Weekly Planner:

Blank weekly planner (PDF opens in new window)

Recognise the amount of study required

The average total study time, including class time and time spent in independent study, is about 30-40 hours per week:

  • Arts students generally have 10-15 contact hours per week, and spend about 20-25 hours on private study - reading, writing essays, etc.
  • Science students spend 20-25 hours in the classroom or laboratory and generally do no more than 10-15 hours of private study.

    One way to recognise the amount of study you need to put in to a particular module, is to use a revision checklist.

    Use the notes on how to write the checklist to help you:

    Revision Checklist (PDF opens in new window)

    Watch this video for a student's perspective on time management and assignments:

Reward yourself

Why should you reward yourself?

  • Because you have been working hard
  • Because ‘down’ time when you are not studying is important to avoid excessive stress
  • Because knowing you have a reward planned can be a good motivator to work hard

How should you reward yourself?

Once you have successfully completed a block of work do some activities that you usually enjoy but you are missing out on because of your study schedule. What do you enjoy? And what can you afford (time and money)?

  • Going to the cinema;
  • Watching football;
  • Cooking a meal;
  • A couple of hours of gaming;
  • A drink with friends.

When should you reward yourself?

  • At the end of blocks of study;
  • After you have successfully completed a block of hard work;
  • traditional ‘down’ times such as evenings and weekends.

Beware:

  •  excessive drinking or partying will make it more difficult to get back to study the next day.
  • don’t punish yourself for failing to work quite hard enough.


Time management checklist

Remember to plan and manage your time by:

  1. Prioritising all of your study tasks;
  2. Setting yourself long term goals;
  3. Planning out the whole study year;
  4. Planning out each month carefully;
  5. Blocking out study times in your calendar;
  6. Recognising the individual topics you need to study for each module;
  7. Working out weekly when you have time available for study and planning how you are going to use it;
  8. Ticking off the tasks as you complete them;
  9. Rewarding yourself after you have done a block of hard work.
Time management summary (PDF opens in new window)

Attending lectures

Attending lecturesLectures form the core part of the face-to-face learning experience at university.

In order to be successful at attending lectures and using the information you get from them, consider:

  • What are lectures for?
  • What should I read in advance?
  • How do I interpret the lecture?
  • How do I record essential information?
  • How do I select which information to record?
  • What should I do after the lecture?

Use the Attending Lectures Checklist at the end of the chapter to consolidate your understanding.

About your lecture

Lectures are still the foundation that a lot of university learning is based on. Remember to be alert and attentive – listen, understand and take notes in order to get the most out of the session.

The teaching staff use lectures to:

  • Introduce you to new topics.
  • Explain complex ideas.
  • Provide a framework on which you can build your knowledge.

There isn’t usually much opportunity to interact with the lecturer, so if you have a question:

  • Write it down so you don’t forget.
  • Ask your tutor later
  • Discuss it with your fellow students after the lecture.

Remember:

You should act upon the information you get from a lecture quickly.

Lectures provide you with a starting point that helps you to focus your reading into areas that you should study more in depth.

Reading in advance

Try and read generally into the topic before a lecture as it will introduce you to the vocabulary of the subject so you are not bombarded with a host of new terms. This will allow you to concentrate on the meaning of what is being said rather than on the words being used.

How to know what to read in advance?

  • ask your tutors.
  • look at the myCourse page which will set out your lecture programme and the learning outcomes.
  • look at your reading list.
  • Google it.



Interpreting the lecture

Lectures can take many forms. They may include a wide range of supporting material such as handouts, slides, PowerPoint presentations, even role-play.

Lecturers will endeavour to convey:

  • Facts- verbally and visually. Facts and references will often be given out in the lecture notes. Check your myCourse page to see if the PowerPoint slides are posted there.If the facts on handout, you can concentrate on understanding the concepts being explained.
  • References- sources of further relevant material are also given. These references substantiate the points addressed in the lecture.
  • Concepts- most lectures contain an element of conceptual intergration of the material. This is usually the most important part of the lecture. Many lecturers concentrate on concepts, on the premise that you can obtain the facts from the books.
  • Anecdotal examples- many lecturers use anecdotal examples to illustrate a point. It is essential that you look beyond such descriptions and extract the underlying information.

Remember:

Establish early on whether your lecturer will give out lecture notes, so you know whether to make notes or not.

Also, check whether they are given on myCourse.




Recording your lecture

Good notes help you to recall the context as well as the contents of the lecture, so don't rely only on handouts. Taking notes will help you maintain concentration throughout the lecture as you actively seek to identify the key points.

How to make notes

  • Write down facts and references as they are presented, often in the same form.
  • Concepts-concepts require a degree of analysis and interpretation of the material.

Linear notes- leave enough space between lines and blocks of ideas so that you can go back and annotate. Use different coloured pens to show relationships.
Mind maps (or‘spider grams’) -helpful for drawing links between concepts.

Factors that influence the effectiveness of note-taking may include:

  • the lecture topic;
  • the nature of hand-outs (if given);
  • the nature of any visual material presented;
  • the design of the lecture theatre;
  • the style of the lecturer.

Identify the factors which have a negative impact on your note-taking, and learn to compensate by asking more questions or audio recording the lectures.

Remember:

React to what is being said.  Write down questions, highlight areas that aren’t clear, and learn to investigate these later.

Selecting information

  • Experimenting and identifying the style of note-taking that suits you best will help you to develop the habit of identifying the useful information.
  • You can’t write down everything the lecturer says, so you will have to develop the habit of doing some work on the notes after the lecture.

Tips

  • Draw a balance between writing and listening; the more you write the less you listen.
  • Record the main points: fill in the detail after the lecture.
  • Lecturers use OHPs for their benefit as well as for yours; only record what you need.
  • Always print and bring presentation slides if the lecturer makes them available in advance
  • Sit where you can see and hear clearly.
  • Think about making an audio recording of a lecture and write it up later. Always ask permission to record the lecture.

After your lecture

Your ability to remember lecture content falls away very quickly after the lecture unless you do something to actively use that information.

Use the following strategies to help you retain the information:

Note making (as opposed to Note-taking)

  • Write up your notes as soon as possible, filling in any gaps or expanding on the ideas presented.
  • Don’t be afraid to add your own comments.
  • Knowledge is about understanding not just learning facts.

Talk about it

  • Discuss the lecture with other students to see if you all agree on the main points.
  • Seek clarification where there is disagreement.

Do some research or reading

  • Check reference details
  • Cross-reference your notes to your coursework and assignment research.
  • Develop an effective and reliable filing system so that you can easily retrieve the information you have written up.

Attending lectures checklist

Attending lectures can really be a good way for your to develop your subject knowledge. You just have to make sure that you know how to do these things:

  • Pre-read in a general way to help you understand the content.
  • Complete tasks that your lecturer has set prior to the lecture.
  • Check the myCourse page in advance for any handouts or presentation slides you can bring with you.
  • Notice the difference between facts and concepts and think about different ways to record these.
  • Learn a note-taking strategy that suits you
  • Develop a balance between listening and writing during the lecture
  • Learn to compensate for negative influences on your ability to take notes
  • Do something with your lecture notes as soon as possible after the lecture
  • Do some research on the subject after the lecture
  • Use the lecture content as a starting point for your own research
Attending lectures summary (PDF opens in new window)

Reading effectively

Reading effectivelyYour reading will be focused and more productive if you have a clear purpose in mind when you open a book:

  • Read actively
  • Understand the reading process
  • Survey and preview
  • Critically analyse
  • Record the results
  • Have reading targets

Read actively

To be effective, reading has to be active.Make a list of questions for which the book/chapter/article might provide answers. As you read further, add to your list of questions, going into finer detail.

This will help you to:

  • maintain your interest/concentration;
  • develop your understanding of the material;
  • relate the material to what you already know;
  • relate your reading to what you need to learn.

Use the SQ3R technique to build the habit of reading actively:


Survey – Question – Read – Recall – Review

Survey
Look quickly over what you are going to read. Notice things such as the title and any section headings, pictures, charts or graphs, introductory or concluding paragraphs. On a quick scan of the text. Do any words stand out?

Question
Write out questions that your survey has brought to mind. Have any words or topics stood out? What would you like to find out about them? If you are reading to get information on a particular topic, what aspects of that did your survey suggest you could learn about?

Read
Now read the text, actively trying to find the answers to your questions. When you find all the answers (or establish that there is no answer), stop reading.

Recall
Read through your questions and try to recall all the answers that were given in the text and note whether any of them were not answered.

Review
Your review can involve re-reading to check that you recalled correctly, relating the content of this reading to your other research, or discussing the content with someone else.

Understand the reading process

There are a wide variety of reading styles depending on the type of material and the purpose for reading:

  • Leisure reading - progress at a steady pace, without needing to be critical, just "listening" to what the author is telling you.
  • Skimming - run your eyes rapidly down the page. Gives a general impression of the content and style of the material, helping you decide if it is likely to be useful.
  • Scanning - similar to skimming but more focussed, looking for specific information. Your eyes should latch onto key words. Used primarily when searching for answers to particular questions or to locate a specific reference.
  • Reading for learning - consider the full meaning and implications of the material. Re-read certain sections and take notes. Reading 200 w.p.m.(words per minute) should be considered good. In order to speed things up you will want to avoid reading irrelevant material. Adopt a logical and consistent approach to your reading.

Survey and preview

A critical survey of the material in question should quickly identify the most promising areas for initial reading.

The following approach provides a quick way of assessing how useful a piece of writing may be:

  • Read the synopsis first. Does the book/article cover the topic you are interested in?
  • Read any "conclusions" before starting on the main body of the text. This should give you a summary of the arguments put forward and the overall conclusions reached, and may save you hours of detailed reading.Conclusions may be given for the book as a whole, or chapter by chapter.
  • Check the index to locate the relevant sections/chapters.
  • Skim the passage first, looking for key words or phrases. 
  • Pay particular attention to the first paragraph of each chapter, as well as: headings, sub-headings, diagrams and illustrations. This will focus you in on the relevant material.

Critically analyse

Once you have located the relevant material, you need to examine it critically by comparing it to other opinions and your own knowledge of the subject:

  1. Look at the introduction to identify the aims and approach taken.
  2. Look at the conclusion to see what the writer hopes to have established.
  3. Use the signposts you identified in your initial scan
  4. Read and re-read the relevant text to identify:
  • the main points of the passage
  • whether it is convincing in terms of the argument presented
  • references to supporting/conflicting material
  • whether it answers the questions you started out with
  • whether it raises further issues that you will have to resolve.
Critical Analysis Leaflet (PDF opens in new window)

Record the results

Use the following techniques:

  • Take notes as you go along - referencing them to page/paragraph/line number, so you can easily re-check any material.
  • Summarise material in expanded note form. This will help to clarify your thoughts, and will provide you with a permanent record for revision.
  • Include direct quotations where relevant but do not let these become a substitute for your own ideas. 
  • Always work actively -how you interpret the material is central to academic study.

Tip:

Highlighting and underlining of the primary text should be used with great care. Some argue that by leaving a trace on the page you can quickly tune into your initial thoughts. This may be true, but it can stop you viewing the material in a new light.

Have reading targets

The purpose of reading is:

  • to gather information and ideas
  • to test hypotheses
  • to develop your thoughts.

Sometimes you will achieve this from the detailed reading of a single piece of work. At other times, you may gain more by dipping in and out of several texts in order to broaden your general knowledge of the topic.

Decide what you want to learn from the session and take a break when you have achieved it.

Tip: Learning is more effective when spread out.

For example: four sessions of 30 minutes will be more effective than a single 2-hour session



Reading effectively checklist

To make your reading more active and effective, make sure that you:

  • Avoid passive reading – learn strategies that make your reading active and keep you engaged;
  • Practice using SQ3R;
  • Recognise which reading process is appropriate for the text you are reading;
  • Survey the text before you read to identify what parts are most relevant and useful;
  • Learn to be critical of the text you are reading and use this to analyse its relevance and usefulness;
  • Form note-taking habits – recording, reviewing and using your notes;
  • Note references and occasional quotes as you read;
  • Read with targets – what info are you trying to pick out and how much is enough?
Reading effectively (PDF opens in new window)

Taking notes

Taking notesOne of the most important things you can do at university is to learn how to make good notes from a range of different sources - lectures, textbooks, discussions, handouts etc.

Keep the following in mind when taking notes from your sources:

  • Understand why it is important to take good notes;
  • Recognise different types of information;
  • Try using diagrammatic notes;
  • Try using linear notes;
  • Consider how to take notes from various sources.

It's important to take good notes

In higher education, we learn from many different sources: textbooks, lectures, papers, handouts, formal and informal discussions. Getting the skill to integrate this diverse range of material is one of the most important things you need to do in order make your study really effective.

Lectures
With most other sources of information you can go back and check the original material. However, lectures are transitory and once the lecture is over all that remains is your memory and your notes.

The ‘best’ style of notes
The ‘best’ method is the one that works for you. However, the method that works well in one situation may not be as effective in another (lectures vs. books, or even different lecturers). It is vital for you to experiment – try the different methods of notemaking described in this book and find out what is most effective. You may even find that you will want to combine different types of notes within one lecture.

Recognise different types of information

Lectures are intended to transmit information in three different ways:

Facts
Lectures contain factual material given verbally or on board or screen.

Concepts
Most lectures contain an element of conceptual integration of the material. Many lecturers concentrate on concepts, on the premise that knowledge of the bare facts can be gained from books.

References
Sources of further relevant material may also be given.

Facts and references can be noted down as they are presented, often in the same form.

Concepts require analysis and interpretation of the material which is generally difficult to describe adequately in narrative form, especially if there are complex relationships involved.



Using diagrammatic & linear notes

Diagrammatic notes

Tony Buzan, in his book Use Your Head (BBC Publications, 1974) puts forward a model for note-taking based on the use of diagrammatic, or "pattern", notes:

  • Pattern notes begin in the centre of the page and branch outwards in all directions like a road map.
  • Adding a new topic is like adding a major road, with reference and other material branching off to form side roads.
  • Links between sections can be made with dotted lines or arrows (like proposed roads or by-passes).

Image of spider diagram

Figure 1: Spider diagram

Advantages of diagrammatic note taking:

  • allows the structuring of complex relationships.
  • open-ended - new material can be inserted at any point
  • ideal for planning essays -various models of your topic can be developed without having to scrap one version in favour of another.
  • links between important points can be shown.
  • visual nature aids recall.
Diagrammatic Notes (PDF opens in new window)

Linear notes
Re-organisation to the layout of your notebook may well prove beneficial:

  • Use loose-leaf note-books so that you can incorporate additional relevant material later.
  • Learn to recognise anecdotal material - you rarely need to record this.
  • Make use of the planned structure of the lecture to help you set out your notes.

In order to develop a consistent style:

  • Use headings, sub-headings, bullet points and indentations to identify and separate the various components of the lecture.
  • Use abbreviations / stars / dashes / underlining / colour etc. to emphasize main points and connections.
  • Develop your own shorthand for recurring themes, technical terms, formulae etc.
  • Use diagrams as visual keys, even if you don’t use "pattern notes" generally.
  • Group references and notes on further reading to give them more prominence. 
  • Cross-reference lecture notes to course-work or private study.
  • File your notes carefully and consistently. 
  • Standardise your page layout in order to identify the type of material you are dealing with.

Image of linear notes

Figure 2: Linear notes

If you are not sure of the best location for your notes:

  • photocopy and file in two or more locations
  • insert a reference sheet to identify the location of the complete set of notes.
Linear Notes Layout (PDF opens in new window)

Using various sources for note-taking

Different sources of information require different approaches:

Books, magazines, newspapers, etc.

  • Scan or read the article first, then take notes.
  • Be selective- avoid copying word for word, unless you need a specific quote. Consider what information you need and record it in your own words.
  • Photocopying from books  is not an effective way of taking notes. If you’ve not read it you’ve not learnt it.
  • If your notes on a topic are long and detailed make a revision sheet containing the basic facts, while it is still fresh in your mind.

Television and Radio

Notemaking on television programmes is particularly difficult as you need to take your eyes off what is happening in order to write your notes.

  • Record the programme if possible (you might be able to obtain a copy from the Library)
  • Take only outline notes on the first viewing.
  • Use the index counter to mark sections of interest and return to them later to expand or fill in gaps.

Computer Based Material

  • Beware of downloading information from CD Rom and On-Line Databases without checking you have the correct information.
  • Download then edit as appropriate.
  • Record the full URL, file name or disk reference number on your notes for your own use. You may need to refer to your source again.

Remember: include references to the source of your research material in your notes. 

This will aid quick retrieval if you need to refer to the material again and ease of reference when you cite your sources.

Taking notes checklist

ChecklistGood note taking habits:

  • Find the note taking style that best suits you;
  • Recognise the difference between facts, concepts and references;
  • Learn to analyse and interpret concepts;
  • Experiment with different styles of note taking;
  • Try using diagrammatic notes to expand concepts;
  • Try using a different layout for your linear notes;
  • Use note-taking strategies appropriate to the different sources of information you use;
  • Get into the habit of taking reference details for all your sources.
Taking Notes Summary (PDF opens in new window)

More help

If you'd like some more help with Managing your Learning you can:

  • Ask your lecturer for guidance.
  • If you are a disabled student you can also contact Access Solent for guidance and support.
  • View the glossary to help you understand the words used.
  • Read a book or ebook from the reading list found in Extra resources.
  • Visit recommended websites in Extra resources for further guidance and some useful tools.

If you have any feedback about the Managing your Learning book or additional material you'd like to see in the course, please email us at succeed@solent.ac.uk.

Thank you to all staff and students at Southampton Solent University who contributed to this course. 

Extra resources

Reading List

Read a book or ebook from the Managing Your Learning reading list.

The following titles are available from the library:

Subject specific guides

Recommended websites.

This is currently being updated.

Downloadables

Documents used in this resource

Attending Lectures summary (PDF opens in new window)
Blank Academic Year Planner (PDF opens in new window)
Blank Monthly Planner (PDF opens in new window)
Blank Weekly Planner (PDF opens in new window)
Critical Analysis Leaflet (PDF opens in new window)
Diagrammatic Notes (PDF opens in new window)
Linnear Notes (PDF opens in new window)
Reading effectively summary (PDF opens in new window)
Revision Checklist (PDF opens in new window)
Study planners (PDF opens in new window)
Taking Notes summary (PDF opens in new window)
Time management summary (PDF opens in new window)