Study is an important part of your university life. Learning how to manage your study and developing good study habits will help you study effectively and maximise your learning at University.

What you will learn

  • techniques for developing good study habits
  • strategies to help manage your time effectively

Image: Planner by Marijana1 Pixabay

Start planning

The key to keeping on track of your studies is to organise yourself - carefully organising your study time so you can juggle family and other personal commitments. This means getting into the habit of planning! Planning is the basis of good time management. It allows you to track what you are doing, monitor what you have already done and how much time you have available to you. Whether it’s short-term or long-term planning, creating a plan will give you guidance and direction, allowing you to manage your time more effectively.

Semester plan


At the start of the semester, begin planning how you are going to manage your study load with your other commitments. This will give you an overview of your commitments for the whole semester. Consider the following:

  • Check the University calendar - it shows semester breaks, study weeks, tuition-free weeks, exam dates etc.
  • Use your unit outlines - this will give you a general overview of the whole semester, including assessment due dates.
  • Plan your timetable - use the Curtin timetable to plan a potential timetable for your different combinations of units. Record dates for lectures, tutorials, tests, assignment submissions and other significant events.

Using planners such as the above can help you record important dates so you are prepared for what lies ahead. If there are any serious clash of commitments, you will be able to see it and negotiate with your tutors.

Weekly plan


Once you have noted down the key dates for the semester, start planning for each week. Your lectures and tutorial times for the various subjects are usually scheduled at the same time each week so try and develop a weekly study routine. Your weekly plan should include both study and personal activities, for example:

  • Lectures and tutorials
  • Pre-reading material
  • Work and family commitments
  • Health and well-being activities (sports, gym, yoga etc)

Daily plan


Keeping a daily plan of all your activities can help you work towards completing your tasks within a set time frame. For example, “Complete introduction to essay “ - by planning for this task you will hold yourself accountable and make use of your time effectively. You may also want to consider giving yourself a little reward for having accomplished the task.

You can use a diary, to do list or other forms of electronic planners to schedule your daily activities.

Set goals

Planning and organising your study load is important, but it is also important to get the balance right so that you can go from the planning stage and move into actually getting started!

Having goals is a good way to motivate yourself and get you started. When setting goals, consider breaking down your work into achievable goals rather than being overly ambitious. The video below shows you how to use the SMART goals method to create clear and achievable goals that you can actually work with.



Tips for setting goals:

  • set clearly defined goals - set specific goals so you are clear about exactly what you want to achieve
  • keep them realistic so the goals are purposeful and achievable
  • break the goal down into smaller goals (mini-goals), then breaking down the mini-goals into tasks
  • set a time frame for achieving these goals - set a start and end date
  • adjust your expectations - if you are feeling unwell on the day, you may need to modify your schedule accordingly. Do not feel guilty!

And remember to reward yourself when you successfully complete a task (call a friend, check your emails or get a snack).

Activity

The activity below will show you how to tackle your assignment by breaking down your goal (of completing an assignment) into mini-goals, and into achievable tasks.

In the activity place the mini tasks for writing an assignment in the correct order.

Manage your time

Time management is an essential skill for studying at University. Students who manage their time well often perform better in their first year of University (Kitsantas et.al., 2008). Finding ways of managing your time can help you cope with the pressure of studying, ensuring you do the right work at the right time.

Time management is all about self management - managing you and what you choose to do in an allocated space that we call time. Managing you and your time is all about:

  • being aware that time is limited - you cannot get back time that has passed
  • organising your goals, plans and schedules to effectively use time, and
  • monitoring your use of time and adjusting to the distractions and changing priorities.

The key to managing your time rests on valuing what you do, prioritising and organising your activities.

When you value what you are doing you will commit to it - you will dedicate more time to it and less time to what is less important to you. Ask yourself “Is this work (study or degree) important to me?” If the answer is “Yes”, then it deserves your full attention and commitment. Focusing on high value activities will ensure you do not mis-locate your time.

To reconnect with your values, try this:

  • list 3 main reasons why you decided to undertake university study - stick it on your wall so it is a visible reminder to you
  • list your core values e.g. career, family, health - reflecting on this regularly can help you prioritise what’s important and what’s not
  • visualise your future life with the degree - this visualisation could motivate you to achieve your goal

Working out your priorities can help you manage your study, work and life as this ensures that you get the important things done first whilst still having time for the little things you would still like to do. For example, you may have a couple of exams coming up and may need to prioritise subjects that are more challenging for you and allocate time on these first. But how do you decide on what the most important task is when everything feels important?

There are a number of techniques to help you prioritise but always find the one that best suits you.

The key to keeping on track of your studies is to organise yourself - carefully organising your study time so you can juggle family and other personal commitments. Here are some tips on how to get organised:

  • Write notes or a to-do-list - tick each task off as you complete them, but remember to keep it manageable!
  • Use diaries, timetables and calendars - write down all your commitments (assignment due dates, work, sports, social events etc.)
  • Create a time audit to track your time. There are many apps and study techniques to help you stay on track, e.g. the Pomodoro Technique, which uses a timer to break down work into 25 minute intervals with short breaks in-between.

Note: Get into the habit of referring back to these at the end of each week to track your progress and see if you need to make some adjustments.

Useful resources for managing your time:

Know yourself

Knowing who you are and what you are like is a critical part of managing yourself and the time that you have. Are you organised or rigid? Flexible or disorganised? Do you have a short or long concentration span? It is important to consider what works well for you in regard to how you manage your study load with time to rest and play. Get to know yourself and your habits and monitor your behaviour and actions so you can turn these into your patterns of study.

We all learn differently - some learn by looking (visual learners), by hearing or listening (auditory learners) or by touching and doing (kinaesthetic learners). Try to identify your preferred learning style so that you can find techniques to help you study effectively. And remember, your learning style may change over time.

You may want to check out the various questionaires available to help you identify your main learning style:

People work best at different times of the day so try and find your ‘Einstein window’ - the time of day that you function the best (mental peak) and where you feel energised and productive. For some, it may be the mornings whilst for others it may be during the night, so get to know your peak time and schedule your study time accordingly. It is better to perform your most challenging work (e.g understanding abstract material) at your peak time as this is when you are most alert and efficient. The least challenging tasks can be done when you are not functioning at your peak level.

Finding places to study (on campus, at home, park etc) that suit your personality and learning style is important. Choose spaces that make you feel comfortable, focused and productive so that you can study effectively. If a space no longer suits you, switch it up for another working space.

Good concentration is essential when studying as it allows you to optimise your study time and avoid time wasting. However as our concentration span varies (depending on the person and the task) it is useful to understand your level of concentration.

Some tips to help you develop good concentration:

  • have a plan so you know exactly what you have to do
  • practise mindfulness - actively engage in what your are studying (e.g take notes while reading)
  • eliminate disruptions and interruptions that you know will cause you to lose focus
  • take short breaks to refresh yourself and get back on track
  • adopt a healthy lifestyle through eating and sleeping well, and exercising.

Practise self-reflection and mindfulness

Get into the habit of practising self-reflection! Reviewing and reflecting on your day, week or activities can help you monitor your progress and keep you on track and make a conscious choice of whether you are committed to carrying it out. Ask yourself:

  • Did I get the set tasks done? If not, why?
  • What went well? Why?
  • What did not go well? Why?
  • How can I do this better next time?

Once you have made a conscious, deliberate choice that you are committed to doing something, you will give yourself the best chance of doing well. And remember, discussing and sharing your experiences with others (peers, tutors) can help you gain a different perspective.

Being mindfull is another useful technique for developing good study habits. Try focusing on the present moment, totally engaged with the task that you are working on. This way, you will be able to work more efficiently and productively.

Check out some of the useful resources available to help you develop mindfulness.

Access information on Curtin’s mindfulness programs, community, therapists and more.

Ask for help

Get into the habit of seeking assistance when you are struggling with your studies. It is best to ask for help as soon as possible instead of wasting too much time trying to solve the problem yourself. Consider consulting your tutor and lecturer in the first instance but also remember that your classmates and friends may also be a great source of help.

You will also want to take advantage of the academic support programs that are offered by the university. For example, the Library offers online programs and workshops to help you develop your academic research and study skills.

And remember, it is important to take responsibility for yourself and your own learning!

Test yourself