Time management system for your study can be boiled down to 10 basic principles:
1. Find a place to study where you won’t be interrupted. For some people, it’s the nearest library; for others, it’s a desk or card table in a secluded corner of their home. Whatever pleasant, distraction-free environment you select, you should find a specific place and designate it as the place where studying, and nothing but studying, occurs. Make sure all the materials you need are close by.
2. Reward yourself when you’re done. Let’s say you want to devote the next hour and a quarter to a particularly difficult element of the course that’s been eluding you. Instead of lashing yourself to the mast and braving the elements, promise yourself; say, a listen to a recently purchased CD upon completion of the task. When you start to droop a half-hour into your task, focus on this reward. You’ll boost your morale and make better progress!
3. Be disciplined but flexible and learn to adjust as you go along. Don’t beat yourself up for starting your reading at 10:15 when you had it slotted to begin at 10:10. It’s a waste of energy, and you can’t afford it. Use time overruns to help you make more realistic forecasts next time.
4. Don’t disengage immediately when presented with an unignorable distraction. Before you answer the phone, process the pressing question your roommate is shouting at you or make breakfast for the child who got up a little earlier than you thought she would, take a few seconds to be sure you’ve reached a logical stopping point in your study work. You’ll spend less time spinning your wheels when you come back to the work. Whenever possible, jot down a brief note that will remind you of where you left off.
5. Don’t skip around; first things first. Finish one task before you move on to the next one. Moving from topic to topic takes mental energy. Make the shift only after you’ve completed what you needed to. And remember the planning principle: Get the toughest, highest-priority items on the list out of the way first!
6. If something in your personal study routine doesn’t work for you, toss it and try something new. For some people, study groups are a great idea. For others, they’re a pain in the neck. For some people, absolute quiet is an essential while studying. For others, Pearl Jam on the headphones is a great way to get the motor running. Experiment until you find what makes you most productive and then stick with it.
7. Monitor your progress toward important goals. Schedules and hour-by-hour strategies are nice, but give yourself the freedom to try a new approach when a planning strategy has had a day or two to deliver the goods and hasn’t done so for you.
8. Write everything down. There’s a Chinese saying that goes something like this: “The faintest pencil mark is superior to the clearest memory.” If you got a good idea, commit it to paper. If you finish something, cross it off the list and save yourself the aggravation of finding you’ve duplicated your efforts later on down the line.
9. Bear in mind the complexity of the assignment when you allocate time slots. Aggressive scheduling is one thing, parting the Red Sea is another. If you try to cram too much work into too little time, you’ll reduce your personal effectiveness and increase your frustration level. That makes whatever you have to do next less likely to turn out well. Make realistic time estimates, and adjust them as necessary.
10. Take care of the equipment. Your mind and body are marvelous assets don’t misuse them. Get the sleep you need. Get the nutrition you need. Light exercise on treadmill is a great way to minimize the lingering stress.