Time Management = Self-management
"You can't save time, you can only spend it wisely"
The starting point is to identify your critical success factors – the things that might be holding you back, the areas that could make a big difference to your performance in June, if you could fix them now. Try to answer the following questions honestly as an indicator of your current standing. Are any of these problem areas for you? Is there room for improvement?
- Do you have a routine established for study during the week?
- Do you get some solid revision done at the weekends?
- Do you have a definite time for starting study each day?
- Do you have difficulty starting into tasks?
- Do you get your written work handed in on time?
- Do you find your plans regularly knocked off-schedule?
- Do you find yourself panicking prior to tests?
Establishing a realistic routine, early in the school year, will make a huge difference to the effectiveness of your work. Like most jobs, study is mainly a matter of habit. Once settled in a routine, life becomes much simpler and study becomes more productive. Making out your own schedule, based on your particular circumstances, will act as a helpful structure for your work.
- While quality is ultimately more important than quantity, in your Leaving Cert year you should be aiming to do four hours productive study each day. This includes homework, revision, and any study sessions in school.
- Create a study timetable - construct a weekly schedule for yourself. Start by including your class times, travel, sports and other commitments. Then add designated study periods for the afternoons/evenings and for the weekend. It is better to start with realistic targets that you can fulfil rather than being over-ambitious at first.
- Have a definite time for starting study each evening. Pick a time that you can stick to. It will reinforce your discipline and condition your system to make the most of the session.
- Getting some productive study done at weekends will make all the difference to your exam prospects! Here, you can get effective revision done, can spend more time on reviewing topics covered during the week in class, can prepare for tests or oral exams, can devote time to an essay or important assignment that needs to be done well.
- The weekend is also the time when you might feel least like studying, when the level of distraction is higher, when you want to take a break from school pressures and relax. The potential for friction at home can increase at weekends. How can you cope with these competing factors?
- The answer lies in balance and organisation. It is not possible to do everything (get some rest, play sport, work in a part-time job, go out on two or three nights, spend time with your friends, get the necessary study done) so something has to give and a balance must be arrived at. Settle on a routine that can work for you. Nominate certain blocks of time that you will devote to study at weekends (e.g. Sunday afternoon) and let these periods become firmly associated with productive study in your mind.
- You should be aiming to do up to 8 hours good study over the weekend period (i.e. from Friday evening to Sunday evening). Try getting some homework done on Friday afternoon/evening before 7pm (thus 'breaking the back' of the job before the weekend really starts), keep Saturday free for rest and recreation, and use Sunday (when there are less distractions) as the day to get some solid revision done.
"Doing It Now"
"Putting things off" is probably the biggest time-waster of all! Procrastination means letting the low-priority tasks get in the way of high-priority ones. Students of physics may liken it to the concept of inertia – a mass at rest tends to stay at rest. Here are some steps to spending time more productively. But remember, don't just read them, do them!
Incorporate self-motivating statements into your speech and thoughts: "There's no time like the present", "The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can go out."
- Start thinking positive thoughts
By using revision checklists in your various subjects, you should know what quantity of material has to be covered over the coming months. Start from the final date (end of May) and divide your revision up week by week, allowing some flexibility for unforeseen delays. Surprise yourself by being ready in time!
- Plan ahead by working backwards
Stick to your weekly schedule as closely as possible – it will become a help to your efforts and a shield against temptation. You'll still be able to socialise, rest and play, but it will be on your terms, not someone else's.
- Learn to say NO once your priorities are set
Self-reinforcement has a powerful effect on developing a "do it now" attitude. Take satisfaction in the completion of tasks and give yourself a "treat" with the time saved by taking a break. You'll have a greater sense of freedom and accomplishment because you're in control, and you'll enjoy your "free time" more!