Time management

Managing your time and workload

One of the most daunting things about coming to University is the timetable and workload. At each stage of your course, only part of your timetable will be filled with teaching or ‘contact time’; meaning you are responsible for the management of your independent study. This is challenging, as you may have other commitments alongside study, such as jobs, family, social life, daily life demands and any extra activities such as sports or music. You may also find that having many modules in your stage of study comes with multiple assessments; sometimes at the same time! To get to grips with these new demands on your time, it is worth investing in some time management skills in order to make the most of your time at University.

Marjon Study Skills has put together a number of resources that you might find useful in managing your time and your deadlines.

Time management

Before you can begin to construct a picture of effective time management, it is important to understand how time management will help improve your studies. Additionally, you should consider how well you manage your time at present.

Time management isn’t just a buzzword

Your ability to manage your time effectively is directly linked to your success in your degree. Effective time management will also enhance your University experience, as you will be able to plan social events, extra activities, and important basics (like sleeping!) around your studies. Managing your study time will allow you more choice in terms of your free time – yes, free time! In terms of study, your success will be largely determined by two factors:

  1. How much time you spend in study – the number of hours dedicated to study including attending lectures, independent study, online study
  2. How well you use your study time – sitting in the Library all day on social media probably isn’t the best use of your allocated study time, so make sure it is meaningful!

(Cottrell, 2013, p. 123)


How do I use my time currently?

How do I use my time currently?

A way to improve time management skills is to consider your use of time at present. When you begin to study, you need to make time for independent study, as well as lectures; but you should also aim to keep some time for yourself! Cottrell (2013, p. 122) created a useful self-evaluation in her book The Study Skills Handbook (4th edition), with suggested guidance on what to next; it’s worth a look if you feel that you’d like to improve upon your time management. You might also find The Time Circle a useful resource in looking at how you currently use time and how you’d like to use your time in future.

How much time should I study?

How much time should I study?

The number of hours you should dedicate to study is based on your mode of study, and how many weeks you take off. These figures are an estimate, and include hours for lectures, work-based study or clinical activity. Examples are taken from Cottrell (2013, p. 127).  

Full Time Course

Part Time Course

Hours per year



Hours per week

(across 52 weeks)



Hours per week

(with 7 weeks of breaks)




But the first year doesn't matter, right?

But the first year doesn’t matter, right?

Wrong. Your first year of your degree sets you up with a level of knowledge and a particular set of skills that you will use throughout the remainder of your course and beyond! It’s also a fantastic time to create a relationship with your peers and Personal Development Tutor, set-up study groups, familiarise yourself with writers and research in your discipline, hone your academic writing style and more. Your first year is an opportune time to develop your study skills in order to perfect them for years two and three.

Time Management Strategies

Working backwards from deadlines

Working backwards from deadlines

One way to consider how much time you have to complete a given task is to work backwards from the deadline. This method allows you to consider how much time you need for each stage of the assignment process. This can largely be broken down into the following areas:

  1. Early planning – Understanding the assignment brief, discussing with others and making a plan for research
  2. Research – Searching and locating sources, appraising and reviewing sources, reading and notetaking and revisitation of the original plan
  3. Organisation of content – Collating and arranging notes into assignments and planning your assignment
  4. Drafting – Writing your first draft, following up additional research, filling in any gaps and expanding on arguments (TIP – remember to reference as you go!)
  5. Revising and completion – Completing references, proofreading and editing, check for flow of argument and finalise assignment for submission

Falmouth University have an excellent online tool that calculates the stages of the assignment based on how long you have until the assignment is due, and provides helpful links to each stage of the assignment. Click here to use the Falmouth Assignment Calculator.


Using to-do lists

Using ‘To do’ lists

To do lists are a simple and convenient way to draw together tasks that need to be completed. Getting your ‘to dos’ on a list means you aren’t relying so heavily on memory, and are less likely to forget what needs to be done. They’re also a great way of seeing exactly how much we have to do, and easing anxiety. Take a look at these To Do lists:

You might find this guide to ‘Writing effective to-do lists’ helpful


Use time-saving techniques

Use time-saving techniques

  • Create a note-making strategy – use keywords, abbreviations and short sentences and make sure you are clear on their meaning. Avoid writing in full sentences.
  • Use online cloud storage – don’t waste time moving between files. Create a Google account and access your files on any device.
  • Optimise your spare moments – create a list of small tasks that could be completed when you are doing short but necessary tasks, i.e. riding the bus, queueing, walking to and from work etc. Download audiobooks or podcasts to listen to, keep flashcards in your wallet for key terms to remember or write 5 minute summaries of lecture content.
  • Allocate your word limit When writing an assignment, give a target number of words to each section (i.e. introduction, paragraph topic one, two, three etc. and conclusion) and stick to it.
  • Mindmap on the go – Carry a small notebook and mindmap your thoughts and ideas on the go, so that you have something to revisit later on.
  • Reference as you go – If you mention the work of someone else in your assignment, put the full reference in the reference list once you have completed the sentence. Don’t worry about getting them into alphabetical order, or using a hanging indent; you can do this right at the end with a click of a button – (follow this link and click on Word Processing Resources. You need to log in to Learning Space.)

Extenuating circumstances

Extenuating circumstances

The University defines extenuating circumstances as: “Critical matters that result in a major short term impact on a student’s ability to be able to complete, or submit, or attend, an assessment.” Extenuating circumstances can therefore be either:

  • immediate events that prevent a student attending for, or submitting, an assessment; or
  • preliminary events that impact on a student’s ability to prepare for an assessment.

(Plymouth Marjon University, 2018)

If you are experiencing difficulties in your personal life that are making it difficult to meet an assignment deadline; don’t panic! Marjon has procedures in place for you to manage your workload at this time. Visit the Student Support online page for advice, or have a look at the Student Regulations Framework guidance here.


Useful sources for time management

Useful Sources for Time Management