Understanding yourself

Many people say that they have trouble managing their time. Whilst it is often assumed that laziness or disorganisation is the problem, there are lots of reasons why we find it hard to get tasks done on time. Consider some of the following:

  • Feeling overwhelmed: this is the most common feeling that students describe to us - that sense that the tasks are too big, there is too much to do.
  • Lack of motivation: being uncertain of your priorities and goals, or you might find the task boring.
  • Difficulty concentrating: finding yourself daydreaming, staring into space, or avoidance activites. 
  • Stress and anxiety: brought about by personal, family and relationship issues.
  • Unrealistic expectations and fear of failure: feeling like you haven't prepared enough or done your best, so it's not good enough to hand in.

In order to apply the best strategy to improve your success, it can help to identify the feelings that are driving your actions. For example, if you are having trouble concentrating, maybe you need to remove some of the distractions in your study area or study in the Library. Perhaps studying for shorter periods at a time could help. If you are experiencing family or relationship stress, having an appointment with the Counselling Centre to talk things out with a counsellor might help. If you are feeling very unmotivated with your course, maybe you could seek some advice from an academic adviser in your College to find out if there are alternatives.

Some feelings are much harder to overcome than others. Here's some things to consider:

  • One of the best ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed is to break down your task into smaller, more manageable tasks and then work out a realistic plan to complete them.
  • Don't fall into the trap of thinking "I work best under pressure/at the last minute." Whilst imminent deadlines are the ultimate motivator (otherwise known as goal proximity), the stress they bring is best avoided.
  • Instead, bring your goals forward. Again breaking down the tasks helps you to do this. 
  • Sometimes there's no point waiting for motivation to come, just getting started on a task is often the best way motivate yourself.
  • Check whether you are being realistic. Are you allowing too much or not enough time for study? Both can lead to time management issues.
  • Study with a friend or friends. You can help and test each other, and can break up all the individual study you do with a more social setting.
  • Reward yourself! Consider turning those activities that you use to procrastinate into rewards instead.

Don't forget that the ultimate goal of all time management is to have a balanced life while acheiving your desired goals. The strategies on the next few pages will help you to acheive that balance. The Counselling Centre has some further ideas and resources that you might want to check out regarding ways to manage yourself better.

Big picture planning >>