Planning is an unnatural process. It is much more fun to do something else. The nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Maybe start by considering where your time goes:
How did you spend your time yesterday? For example:
Could time have been freed up for reading/writing/planning/collating materials for course sessions and assignments?
If you get behind, it is really difficult to catch up again.
(Creative Arts Education MA student, 2014-2016)
Each unit lasts xx weeks and requires roughly xxxxx hours’ study outside class. You might find it useful to plot this into your weekly timetable (On your phone? Computer? Paper?)
- Are there very busy periods in your term?
- Do you need to take this into account when planning your time?
- Do you have birthdays, weekends away, etc. to attend to?
- What would be the chunk you could most usefully explore in Reading Week?
When are you learning at your best?
Could you juggle your schedule to take advantage of this? For example, if you are sharpest in the morning, could you do half an hour’s study before class?
How do you learn at your best?
- Do you prefer listening to text? Can you do this on the train? Bus? Walking to the supermarket?
- If you prefer seeing and reading, can you do this on the train? Bus?
- What about the times when you will be designing/writing your coursework and need to be at a desk?
- Do you need to make adjustments in your plan for this?
You will need to ensure that you are spreading your time effectively across the different elements of the reading/coursework.
- Are you leaving sufficient time for each part of each unit of coursework?
- When you break up the coursework, what would be the most user-friendly way to keep you on track?
- Would a Gantt chart help, for example?
Or a mindmap? Try free mapping apps such as Simple Mind or Free mind to create something like this:
Or are you better off with a linear plan?
Free planning apps include:
- S-planner Samsung (specific to Samsung users only)
- Sony Planner (specific to Sony users only)
- Ishould (30 day free trail)
- Task Coach
- IPhone Calendar (specific to IPhone users only)
You may prefer something simpler, such as this:
Coursework Timetable (Deadline: xxxxx)
If you are easily flustered or need your plan to be flexible, maybe you would like to use a simple plan with stickers that you can move around. Or have stickers that you can move about on a wall.
Try breaking down a project into smaller parts
If you are uncertain about how long different tasks will take, maybe you could plot estimated time on a chart:
- Break down project into its smaller parts. Put tasks in box with estimated time for completion.
- Fit the tasks into your timetable leaving a couple of days free before the deadline (wriggle room) in case you need them.
- When you have finished a task, write down the actual time the task took.
When you have finished the project, think about what you have learned about timing:
- What went well and you will want to use again?
- What needs adjustment?
- If you took 12 hours for Task 1 and estimated 4 hours, was it because you did not use your time effectively, or did you underestimate the time you needed for the task?
- What will you do differently next time?
‘My reflective journal helped me realise why I didn’t want to study. When I identified what was present when I didn’t want to study I tried to gradually eliminate them … Once I identified the elements that were present when I did want to study I tried to include these all of the time … The main element was interest … to try and include this I tried to relate the subjects to me personally.’
Haggis and Pouget (2002) in Wimpenny, K. and Savin-Baden, M. (2013) ‘Alienation, agency and authenticity: a synthesis of the literature on student engagement’ in Teaching in Higher Education, 18:3, pp.311-326
Creative Arts Education, UCA 2016