Students lead busy lives: they have to balance their coursework, jobs, family and social responsibilities, internship or volunteer hours… and, of course, have some rest and relaxation! To experience academic success, it’s essential that they put effective time management skills, habits, and strategies into place.
A weekly study schedule can be of great help in their efforts to make the best use of their time. To put an even finer point on things, students can create specific “time blocks” devoted to studying within their weekly schedules.
In Essential Study Skills, Eighth Edition, author Linda Wong offers her “essential strategies for scheduling fixed study blocks.” These strategies, which we’ve paraphrased below, will help students carve out dedicated periods of time each week, which they can devote to studying specific subjects or completing different activities. As they follow their schedule, they’ll develop the consistency that will lead to greater success.
Seven tips for creating “time blocks” for studying
1. Dedicate each block of time to a specific subject or activity. To make the best use of your time, don’t skip from subject to subject. Spend fifty minutes on one subject (e.g., history) or activity (e.g., research or writing), and concentrate fully on that for the entire span of time. After the time is up, take a ten-minute break, and then move on to your next subject (or class).
2. Program at least one study block each day of the week. By spending a bit of each day on your studies, you’ll manage your time and energy more effectively than you would if you tried to “cram” all your efforts into a couple days a week. (You may also feel less overwhelmed or frustrated.)
3. Create a daily “math block.” Success in math courses requires practice, repetition, and consistency. By working on your math assignments for a “chunk” of time every day, you’ll gain greater familiarity with and skill in the processes and concepts essential to the class.
4. Schedule your study blocks for the times of day when you have the most energy and alertness. Late-night study sessions can be fun… but they’re not necessarily the most effective and strategic use of your time. If you know your attention is at its peak in the early afternoon, take advantage of that! Or, if you’re an “early bird,” fit in some study time with your morning coffee.
5. Reserve your earliest study blocks for your most challenging courses. It’s tempting to put off subjects that we find harder or less interesting until the latest possible hour. Fight that temptation, and work on those readings, problem sets, and assignments when you’re most likely to be able to maintain your concentration.
6. Study for discussion sections directly beforehand. If you know that a certain class requires a great deal of discussion (or other forms of participation), study and review those course materials in the time before that class starts. You’ll refresh your memory of important points from readings, lectures, and previous discussions, leaving you prepared for the conversation ahead.
7. Write in your study blocks for lecture or math courses soon after each of those classes. By taking the time to study these subjects right after you’ve just seen and heard your instructor’s presentation, you will reinforce and review the critical concepts, processes, and skills you just learned. This post-class study block also gives you a chance to organize your lecture notes or work through sets of practice problems while those ideas and formulas are still fresh in your mind. (Wong, 86-87)
By making the effort to create—and follow—a study schedule, students will begin to reap the benefits of greater confidence, understanding, and success.
Share your strategies for teaching students effective time management skills in the comments.
Reference: Wong, Linda. 2015. Essential Study Skills, 8th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.