So it’s been a few years since I completed my postgraduate studies but I’ve decided to start a series of posts about some study tips and planning/organising. A few months ago (or maybe it was last year), I asked readers to suggest content that they’d like to see on my blog. One of them was study tips and organisation. My blog post about bullet journalling somehow ended up on someone’s Tumblr and I had a quick nosy of some of the studyblrs out there. My advice on this topic is based solely around what’s worked for me in the past. I’ve basically used the same system throughout two undergraduate degrees and a masters degree, and has kept me organised and on task. I’m not guaranteeing any sort of improvement of results on exams or what not, but these are what’s worked for me, and it might help those out there currently expanding their minds :)
I completed my university studies in Australia, so the terms I use may be a little different from overseas. At enrollment, we’re usually given a timetable of our lectures and tutorial times. I immediately print these out and stick it to the back of the front cover of my planner as a quick reference. The second semester’s timetable is usually stuck on top of it when it’s released. From here, I start marking in the weeks and breaks in my calendar (see calendar pic below) – this is represented usually by this annotation “w08”.
At the start of each semester, we normally get a Course Outline for each course we’re enrolled in. This consists of a quick introduction of what the course (i.e. subject) is about, a weekly play-by-play of topics, a list of weekly readings and the assessments for the course (this includes due dates, percent of course credited, and a brief outline of what’s being assessed). Once I have all the course outlines, I start to mark in all the assessments in my calendar using a red pen with this format “DUE (course code) (type of assignment) (% course credit)” e.g. “DUE SPH825 case study 20%” – see calendar pic above. If there are important events for each subject, I write these in and then colour code them.
I am a mega nerd, so I also block out the times on my weekly spread, write the subject code, the topic and the readings for the week, e.g. “SPH800B Neuroanatomy of speech mech Hood 1998”. I use the same colours for each course in the calendar (pic above) when I block out the times in the weekly spread – i.e. SPH812 is colour coded blue in the calendar, hence it’s also colour coded blue to block out the lecture times/tutes in the weekly spread (see pic below). During the term, I’ll add in tasks – boxes for tasks that I fill in when completed, or half fill if in progress/incomplete. I use the space around the weekly spread for random notes or things I want to remember. The pic below seemed to be a relatively low-key week, but there are some weeks where I had post-it notes smattered everywhere and random receipts and wrappers glued in.
How I organise my time… I don’t have a hard and fast rule for this, but I tend to keep my weeks full of uni work, and the weekends for free time. In general, the time I spend in “study block” equate to “free time” on the weekends. So, if I have 15 hours of study block, I have 15 hours of free time on the weekend. I know sometimes in the semester your weekends will inevitably be filled with tasks that you haven’t completed, and the fact that I decided to finally read that enthralling book rather than work on a 50% essay due in three days. It’s how uni life is, and you have to be OK with being flexible and adaptable when things don’t go the way you planned. If I had any advice, I’d say to definitely block out your free time, and let your friends/family know that this is when you’re available. It’s important to have that down time to reconnect with the rest of the world and get your head out of the books :)
If you’re wondering about the planner I’m using, these are pages I created. If I was bothered, I’d create an A5 size bound booklet, or get it ring bound at the local Officeworks. Other times, I print them out and put them in a display folder. In 2011, I used a display folder, and these are the images you’re seeing on this blog post. I may make them available on my blog if there’s enough interest :)
What are some study organising tips that have worked for you?
Stay tuned for more of the Decade Thirty Study Series in the next few weeks!
What’s next on the blog? –> Decade Thirty Study Series 2: Lectures and the one-pager