Factors to Consider when Planning Your Time

Be flexible

Some weeks will be busier than others, and unforeseen things happen. Remember that a timetable is only a plan. Try to follow it as best you can, but if you miss a planned study period, don't stress - look at the schedule, rearrange your time and make it up.

Be realistic

A lot of time management is really about taking responsibility for your work - therefore you need to be realistic about it. Be aware of how much time you have and manage it effectively.

Be realistic about the amount of time uni study and assignments will take to complete. Different tasks require different amounts of preparation time. For example, you might only need a few hours to prepare for a tutorial, but writing an assignment will take significantly longer.

You can't produce well-researched and written work unless you give yourself enough time to think, research and write. Brilliant assignments are not produced the night before, so start them in good time.


Before you undertake study, you need to realistically assess all the demands on your time. Consider:

  • paid employment
  • family obligations
  • domestic load
  • sport, leisure
  • volunteer or civic commitments

Good time management won't help if you are overcommitted. If, for example, you study full time, spend more than about 12 hours per week in paid employment and spend every evening at the gym, you won't have much time left to study. If you suspect you might have taken on too much, reassess your commitments, prioritise and compromise.

Seeking help

It's easy to procrastinate when you experience difficulties with an assignment, but putting off starting only means you will have less time to work on it. If you miss an assignment deadline, you will lose marks. So, if you think you need some assistance, ask for it. Remember, good time management includes good self-management. Talk to your tutor about difficult assignments, or visit some of the many support services at UNSW. Don't put off seeking advice - the longer you wait, the more anxious you'll feel.

What students do. . .

Some of the following comments from university students at the end of their first year discuss issues of study and time that might sound familiar (Field, Gilchrist & Gray, 1989). The comments are about two areas: planning ahead without getting obsessed about it, and developing effective habits for dealing with worry and stress.

Trying to plan ahead without going overboard:

"Compared to school, it's not that the work is harder, it's just that it's more detailed and therefore more time-consuming . . . "

"Instead of procrastinating, start thinking about the assignment right away so that you're the first one to get to the books. Most importantly, if you get a good start on an assignment you allow yourself enough time to deal with any unexpected problems . . ."

Developing effective habits for dealing with worry and stress:

"Having some fun or relaxation on the weekend gives me enough strength to regain my sanity to start another week . . ."

"Even though I'm not finding everything awful or the workload too great, I get anxious sometimes. Last week, for example, I was sick and didn't get half as much done as I had planned. So I have more to do this week. I'm finding right now that I can't get all my reading done. So I just have to read what is most important, as I know I can't possibly read every single thing . . ." 

Further readings

Covey, S. 1990, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Shuster, New York.

Field, D. Gilchrist, G. & Gray, N. 1989, First Year University: A Survival Guide, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

MacQueen, C. 1998, Getting Ahead in Tertiary Study: A Practical Guide for Business, Social Science and Arts Students, UNSW Press, Sydney.

Northedge, A. 1990, The Good Study Guide, The Open University, Milton Keynes.

 See next: Time management tips for mature-age students

Back to top