Benefits of scheduling
We have clearly identified the need for planning and shown how this over-arches time management for learning. We have said too that a study plan is a vital mechanism to enable management of learning time.
We will look at some techniques you may wish to consider in addition to a study plan, with the aim of providing a selection of tools from which to choose.
The first of these is scheduling. Whilst a study plan concerns specific learning activities, a schedule encompasses other non-learning related activities, such as work and professional tasks. It may also incorporate personal activities, if you wish.
It should not be confused with action planning, “to do” lists or goal setting.
Scheduling is the process by which you plan your use of time; you identify the time available then plan how you will use it to achieve your goals, whether they are of a learning, work or personal nature.
A good schedule enables you to coordinate all your commitments and is therefore a very important feature of maintaining balance in life’s activities.
Your scheduling system
As with creating a study plan, to begin scheduling you need a system – whichever you choose, it has to be available and appropriate to you. It might be a diary, a calendar, an organiser (paper based or electronic), a package like MS Outlook etc.
Some find a ‘week to view’ the most useful approach to scheduling. This can work well in the overall context of a rolling six-month calendar, but it depends on your activities.
Once you have chosen your system, identify the overall time you have available. If you have a study plan, you will need to integrate it into your schedule at this point.
Within this time period, block out any major or essential tasks that will take precedence, for example, work, family, or health commitments.
Note down on your schedule all your deadlines. For learning, this will include assignment submissions, seminars or lectures, assessments, target completion dates, examination dates and so on. For work, this will mean project completion dates, meetings and so on.
You will be left with blocks of time that you can populate with non-urgent activities.
Make sure you leave time to rest and you have blocked out “contingency” time for unforeseen activities or events, as well as preparation and creative thinking time, if necessary.
Whilst you cannot foresee when disruption will crop up, by devising a reasonable schedule, you will be giving yourself flexibility to re-schedule if necessary.
Be wise and allocate your time to tasks that are manageable and realistic. For example, do not attempt to take on too much in one go or do not allot a lengthy activity to a block in your schedule which you know is time limited or likely to be disrupted.
Revising your schedule is best done on a regular basis, for example, at the start of the day or every week.
When it comes to implementing your schedule, you will need to find a balance between being disciplined with yourself without losing flexibility to re-schedule where necessary.