Updated: Jan 4
Recording and evaluating how you use your time can be a great, quick way of improving how you study.
If you’ve been studying for some time and you’re finding it difficult to get on top of your subjects, one useful task is to record and evaluate how you use your time for a good period of time. Record how you actually use your time – not what your timetable says or what your calendar tells you you should be doing, but what you are doing. This is just for your own personal study. Nobody else is going to be checking that you’re doing this effectively, so take it seriously.
We recommend that you undertake this task at least once a term so that you can compare how you’ve used your time at different stages of your study.
If you do this task, at the beginning of a term then your workload is likely to feel, and probably be, slightly higher than in the next few weeks. There’ll be recaps, new information for the new term, summaries of last term’s work etc. Teachers will be trying to counteract all that unlearning that happened over the holidays, and the beginnings of term are more likely to bring about changes in school policies, staff and resources.
Think seasonally. For many readers, based in the UK, the weather will be cold and damp, it will be dark in the afternoon, and you won’t be spending as much time outdoors. You might even find that the cold and the dark affects your energy levels. It might be more of a struggle to get much done in the morning or the evening.
How you use your time now will be different to how you might use it in a month’s time. Of course, this is always true. Every week will be slightly different. But unless you have some app that you desperately want to use which records everything you do ever (that is, what you actually do, not what you pretend you’re doing on instagram etc.), then recording yourself at stages of your study is fine. Just be aware that it is a useful snapshot, it doesn’t give the entire picture.
Keep a log of how you’ve spent your hours each day. Include Saturdays and Sundays. Recording your lesson time can be a useful exercise to check your learning (and your memory). What did you do in your History lesson? What unit was it part of? What were the aims and objectives of the lesson? Were they met? What questions did you have coming out of it that you could address in self study? The log can be on your phone, a page at the front of your folder, or a small pad; whatever you’d prefer.
Evaluate. Once you’ve got that log, evaluate how well you have used your time throughout the week:
What lessons or times of day seem to be more effective than others?
What could be improved?
Now, look back at the same task you did at the beginning of your study:
What’s stayed the same?
Have any of the changes been for the better or for the worse?
What bad habits have remained?
Are there any new bad habits and if so, how can you account for them?
Remember, this task doesn’t take that long. Recording what you do in a week takes hardly any time at all. The evaluation of the week can be a short 30 minute task or you could spend hours really drilling down into the comparison of the records, it’s up to you.
You can check out more advice in our book Active Study Skills here.
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