RMIT Study and Learning Centre Senior Educator Judy Maxwell says time is a uniquely precious commodity, because “once it’s gone you can never get it back.”
“We can’t change how much time we have – each hour is the same length as every other hour – but we can attempt to manage what we do with it,” she says.
As a postgraduate student, making the most of your productivity will leave you room for all the other things going on in your life, like family responsibilities, work and social engagements.
Maxwell encourages people who often feel like they are wasting time to make an effort to identify the cause of their unproductivity and fix that specific behaviour.
“A small amount of effort now might end up saving a lot of time in the long run,” she says.
Maxwell has identified a few common mistakes students make, leading to avoidable and expensive losses of time, and the best ways to avoid them:
Without a specific goal in mind to provide direction, study can quickly turn into procrastination.
Solution: Take two minutes before studying to write down exactly what you hope to achieve in that session, ensuring that your goals are neither too large nor too vague.
Hurriedly completing an assignment the night before it’s due shows that your time management and forward planning need work.
Solution: Break each assignment down into individual tasks, and then divide your time into half-hour chunks. In each chunk spend two minutes deciding which tasks you’re going to do, 25 minutes working, and three minutes reviewing what you’ve done.
Over-extending yourself can make you feel overwhelmed, which can lead to procrastination and stress.
Solution: Prioritise your tasks and only concentrate on what’s most important. Keep track of the tasks you’ve successfully completed so you can see how much progress you’ve made.
Reading without purpose, or spending lots of time reading without drawing much value out of the material, can kill your productivity.
Solution: With everything you read, identify ahead of time why you’re reading it. Read the introduction and conclusion deeply, scan through headings and subheadings to familiarise yourself with its contents, and then read the material with your purpose in mind.
Once you’ve identified the areas where you need to improve, talking to an expert in productivity is the first step toward taking control of your time.
The RMIT Study and Learning Centre can work with you to help plan and write your assignments, with workshops, events and online resources designed to develop skills and techniques in:
There are also resources, fact sheets and tips for referencing, paraphrasing and other study techniques in the RMIT Learning Lab, an online platform where you can get help on your own time and at your own pace.
As Maxwell says, every hour is the same as every other hour. To increase your output you have only two choices: put in longer hours (working harder), or get more done in the hours you have (working smarter).
Postgraduate study is hard work, and there’s no point making it harder than it needs to be. Learning to accomplish more in a shorter space of time allows the other areas of your life, such as work and family, to get the time they deserve. It will also give you the best possible chance to achieve your study goals.