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Time management is one of the most challenging aspects for anyone studying a postgraduate course.
There is always lots to do, and often a misguided perception that there is lots of time to do it, but effective planning and monitoring of time use is needed.
It goes without saying that ineffective time management can lead to stress and impact on your health and wellbeing, a scenario everyone wants to avoid. So, here are five practical tips that will help you manage your workload on a Masters’ or PHD programme:
1. Be Realistic About Your Time
With postgraduate study there is greater expectation of studying in your own time outside of timetabled classes and there will always be work to do.
During the first few weeks you want to be involved in everything that is available. You sign up for sports clubs and societies for all kinds of interests, but realistically you will not have time for so many different activities.
Be focused, research all the institution’s offerings before arriving and talk to current students and alumni, and then make your decisions on what to do.
2. Create ‘To Do’ Lists and Prioritise
It might sound basic, but being a Masters’ student is a lot busier than being an undergraduate student. Develop weekly lists, prioritise and mark tasks off as you go along. A good place to start is to get an overview of the deadlines for a period of weeks or whole semester.
You may need to set yourself mini-deadlines because a number of assignments may be due for submission around the same time. Divide your work into urgent and non-urgent tasks, and important and non-important tasks.
Planning and prioritisation will ensure that you stay in control of what your workload is and reduce stress.
3. Include Down Time in Your Plans
Stay active. It is proven that exercise is a great remedy for stress. Join one of the sports teams, clubs or gyms offered at your higher education institution or in the locality. It will be a great way to destress, give you energy, and to meet new people.
Even going for a brisk walk or bike ride can be hugely beneficial for the mind and body. Rest is also an essential part of being an effective learner and healthy sleep helps your concentration – important when you are learning new material.
Putting down time in your plans means that you are more likely to take it without taking too much.
4. Build a Strong Peer Network
If you are feeling stressed about your coursework, writing essays or dissertations then the chances are that your classmates are as well. Engage with the orientation activities to make friends and build a strong support network.
That network can also support you through any issues you might face: for example, loneliness, homesickness, relationship difficulties, money worries, balancing work and study.
Mindfulness and relaxation techniques are also becoming an increasingly popular coping mechanism for students.
5. Speak to Your Tutor
If you are feeling stressed, or a little overwhelmed with your studies, then speak to the team on campus who are in charge of your programme or your student wellbeing service.
They are familiar with working with students over a long period of time and know how to help you manage the workload. They are there to help.
Every course has pressure points where lots of projects and deadlines come together at one time. This means that there are also quiet times, so remember that it is not this stressful all year.
Mark O’Brien is Director of Postgraduate Recruitment for UK and Europe at Sommet Education, a group encompassing Swiss hospitality management schools Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches Global Hospitality Education
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