Creating a study plan
Planning your studies effectively is essential and helps you to prioritise. Draw up an overview of all your tasks, e.g. study, work, household chores, social activities and sleep, and work out how much time you have to devote to your studies. A full-time degree programme requires you to study for an average of 40 hours per week. If you don’t have that much time available to you, it will be more difficult for you to complete your degree within the official time period.
Getting started with planning
You can plan a day, a week, a period or a semester, and you can even create a plan for the whole year. Most degree programmes work on an 8-8-4 system: periods of 8 or 4 weeks within which you must complete a course.
- Start by noting down the exam dates or other deadlines. Decide on the number of days that you need to study for these. Then work forwards in time, planning in what you need to do and when.
- Have your timetable to hand.
- Look at what you need to do for your courses each week, working backwards.
- Then look at what you need to do for other courses and at what other activities you have in addition.
- Include everything in your plan. In other words, a part-time job, spending time with friends, going out, sports, relaxation time and rest should all be included. And remember too to plan in time for unexpected events.
This will result in an overview of everything you need to do in order to succeed in the exam. Check if this is realistic, or whether you need to make some choices. If you have a deadline for a paper, make a few of your ‘own’ deadlines before the actual deadline.
It’s a good idea to have a detailed short-term plan (for the week) and a rough long-term plan (for the remaining weeks). Create a detailed plan for the coming week on Friday, for example. Then, when you start back on Monday, you’ll know exactly what you have to do that week. Your plan should include not only your lectures, your independent study time and your work but also your travel time, your social activities and your relaxation time. Make sure you leave a bit of leeway too, because unexpected things will always happen. Use a diary, or Google Calendar, for example. Colours can help create a clear overview of different types of activities.
Don’t be too optimistic in your planning. If your plan quickly looks as though it will be unachievable, you’re likely to become demotivated. Make sure, therefore, that you plan in somewhat more time than you think you will need for each component. If you think, for example, that reading a chapter will take you one hour, make it 1.5 hours or 2 hours. That way you’ll learn from your own time management and you’ll learn to plan more realistically. Check out the page on focus and concentration, where you’ll find tips on how to plan periods of study to improve your concentration.
Fill out the week planner and prioritize your activities for this week and certain days of this week. You can use an empty sheet after every day to evaluate the hours you worked on the activities you planned. This way you can learn to plan effectively.
Finding planning difficult?
If your planning isn’t working or you’re not sticking to your plan, it can be for various reasons. It may be that your plan is too ambitious or that you are choosing the wrong times and methods for completing your tasks. If it appears that you are not working effectively, look at the way you are studying and go on a training course on study skills. But, most importantly, focus on the times when things go well and work out how you can ensure that this happens more often.
Training courses and workshops
The UvA provides additional support for various topics through information meetings, workshops, training courses and groups. You can learn more about these by clicking on training courses and workshops.
Guided study sessions
In the guided study sessions of the Online Study Space, you plan together. Moreover, you immediately get some focused study moments and it will help you with possible start-up and motivation problems.