Study plans are a key tool to be equipped with when it comes to managing your work load, whether you are revising for exams, writing a dissertation or trying to stay on top of what often feels like an ever-growing pile of homework. Whatever your academic demands, having a well-structured study plan allows you to organise your workload effectively and work to the best of your ability.
The most important thing when it comes to structuring a study plan is to structure it for you. Everyone works differently and recognising how you work is vital when it comes to forming your study plan. Be realistic when it comes to each study period in the day; do not set yourself two hour blocks if you work best in short bursts because it will ultimately leave you looking at the clock and wondering what you have to show for it. Do not be influenced by outside advice regarding how long you should study for before taking a break, plan your time around your own pace so you are able to be as productive as possible.
Secondly, take time to understand the environment you work best in, this may be in silence in your own bedroom or in a communal area for example, this will allow you to be aware of the times where you will be able to work best, if at all, enabling you to structure your plan appropriately. Additionally, think about what part of the day you feel most focused – if you are not a morning person that is okay! Structure your plan around the morning, afternoon and evening, giving yourself the time to sleep in that bit later or stay up that bit later if needed.
Once you have this information, make a list of any other commitments you have. Be sure to allow time in your plan for social arrangements too, giving yourself this time is very important as it gives you a chance to get a proper break from your academic commitments – and not feel guilty about it! Furthermore, be aware about what activities may affect your productivity, for example if you will be working late; prepare for this in giving yourself less to do, preventing unnecessary pressure.
Finally, when it comes to writing the study plan, start by entering any deadlines you need to meet, then fill in any extra commitments and begin to break down each week, each day and the time in each day – according to the length of your plan and the amount of work you will need to do. Consider colour coding each also, as this will help you to distinguish what you need to do and when at a glance. For a few last pointers – while building in a short break for after each study period in the day, build in a more extensive break to allow you to have your lunch or dinner, try not to eat whilst working as this only breaks your concentration, and, always give yourself a bit of extra time in your plan just in case, to accommodate for any contingencies!