How to Learn Anything
Shortcuts to Knowledge and Understanding

6. Time Management

Content Guide



How to Achieve Goals

Note on Negative Thoughts


1. Questions to Ask Yourself

2. Planning

3. Things to Remember


Memory Map

Time Management

Time management for studying is similar to other forms of time management.

Everyone has exactly the same amount of time everyday. It is controlling the use of time that divides those of us who never have enough time from those of us who do.

The most frustrating aspect of life whether in working, studying, enjoying your social life, or during an illness, is losing control over the decision making process.

Time management is simply TAKING CONTROL over your time and being personally responsible for its use.

It is important for you to recognize that your time is not simply divided between studying and personal things. We must break down our day more specifically to include such activities as:

studying, working part-time or full-time, (perhaps parenting), sleeping, eating, time with family and friends, listening to music, watching television, travel time to school, shopping, writing letters, personal phone calls, socializing (dating, going to concerts, the theater, movies), vacations, weekends away, illnesses, and very importantly, time to do absolutely nothing but relax!

Time management then becomes a matter of personal priorities. Some people find it extremely important to work very hard to achieve financial success. Other people find it more important to have enough time at home with children or to do volunteer work or to study. The decision has to be yours.

Having decided, in general terms, what is most important to you, you can begin scheduling your time.

This section will highlight some specific shortcuts to time management for studying.

General Method

1. Priorities

To divide your valuable time effectively you must decide which of your goals have priority over your other goals, such as:

a) time to travel Europe, Asia or South America in the next 18 months,

or b) an overall average of B+ in your university/college courses (therefore not as an intensive an effort to get an A in each course),

or c) more time at home to be with your children for the first 5 years of their lives,

or d) increased physical fitness to compete in sporting events.

2. How to Achieve Goals

Once you have determined what your short and long term goals are, you must decide what amount of time you need and what skills you will require to complete your goals.

For example if you decide you want a higher grade average at school you may find that you require some new skills such as a workshop in research skills particular to your field. Use the exercises at the beginning of this book to help you sort out what learning skills you want to concentrate on in the next few weeks and months.

Knowing both your goals and what you will need to achieve them allows you to prepare a specific time management plan.

3. Note on Negative Thoughts

The real enemy of time management is our negative thoughts. This is true in all aspects of our work and study but is especially true in time management.

Negative thoughts about our abilities to meet a deadline or to achieve our goals drains our mental and physical energy. There is no power more debilitating than our own self doubts. There is a story about a 75 year old man who reviewed all his self doubts over the years and found most of his worrying was unfounded and extremely time consuming. Speak to anyone over 60 years old and they will agree that we waste too much time worrying about things we cannot control. So why bother?

The reason for our negative thoughts can usually be found in our view of any task as a whole instead of its smaller parts. When beginning to write my first book I thought the research and subsequent writing was overwhelming in scope. To break the habit of doubting my ability I had to break down the task into general divisions and each divisions into smaller units. Therefore I didn't go to the library to research a book but rather to research one section at a time. Writing the work was exactly the same; I wrote smaller units one at a time until a whole book was completed.

Breaking down any task into smaller tasks makes any project manageable!


Below list some of your educational goals for the next 3-12 months and what actions you will need to take to ensure you accomplish them:





Specific Methods

Throughout this section I will use the example of someone studying at college or university. The methods are just as applicable at work or in your home.

1. Questions to Ask Yourself. Questions to Ask Yourself

1. When do I study best?

2. Where do I study best?

3. Can I keep distractions out (, T.V.)?

4. How long will my study periods be?

Answer these questions honestly and then move on.

2. Planning. Planning

1. Begin with a relatively long period of time (6-month period, a course semester).

2. Get a calendar that covers your time frame.

3. Using a pencil, mark in events that you know in advance such as:vacations, exams, family holidays (birthdays, anniversaries), social commitments, sporting events, and deadlines for papers.

4. Consider your studying time as if it were a job with appointments made for research, writing, and studying. Once made, appointments cannot be broken unless rescheduled in a responsible way.

5. If you have chosen a high grade point average then you pencil in study related activities before social activities. Consider yourself a professional student. I use the term "professional" for I believe it is at school that we develop or enhance our best habits for our careers. If studying is done in a "professional" way it will reflect in your grades and in your job!

6. At the beginning of a term, schedule time for previewing texts (see the "Speed Reading" chapter) and preparing research plans for assigned works.

7. As the term progresses and you are aware of deadlines, schedule time for research, reviewing lecture notes, reading, writing, studying for tests and exams.

8. Schedule time for your family, social activities, hobbies, simple relaxation, movies, "going out" volunteer work, and other activities you enjoy.

9. At the beginning of each day use a cue card to list what activities you have scheduled for that day plus any extra items that come up: phone calls you must make, groceries you need to buy, errands you have to do, etc.

As each item is completed check it off the list. It feels good to get it over with! At the end of the day anything that was not accomplished is added to the list for another day.

3. Things to Remember

· Schedule small tasks rather than big ones:

10:00 11:00 a.m.

­ will research 2 text books for term paper (do not write "research for term paper" because that is too large a task; two books is a reasonable amount of research to do in one hour).

· Plan something pleasurable after you have accomplished a particularly difficult task.

· Schedule least favorite task when your energy is at its peak.

· Schedule favorite tasks when your energy is low to rejuvenate yourself;

· Creative tasks are often best at your energy peaks or when you are most relaxed. Often your best ideas come just before you fall asleep or during the night, therefore keep paper and pencil by your bedside.

· Allow yourself ample "break time" in your schedule otherwise you will not follow your schedule.

· Once you schedule an "appointment" to study do not break it unless it is unavoidable. Reschedule immediately usually replacing some leisure time.

· Assume that your well thought out calendar schedule will be interrupted by illness, personal periods of inactivity, family situations, personal relationships, etc.Long term planning requires you to be flexible enough to adapt to unexpected changes. Don't ignore these possibilities in your scheduling but revise your pencilled in schedule when necessary.

· When you have scheduled a studying appointment do not accept telephone calls, surprise visits or hunger pangs.You would not do these things during a business appointment so be consistent.

· If you are consistently not meeting your study goals, take a break to honestly consider your priorities. You might discover that your family is more important than you thought and, in fact, your priority is to spend Sundays with them and settle for a "B" in your studies. These changes should not be viewed as a personal failure, but a wonderful step towards knowing yourself.


Write out 15 ways to treat yourself during a scheduled break:

Write out 5 special ways to treat yourself at the end of a difficult study session or study task:


Below are quotes that have helped me with my studying. Copy out those quotes that may help you and add any others you are fond of. Put them by your desk or work place.

These quotes have forced me to practice what I preach. As honorary president of the Procrastination Society in university I know the temptation to watch just one more or to spend just an extra halfhour or two with friends!

90 percent of all things

can be done immediately!

Procrastination is often our way of

avoiding evaluation of our work.

The fear of evaluation and our own

self-doubts/negative thoughts

are of our own making.

Design your schedule to break tasks

into manageable units.

You have the power to control your

time and your abilities.

T a k e C o n t r o l

and enjoy yourself!


Manage your time well so that you can relax during your studying and when you have to write the exam or give the presentation. Study consistently and you will also have more free time to enjoy other activities.

When you schedule your study sessions make sure that you also schedule other activities like work, family time, socializing, and leave enough flexibility for unexpected visitors or illnesses.

Set priorities for your studying and limit your studying to those times. You have a whole life to live and you should not spend all of your free time studying.

Break up major study sessions into smaller units of time. Any large project is more manageable when you break it down into realistic units.


Whenever you finish learning new information it is helpful to take a moment or two to evaluate what you have found most useful and what you would like to do with that information. This process can be very useful whether you write out the answers or just think about them.

1. What general concepts, ideas or techniques have you learned?

2. List at least three techniques from this chapter that you could use immediately.

3. What other concepts, ideas or techniques do you want to learn?

4. Is there anything you have learned that you could pass on to your colleagues, family members or friends?

5. Do you have any further comments or ideas you want to record based on what you have learned?


The following references are only a few of the many useful resources that you can find in your local libraries, within your school library, and in your local book stores. Look for further books but also for journal articles, magazine reports, films, videos and audio cassettes. Also keep in mind how much you can learn from experts in the field, including people in your own school.

For more intensive research, read the suggestions in the chapter "Writing and Researching Papers".

Best, Fred. (1980). Flexible life scheduling. New York: Praeger Publishers. 267 pages with charts.

A different approach to long-term time management. Presents alternatives to the traditional school-work-retirement sequence of our lives including: alternative family life, having older workers, sex role differences, leisure versus money issues.

Bliss, Edwin C. (1983). Doing it now: A 12 step program for curing procrastination and achieving your goals. New York: Charles

Scribner's Sons. 203 pages with illustrations.

Practical, simple action-oriented book in a question-and-answer format. Looks at reasons for procrastination, how to adjust our attitude, deal with fear of failure and success, how to raise energy levels and time management techniques.

Haynes, Marion E. (1987). Personal time management. Los Altos, CA: Crisp Publications. 70 pages with illustrations and charts.

Part of the "Fifty-Minute" Series of self-instructional learning resources filled with practical exercises and self assessment tools.

Mayer, Jeffrey J. (1990). If you haven't got the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over? Toronto: Simon and Schuster. 159 pages.

Humorous and practical look at time management errors and corrections.

Rowh, Mark. (1989). Coping with stress in college. New York: College Entrance Examination Board. 172 pages.

van Bommel, Harry (1985). The busy person's guide to notetaking, speed reading, studying and time management North York: Skills Development Publishing


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