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Successful University Study

Tips and tools to streamline the study process.

Tools & tips

In order for you to succeed, your goals have to be well-defined. The SMART acronym provides a way for you to think more deeply about your goals.

  • Specific. Define the "who, what, where and why" of your goal, including resources at your disposal and any restrictions that exist.
  • Measureable. What are the ways you might measure your success? Define the "how much" or "how many" aspects of your goal.
  • Achievable. While it's important to set your sights high, you need to be realistic. Addressing the other SMART criteria will help to indicate if the goal is really achievable.
  • Relevant. Sometimes we hold onto old goals without re-evaluating them. Is this is goal something you still want (or did someone else want it for you)? Is this a good time in your life to pursue this goal?
  • Time-bound. Define the timeframe of the goal. Is it short-term or long-term? Are we talking months or years? Are there steps you can take today to get started? (Mind Tools, n.d.)

It can be tough to juggle tasks from our homes, school, work, and personal relationships. The key is to prioritise your tasks.

Time management matrix example

Rorybowman (2007). Merrill Covey matrix. Retrieved from

The diagram above is an example of a time management matrix (Merrill & Covey,1994). Here's a guide to how it works:

  • Quadrant 1: Important and urgent. There are some things that you have no choice but to attend to - such as family responsibilities, important calls or texts.  This is the "crisis" or "necessity" quadrant.
  • Quadrant 2: Important and not urgent.  These things are important, but you have a reasonable amount of time to achieve them. This is the "personal leadership" quadrant, where you write down your goals.
  • Quadrant 3: Not important and urgent. This is where getting distracted by texts or interruptions can start to interfere with your goals. This is the "deception" quadrant.
  • Quadrant 4: Not important and not urgent. This is the "waste" quadrant. While there's nothing wrong with taking a break to look at social media or watch an episode, procrastination can start to set in you spend too much time in this quadrant (Dillon, 2018).

How does this matrix apply to your life? Download the template below and see where your tasks fit in.

Create a plan for how you are going to spend your time. A weekly plan will allow you to detail your subtasks and break them down even more if need be. Some tips for filling out a weekly or semester plan:

  • Add all important deadlines (registration, submission, exams) and work backwards from them to determine when to start working.
  • Add holidays and study breaks.
  • Do important work and academic work when you are at your most productive. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
  • Schedule 1 to 2 hours of independent study time for every hour of scheduled class time.
  • University/study commitments must take priority but also make time for family, friends, and yourself, to maintain balance.

Here is an example of what a completed plan might look like:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
8:30am Exercise Travel Lecture Exercise Exercise Soccer  
9:30am Travel Lecture   Me Me
10:30am Lecture Break Study
11:30am Tutorial Tutorial
12:30pm Lunch Lunch Lunch  
1:30pm Tutorial Lecture Tutorial Study Travel
2:30pm Study Break Work  
3:30pm Travel Break Study Travel  
4:30pm Soccer
Study Study Work Travel Study
5:30pm Travel Travel Work
6:30pm Travel   Family Dinner
7:30pm     Study
8:30pm Study Study  

Plans such as this will always need to be flexible, so adjust them as required when work, study or personal commitments change. Remember that balance is key, so look to plan to maintain consistent engagement with study, amongst your other personal and work aspects of your life.

Are you a procrastinator? If these scenarios sound familiar to you, then you just might struggle with putting things off.

  • My paper is due in two days and I haven’t really started writing it yet.
  • I’ve had to work all night to get an assignment done on time.
  • I’ve turned in an assignment late or asked for an extension when I really didn’t have a good excuse not to get it done on time.
  • I’ve worked right up to the minute an assignment was due.
  • I’ve underestimated how long a reading assignment would take and didn’t finish it in time for class.
  • I’ve relied on low-quality information because I didn’t finish the reading on time.

(Syrett, 2018, "Overcoming procrastination")

Some of the information on this page will help you overcome procrastination. For more tips and tricks, see the resources below.

These tools are designed to help you stay on track, which will make your time at University less stressful. Give them a try!