How to manage an extremely busy schedule at university

It’s that time of year again where students across the UK are getting ready to start university and a new chapter of their life. University presents a wonderful chance to get involved in a range of opportunities, but as you will also have more responsibilities as a university student, you will find that you will be very busy during term time. It is extremely likely that throughout your university life you will have things such as societies, volunteering and job applications to balance on top of your degree. This article gives five key tips on how to effectively manage a busy schedule at university.

Ensure you carefully prioritize

Sometimes you will find times where it is impossible to do every single thing that you plan to do in a given time period. Furthermore, it will almost always be the case that some things in your schedule are more important than other things. Therefore, it is essential that you are able to distinguish between what things are really important and should be given a high priority, and what things are less important. This will help you manage your time more efficiently. A very simple example is that if you know that you have a class test coming up in 2 days’ time, then that should be prioritised over a job interview that you have in 4 weeks’ time.

Don’t feel guilty of taking downtime

Admittedly, taking downtime every now and then is something that even I feel guilty and hesitant about doing. However, taking time away from your busy schedule is something that actually helps with dealing with a busy schedule! It is important to realise that terms at university last around ten weeks and it is extremely easy to burn out by the fifth week. Even if downtime consists of taking a one hour nap every day, or taking a weekend off once every few weeks, it will still help recharge your batteries and maintain motivation. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter what you do in your periods of downtime as long as you use it to take time out from your busy schedule.

Remind yourself of the rewards

Many people I know enjoy being busy, but it is also true that having a very busy schedule can be challenging and sometimes feel impossible to manage. However, facing challenges and obstacles always means that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the particular example of first year students, doing things such as cooking and laundry and generally finding ways to take care of yourself can be very difficult at first and can take up a lot of your time, but the big reward from this is that it will help you become more independent. Reminding yourself every now and then that the rewards will come will give you that extra motivation and incentive to manage all the obstacles that you will face when being busy.

Be realistic

When you are extremely busy at university with your degree, and possibly other things such as extra-curricular activities or job applications, you want to be able to do absolutely everything, and I certainly encourage you to be ambitious in what you aim to do. However, if your schedule involves you being busy for 23 hours a day for 20 days straight, then you are being unrealistic with yourself. As much as it would be great to do everything, you don’t want to get to a point where you are putting your mental and physical wellbeing at risk. One thing I do is make a to do list every day, but I always ask myself the question “Can I realistically finish all of this in a day?”.  Sometimes the answer might be yes but it might be difficult, and in that case I would try and do as much as I can but not beat myself up if I can’t finish everything. However, if the answer is a definite no, then I know I need to remove some things from my to do list.

Remember people deal with things differently

The points I have made above are very general, because one thing that is important to remember is that everyone will have their own specific ways of dealing with their own busy schedule. For example, some people like to wake up really early, whereas others prefer to stay up till very late. Furthermore, even the things that people do in their periods of downtime can vary a lot. However, knowing that there isn’t a set way of coping with a busy schedule is something that has helped me, as it reminds me of the fact that I am not wrong by choosing my own specific methods to cope, even if they might be different from someone else’s. Indeed, one of the biggest challenges for a first year student at university is finding specific methods and a routine that works best for them.


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