Succeed with learning
Succeed with learning

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.2 Time management

Another term for being organised that you may have come across at work is ‘time management’. We could also perhaps call it ‘self-management’, as it deals with how we manage ourselves to do what we want with our lives.

In 1910, the English novelist Arnold Bennett wrote a book called How to Live on 24 Hours a Day.

Arnold Bennett
Figure 4 Arnold Bennett

In this book, Bennett asks us to think about how much time there is in a day and to be realistic about what we can achieve. He writes:

if one cannot arrange that an income of twenty-four hours a day shall exactly cover all proper items of expenditure, one does muddle one’s life definitely.

(Bennett, 1910).

The language may seem a bit dated, but can you see Bennett’s point? He compares time with money, and sees that both need to be managed similarly. If time is not managed, there are consequences that make our lives harder. Bennett urges the need for a ‘minute practical examination of daily time expenditure’.

More recently, John Adair (1999, p. 12) pointed out: ‘There is often a gap between what we think we are doing and what we are actually doing.’ Most of us can find examples of this; for example, sitting day-dreaming or perhaps finding something has taken a lot longer than we thought. Adair suggests that we should act like scientists to research where personal time goes. So, for the first activity this week you are being asked to do just this.

Activity 2 Your daily time expenditure

Part 1

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes.

Look back over what you did yesterday – or today if you are working on this in the evening. Try to recall how each waking hour was spent, and make a list in your learning journal. Indicate roughly how much time was spent on each item in your list.


The more detailed your records are, the more useful they will be – as you will see shortly. Include things like talking to people and making coffee, as well as more obvious blocks of time when you are maybe working or watching TV.

If you can, you may like to repeat the activity for another day, so that you can see whether or not yesterday/today was typical.

Part 2

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes.

This is based on Part 1, so make sure you have completed it first. You are going to be asked to reflect on the notes that you have made, so have them to hand.

Look back at the time log you completed in Part 1 of this activity and answer the following questions:

  1. What surprises or delights you about your use of time?
  2. What puzzles or worries you?
  3. Was the day typical or not? Why?
  4. What does this evidence say about how you use your time?


Doing this activity should make you stop and think. It may have highlighted how many competing demands you have on your time. Studying Succeed with learning is likely to be only one of many demands.

However, you might be surprised at what you achieve in a short time. If this applies to you, then you can be pleased with how you already manage your time and yourself. This is a valuable skill.

Do you think that your time record log provides evidence about what kind of person you are and what is important to you?

Your use of time may reflect your personal qualities or values; for example, valuing spending time with people who are dependent on you, or valuing earning more money. However, sometimes it reflects a life we would rather not lead – that we are spending too much time on something that we don’t really value.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371