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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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9.9 Make the best use of time you have available

If things aren’t going to plan, don’t get discouraged. Instead, consider ways of using your limited time to the best advantage. Pareto’s Principle (or the ‘80/20 rule’), says that 80% of the result can usually be gained by concentrating on the most important 20% of the task. Regularly check your study calendar – be aware of approaching deadlines so there are no surprises. Mark or highlight parts of your reading which are holding you up and move on past them – return to them when you have read more, because generally it will make more sense. Attend set tutorials and make sure that you visit any online forums – learning with fellow students and being guided by the tutor adds depth to your study, and it helps you to see that you are not alone. Write out the next assignment question – use it as a bookmark and keep it in front of you while you’re reading, so your notes are focused and relevant. Highlight and make a note of references you’ll need in an assignment as you go along – this can really save time later. Tell your tutor or study adviser of any difficulties you are experiencing – they will be pleased to offer help and guidance. Make active choices – accept that you may have to compromise in your study and, if necessary, cover only the essentials. This keeps you in control, even if your marks are not as good as they could be with more time. Talk to your family and friends – perhaps they can offer support (e.g. help with child care, walking the dog etc.), or read your drafts and listen to your ideas.

When time is tight, decide what is not going to be done – or will have to be done differently – by adopting the 4Ds approach:

  • Do it.
  • Dump it.
  • Delegate it.
  • Do it less well.